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Dayton Moore is gone. Now what?

J.J. Picollo’s mentor will no longer be looking over his shoulder. But can he step out from Dayton Moore’s long shadow to become his own GM?

General Manager J.J. Picollo watches spring training alone John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The thing I’ve been calling for almost since the day I started writing here in 2016 has finally happened. I take no pleasure in Dayton Moore losing his job, but sometimes people and the roles they are employed in just aren’t good matches and it’s better for everyone to move on. That, at least, was the case here. I’ve long argued that Dayton Moore’s philosophies as General Manager were outdated and not improving. I’ve long argued that the team’s success from 2013-2015 had more to do with luck than good scouting or player development.

That said, it’s about time I come to terms with the fact that Dayton Moore was almost certainly what Kansas City needed when owner David Glass hired him. As a condition of taking the job he required that the team begin running like a true major league franchise with intentions of competing again. For all I think the team was incredibly lucky in the good years, requiring the owner to spend a comparatively reasonable amount of money on salary, scouting, and player development paved the way for that good luck to happen. His predecessor, Allard Baird, was probably a better judge of talent but was never able to get the team to spend money in a way that supported his efforts.

All else being equal, a more talented GM might have led the Royals to more winning seasons. However, all else was not equal. Dayton Moore might have been the only GM who could have taken over the team as it was in 2006 and gotten it to the playoffs EVER. So, thanks for that.

Now, of course, it’s time to move on regardless. J.J. Picollo has inherited the big seat. What can we expect to happen next?

Other staff changes?

I went on record on the Royals Review podcast earlier this week that if Dayton Moore did get removed from his position that Cal Eldred and Mike Matheny would lose their jobs. I’m not going to back off of that now. There may be other changes in the front office but those are harder to predict in part because we know even less about what their specific jobs entail than we do a manager and pitching coach.

I’d also expect the entire pitching development system to see an overhaul. Things have been so awful in that area that J.J. simply cannot leave things as they are.

Player acquisition changes?

John Sherman made a point during the press conference that was reiterated in Sam McDowell’s piece about the front office changes in the Kansas City Star that the team has gotten better at collecting data but needs drastic improvement in making that data available and using it in decision-making. Picollo is supposedly completely on-board with that idea and that’s the biggest thing that’s supposed to make him different from Moore. Most damning was the remark Sherman made while emphasizing the importance of using data in decision-making that he didn’t want to hear anecdotes anymore. If Dayton Moore was making signings, trades and other roster decisions based primarily on anecdotes things may have been far worse than I had even imagined. That is no way to make an important decision!

The rumors circulating around the club are that Terry Bradshaw was fired because Picollo said it was time for that change and that the move wouldn’t have happened if Moore had had his way. Other rumors have suggested that the Royals made more trades near the deadline this year because Picollo was starting to get his way more when it comes to player transactions. If those rumors can be believed, we should expect a more transactional GM in J.J. Picollo.

It now seems far more likely that Hunter Dozier and Ryan O’Hearn will be playing for different franchises come opening day 2023 than had Dayton Moore remained with the club. One report I saw suggested the team might go out and look for two more starting pitchers in free agency. If they do so, I would expect those pitchers to have better peripheral numbers and perhaps weaker obvious counting stats than in previous years. Think fewer signings of Jason Hammels and more signings of Charlie Mortons.

Philosophical changes?

Dayton Moore’s greatest strength was also his greatest weakness. He was loyal to a fault. Whatever else I think of him, I have to respect that at least a little. Sure, his loyalty led him to do things like hang on to Trey Hillman, Cal Eldred, Ryan O’Hearn, and Ian Kennedy when he probably shouldn’t have. But it also led him to give Zack Greinke room to deal with his health issues. It led him to stick with Mike Moustakas even though he struggled mightily in 2014. It led to the Royals being the only team to refuse to furlough any front office staff or cut any minor leaguers during 2020.

I don’t know how much it helped the team win, but I do know that, in general, I’d rather see people treated humanely than not. In fact, part of my issue with the way the team has handled Ryan O’Hearn is that it doesn’t seem particularly fair to him, either. Everywhere he looks, people are insulting and begging for him to be cut. If he went elsewhere, he might have a chance to rebuild his value and find a fan base that could appreciate him. Instead, the Royals have stubbornly clung to him out of a misguided sense of loyalty and fear that he’ll make them look stupid if he succeeds elsewhere.

There’s been a lot of talk about how different can J.J. Picollo be after spending so much time working for Dayton Moore. But I do wonder if perhaps working so closely with Moore might have helped Picollo learn some things not to do. I hope J.J. can continue to make positive choices for the people who work under him and show them loyalty when appropriate. I also hope he’s watched how Moore’s version of loyalty has not only held the team back at times but ruined careers at others. Moore was loyal, yes, but he also sometimes made decisions out of fear and called it loyalty.

John Sherman has made it clear that there are no infinite leashes on his team. Accountability will come for you if you don’t succeed or improve. I fully expect that the team will improve its scouting and development processes under Picollo or Picollo will soon be replaced as well. However, even if the Royals fail to significantly improve their scouting or prospect development under Picollo’s watch, if they can keep making decisions out of loyalty without the fear that characterized so much of Moore’s reign, I think this can still be a hugely positive change for the Royals.