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Hok Talk: Dayton Moore’s Process is filled with flaws

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This Process is not trustworthy.

Dayton Moore looks at the product on the field he has constructed.
Dayton Moore looks at the product on the field he has constructed.
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Dayton Moore made a move earlier this week that shows he does understand the difference between results and process. Ryan O’Hearn was not having a good year in AAA by the results. But Dayton and the front office identified that his results didn’t reflect his process. He was among the AAA leaders in hard hit% and exit velocity. His process was good he just wasn’t getting the results. Since his promotion in an incredibly small sample size, he is slashing .222/.417/.556/.972 which amounts to a 165 wRC+. Obviously, he needs to have good results for more than 3 games but it’s a plenty good start.

It would be nice if his other work showed that much awareness. Here, as promised, are the last 3 years of major moves as identified using Baseball Reference’s transaction tracker and checking some player stats on FanGraphs. But before we get to that, here’s one transaction that should have been included last week and was somehow missed:

Traded Sean O’Sullivan for Ervin Santana

Results: Strictly by wins and losses he wasn’t all that useful for the 2013 squad going 9-10. But his ERA sat at 3.24 with a 3.93 FIP. He wasn’t asked to be the ace and he was a more than serviceable 2-3 starter finishing the season with 2.5 fWAR and a 2.9 bWAR.

Process: This is a difficult one to measure. Dayton traded a more or less useless reliever from his bullpen for a mid-range starter on a bounce-back season. But because he traded for him instead of waiting for him to be released Dayton had to pay the full $13M that Santana was due in the final year of his contract which seems less than ideal. Basically, it all depends on if Santana was going to be released. If he was then Dayton should have waited. But it also seems possible that the Angels might have traded with someone else or perhaps a team might have claimed him off of waivers. I also don’t really see Ervin as a true bounce-back candidate. His biggest problem in 2012 was a massive spike in home runs but none of his other peripherals justified the change. He’d been an excellent pitcher and there was no reason to think he wouldn’t be excellent again, especially in KC’s home run-suppressing environment. Without knowing more I can neither award nor ding him for the process.

Undetermined process, good results.

2015-2016

Re-signed Chris Young

Results: Chris Young was something of a hero for the 2015 Royals. He stepped into the rotation and kicked butt before tailing off at the end of the year. In an emergency starter/long reliever role in the playoffs, he did particularly well. His results from 2016 to 2017 did not go nearly as well.

Process: Chris was going to be 37 for the 2016 season and he had definitely had some issues with stamina or something as the season wore on. He began to give up more and more home runs. Some have argued that the Royals couldn’t have accounted for the coming of the live-ball era but Chris Young had suppressed his home run rate significantly more than usual in 2015, anyway. At that age and with those results it was time to let him go. So of course, Dayton guaranteed him two years.

Bad process, bad results.

Signed Joakim Soria

Results: Joakim is something of a punching bag for the last two years among Royals fans but he really did suffer some particularly bad luck. Even accounting for bad luck he’d had better seasons than 2016 but there was nothing wrong with his 2017.

Process: Dayton signed Soria basically to replace Ryan Madson in the ‘pen but Soria hadn’t been quite that good for a long time. In fact, he’d been declining for a while with only a single season over 1 fWAR in his last four years before the Royals signed him. Guaranteeing him three years was too many.

Bad process, middling-bad results.

Re-signed Alex Gordon

Results: Alex fell off a cliff and only recently has he even managed to be above replacement level.

Process: This is a hard one to judge because of nostalgia and other feelings. It’s hard to say that Dayton should not have signed Alex to that contract at his age not because it isn’t true but because we all know that we all wanted him back. He had been declining for a couple of years and started getting injured more frequently again. Signing him until he was 36 was a bad baseball decision and Dayton shouldn’t have done it. But good for Alex.

Bad process, bad results.

Signed Ian Kennedy

Results: He wasn’t half bad in 2016 but he’s been a disaster ever since. And he hasn’t even been healthy enough to eat innings which was supposed to be the least he could do.

Process: You do not give $70M and 5 years and an opt-out to a guy most people figured wouldn’t get more than 3 years/$30M. I still have no idea what Ian’s agent did to convince Dayton that was a smart move but he earned every penny of whatever Ian paid him for that deal.

Bad process, bad results.

Signed Mike Minor

Results: Amazing reliever in 2017. Too bad the team wasn’t good enough for it to matter.

Process: Very similar deal to the one they signed Kris Medlen to with much better results.

Good process, good results.

Traded Jose Martinez for cash

Results: There is so much confusion here because the Royals also traded minor league infielder Jose Martinez for backup catcher Tony Cruz. But the outfielder was traded for cash. Possibly as little as $1. Jose Martinez has gone on to become a very good hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Process: Martinez was old for a prospect when the Royals traded him to the Cardinals but he had also demolished AAA in 2015 and was hitting well if not as astonishingly well in 2016. And the Royals could probably have used another outfielder as Paulo Orlando was the backup and had cooled off after a hot start. There are defenses that can be made but ultimately there’s no way the Royals would have traded him if their evaluation had matched the Cardinals and they had anticipated the results he has achieved. They failed that evaluation badly.

Bad process, bad results.

2016-2017

Allowed Kendrys Morales to leave via free agency

Results: Kendrys was worth -0.6 fWAR last season. He’s been worth 0.4 fWAR so far this season. The Blue Jays are paying $30M through next season for the privilege.

Process: He was too old and too bad for too much of 2016 to bring him back. Good job, Dayton.

Good process, good results.

Re-signed Drew Butera

Results: Drew has been bad defensively and horrid offensively.

Process: Drew Butera is a backup catcher. Given that Salvador Perez plays pretty much every day this is not a high-priority role for the Royals. But they’re paying Drew $2M a year when they could be getting similar if not superior results from Cameron Gallagher for $500K. Not good.

Bad process, bad results

Traded Wade Davis for Jorge Soler

Results: Jorge Soler spent most of 2016 in the minors. He’s spent half of 2017 on the DL. He might resume demolishing opposing pitchers from the moment of his return and through the end of his contract and be worth significantly more than Wade Davis would have been. But so far the results have not been good enough.

Process: This has been gone over a hundred times by writers both local and national at this point but the Royals basically had a choice going into 2017. They could choose to spend more money on free agents and really try to win again or they could sell off their best players heading for free agency and reload for another push in a year or two. They chose to split the difference and it cost them both an opportunity to seriously compete for a weak wild card in 2017 and to be any good in 2019 or 2020.

Bad process, bad results (so far)

Traded Jarrod Dyson for Nate Karns

Results: Dyson was always criminally underrated in KC. He went on to put up 2.1 fWAR for the Mariners, last year. Nate Karns made a few mildly impressive starts and then got hurt. He’s still not even rehabbing.

Process: The Royals needed a starter badly and they needed an outfielder less than before if Jorge Soler worked out. Of course, he didn’t, but there wasn’t really any way of knowing that ahead of time. Had the Royals been trading the guy they thought they were trading for Karns this would have been a swap of a fourth outfielder for a high-risk, high-reward starting pitcher. But they were actually trading a starting outfielder for it and that’s where their player evaluation shows its glaring holes once again.

Bad process, bad results.

Signed Jason Hammel

Results: Mediocre followed by pretty bad.

Process: The Royals needed a starter and he was by consensus the best one remaining on the market. 2 years for $16M seems reasonable for who he was and who they might reasonably have expected him to be. Sometimes decent ideas just don’t work

Good process, bad results

Signed Brandon Moss

Results: Bad

Process: Aging, declining slugger because Dayton refused to allow Ned to rotate the DH slot and rest his fielders.

Bad process, bad results.

Signed Travis Wood

Results: Bad, so very bad.

Process: The Royals signed a guy who had found new life as a LOOGY in order to make him a long-reliever/starter. And they gave him 2 years guaranteed for these roles he’d shown himself to be bad at in the past.

Bad process, bad results.

2017-2018

Traded Matt Strahm, Travis Wood, and Esteury Ruiz for Trevor Cahill, Brandon Maurer, and Ryan Buchter

Results: Terrible

Process: You’d like to have seen the Royals not have to give up both Strahm and Ruiz in this deal. But it was well-liked by many at the time. Had Cahill stayed healthy it’s hard to see how this deal wouldn’t have worked out for the Royals.

Good process, bad results.

Traded Andre Davis and A.J. Puckett to the White Sox for Melky Cabrera

Results: Melky replaced the wrong guy in the lineup and didn’t hit well.

Process: The Royals traded a second round pick for an aging outfielder who hadn’t been hitting that well before the team got him. Puckett hasn’t been healthy for the White Sox but that still seems like a bad idea.

Bad process, bad results.

Signed Wily Peralta

Results: He was so bad in spring training that they sent him to the minors after guaranteeing him major league money. He’s been fine since his call-up, however.

Process: Reasonable deal for a guy they thought they could turn into a reliever. If he’s eventually flipped this off-season or next trade deadline for prospects then this will be a win.

Good process, undetermined results

Acquired Brad Keller and Burch Smith in the Rule 5 Draft

Results: Keller has been phenomenal and Smith has shown flashes of being quite good.

Process: If there was a team that could afford to hide a pair of Rule 5 pitchers it was the Royals. As it turns out they’re among the better pitchers on the team. Which doesn’t say much for the rest of the team.

Good process, good results.

Traded Scott Alexander and Joakim Soria for Trevor Oaks

Results: Oaks has spent most of his time in the minors but projects well. Alexander has been lights out for the Dodgers after a rough start. Joakim Soria was converted into prospects for the White Sox.

Process: Moore treated Soria as a liability instead of an asset. Given that it’s impressive that he got a prospect as highly rated as Oaks back but he could have had more had he treated Soria as the asset he was.

Bad process, undetermined results

Signed Alcides Escobar

Results: Are you kidding me?

Process: Are you kidding me?

Horrible process, historically bad results

Signed Lucas Duda

Results: He’s been...OK-ish? The biggest result is on whether he gets traded for anything. Any return at all means good results.

Process: Signing guys to cheap one-year deals in the hopes that you can flip them makes sense for this team. I’m not convinced that’s why Dayton brought him in, but he hasn’t said that isn’t why he did it so we’ll say he did.

Good process, undetermined results

Signed Jon Jay, traded him for Elvis Luciano and Gabe Speier

Results: He hit well enough and the Royals got a couple interesting lottery tickets for him

Process: Same as Duda and this worked out.

Good process, good results

Re-signed Mike Moustakas

Results: Moose hit well enough and got traded for good prospects.

Process: At 1 year and $6.5M it made a lot of sense to bring back the fan favorite and understand he wasn’t likely to bring back a draft pick anymore. He was traded for good prospects.

Good process, good results.

Signed Justin Grimm

Results: Horrible

Process: Same as above but now we’re maybe adding too many veterans?

Mediocre process, bad results

Signed Blaine Boyer

Results: Nope.

Process: OK, now we definitely have too many veterans and Boyer was the least likely to be worth anything on the trade market And the Royals have kept him on the 60-Day-DL instead of releasing him.

Bad process, bad results

Trade Miguel Almonte to sign Abraham Almonte

Results: Abraham earned someone 25K but was otherwise bad. Miguel pitched one bad inning for the Angels, so far, but remains a 25-year-old pitcher with a strong arm who had a good spring. Stupid to give him up for a 29-year-old journeyman outfielder.

Bad process, bad results.

Signed Rosell Herrera

Results: He’s hit fairly well and has some positional flexibility. If he can continue to improve his hitting and stick at third, where the Royals currently have no answers, his signing would be a terrific result.

Process: Taking flyers on young former top prospects is exactly the sort of thing the Royals should be doing. Well done.

Good process, good results

Traded Kelvin Herrera for Kelvin Guttierez, Johanse Morel, and Blake Perkins

Results: No way of knowing, yet.

Process: We’ve been over this but the Royals took a lesser package in order to get Herrera’s salary off of the books. That’s a stupid move with your best trade asset and one of the worst farm systems in baseball.

Bad process, undetermined results.

Traded Jacob Condra-Bogan for Brian Goodwin

Results: Brian was hitting very well before he got hurt.

Process: Similar to Herrera he was highly regarded but didn’t have a spot on his current team. Another kind of guy the Royals need to be trying out.

Good process, good results.

Traded Mike Moustakas for Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez

Results: Phillips has looked terrific so far and Lopez has a lot of promise in the Josh Staumont vein where if he can find some control he could be a dominant starter and if not he might at least become a dominant reliever.

Process: I honestly love this trade. The Royals traded two months of a guy who couldn’t get a serious offer in the last off-season for two guys who have been on top-100 prospect lists and still aren’t very old. But Dayton’s explanation for it is all wrong. There is no reason to prioritize wins this year and next over what he might have gotten elsewhere. Maybe this was the best deal regardless but the thinking Dayton is using is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Bad process, great results.

Didn’t trade Whit Merrifield

Results: Can’t tell you until further on down the line. Maybe he gets traded later for a haul and it doesn’t matter.

Process: It seems unlikely that his value will ever be higher. Dayton also has indicated that he feels the team needs Whit. Which is the wrong way to think about things.

Bad process, undetermined results.

Didn’t trade Danny Duffy, Lucas Duda, or Salvador Perez

Results: Undetermined until they’re traded.

Process: All three of them should likely be gone for the best hope for the future of the franchise. But if Dayton trades Duda in August and Duffy or Salvy have good second halves and raise their value some and Dayton trades them in the off-season that will be good enough.

Likely bad process, undetermined results

So add everything from today to last week and you get:

In the last 3 years he has had 17 bad ideas and 10 good ideas for a total of 25 bad ideas to 19 good ideas

He has also had 18 bad outcomes as compared to 11 good outcomes for a total of 24 bad results to 21 good results.

So there’s some good luck and some bad luck involved, as you’ve seen, with some bad ideas working out well and some good ideas working out poorly. But it turns out there’s still some pretty good correlation between the two. Also, more importantly, we can see that Dayton has been wrong, both in his process and in his results, more often than he’s been right. You can accept the occasional bad choice and the occasional unlucky choice but this ratio seems both unreasonable and unsustainable.

Listen. I’m not trying to say that other teams don’t have a financial advantage over the Royals. Of course, they do. And I’m not saying other GMs get everything right or that getting everything right is even a guarantee of success - especially for a small market team like the Royals. But when your process is this bad then it makes sense to question your fitness for your job. And it looks like Dan Szymborski was probably right to question Moore’s fitness and whether the Royals have any real idea of the position they’re actually in or are capable of intentionally constructing and following through on a plan to deal with it.