If you were expecting fireworks from the Royals at the trade deadline, you may be disappointed, at least if you believe the comments from General Manager Dayton Moore.
Moore addressed the media in the run up to Friday’s trade deadline, telling them that he liked the talent on the team despite the disappointing season. He stressed sticking with his core and building off what they have, rather than making big changes and that any moves “would be focused on how to be better in 2022.”
He didn’t mention the name Whit Merrifield, who has been the subject of trade rumors lately, with one report indicating the Seattle Mariners had made a concerted effort to acquire him. But Moore did make it sound like he was not very willing to move his All-Star second baseman.
“We’ve really got to be overwhelmed if we’re going to move one of our key contributors to this team and those players we feel are key contributors into the future.”
If the Royals were going to trade a player like Merrifield, who is under contract through at least 2022, with an affordable club option for 2023, Moore would expect to get an MLB player in return, although he conceded that is very difficult to get from contending clubs this time of year.
“If you’re going to trade Major League talent that you control, you certainly, in my mind, want to try to get back other Major League players to multiply and spread out and utilize to build your roster in a more complete and balanced way.”
He seemed more open to trading players who would be free agents following this season - a group that includes Jorge Soler, Danny Duffy, and Greg Holland - in exchange for prospects. But overall Moore placed an emphasis on sticking with the players in the organization.
“It’s safe to say that we’re not going to do deals for prospects unless the prospects we get in return are significantly better than what we have, an upgrade over the players that are in our system.”
Moore referenced the fact that organizations are now capped at having no more than 180 domestic minor league players, so the team would have to be careful that any acquisition of a prospect would not block someone they already have.
“If we feel like that we have quality catching at every single level or quality shortstops at the four full-season teams, we’re probably not going to go out and trade for a prospect shortstop or a prospect catcher that’s going to need to play, because they’re going to need to take away development time from somebody that we already believe in.”
Moore added that “Pitching is obviously a different category. You always need plenty of pitching throughout the course of the year.”
"We're going to continue to trust our scouting and our player development to develop prospects, and not necessarily rely on trades to strengthen our farm system." - Dayton Moore #Royals pic.twitter.com/Js9s5NhqtY— Josh Vernier (@JoshVernier610) July 27, 2021
The conversation indicated a high degree of confidence in what the Royals had built with their minor league system, which was ranked before the season as the 10th-best farm system by MLB Pipeline and the 14th-best farm system in baseball by Baseball America. The Royals recently landed six players on Baseball America’s top 100 mid-season prospect list, including breakthrough performers Nick Pratto and MJ Melendez.
When asked if the team may try to deal from a position of strength, such as with the catching depth in the organization, Moore dismissed that notion, saying positional versatility could allow them to fit the pieces in place.
“We’re not currently talking about any players in our farm system that we’d potentially deal.”
The signals coming from Moore suggest the team will largely stand pat with confidence that continued development in the farm system will help steer the team back to contention. On the other hand, Kevin O’Brien at Royals Reporter astutely points out that Moore typically holds his cards close to the vest, and while he may be mum on any deals, his history suggests he will be active at the deadline. Saying he is confident in his system very well could be posturing, sending a signal to other clubs to improve their offers because the Royals are not in a hurry to make a move.
Additionally, Moore indicated that things can change very quickly, saying that things often get done “at the last minute.” Kevin Goldstein, a writer at Fangraphs who once worked in the Astros front office, recounted recently that in 2013, the Astros and Royals consummated a trade for outfielder Justin Maxwell in just ten minutes.
What happens this week will tell us a lot about how the Royals feel about their timeline and whether they can be competitive in 2022. Moore has placed a lot of confidence in “the process” and his farm system. We shall see if that confidence was justified.