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Dayton Moore’s Roster

This has been a topic that I’ve touched on in the past in little snippets throughout posts, but I wanted to get a little more detailed into a bit of a disturbing trend in Royals land. Before I get into this, I really don’t want to be labeled as someone who is constantly negative and bashing Royals moves. I think it’s clear through previous posts that I’m a big fan of the direction this team is heading, and I think things are going to be better in 2011 than most believe. I also understand that the Royals are in a holding pattern and these trends do not necessarily indicate trouble as the prospects start to make it to the majors. I like what Dayton Moore has done with the minor league system (obviously), and I also am not so down on him on the Major League level for the past year or so. Even the signings of Cabrera and Francouer aren’t terribly upsetting in a vacuum because they’re cheap and for one year.

That said, Dayton Moore’s roster management and tendencies have me concerned for the future. Even with the truck that is backing up to Kauffman Stadium with all those prospects, the Royals are going to have to supplement them with free agency and shrewd trades. They’re going to have to be able to pull the trigger on Chris Dwyer (for example) for a position of need. As hard as this is to fathom as we watch this group light up the minors, not everyone will succeed. And for those who do succeed, most won’t do it right away.

Look at the Royals current roster for an example of that. Off the top of my head, I can think of four current Royals who were top 30 prospects at one time or another. There might be more, but these were the first to come to mind. The four players are Wilson Betemit, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and Luke Hochevar. Betemit has had a couple of decent seasons, but last year was his first really good offensive season. Butler is coming into his own and is a solid bat, but not great yet. Gordon is struggling at the Major League level and is probably on his last chance with the Royals. Hochevar looked like he was starting to get it last year before his injury, but now we may be back to square one with him. Of these four players who were expected to make a major impact, Butler is the only one who you could argue has done so.

So, it’s clear that holes will emerge even with this great group of talent. I’m pretty concerned about that on two levels involving the general manager. The first is that he seems to have a hard time constructing a roster that makes sense. This goes back to 2007 when the team was loaded with first baseman who couldn’t do much else. Part of that was a logjam created by the final year of Mike Sweeney’s contract, but part of that was Dayton Moore’s doing. Beyond just the construction of the roster, the players signed to be a part of this team often don’t make sense. As was mentioned yesterday, the signing of Podsednik and Brian Anderson was fine, but then they went and got Ankiel, too. Sometimes I get the feeling that there isn’t really a true plan in place. It’s the equivalent of buying a 42 inch television for $800 and then finding a 55 inch television for $950 and buying that, too, because it’s such a good deal. Yeah, it may have been a good buy but because you didn’t scour the market first, you’re stuck with an extra television.

That concerns me less, though, then the way Dayton Moore seems to value players. I mentioned earlier that I have no problem with Cabrera or Francouer in a vacuum. Well, the reason there’s the qualifier is because we don’t live in a vacuum. The problem isn’t the terms or the player even, but how Dayton Moore seems to value the player. I believe that he legitimately thinks Jeff Francouer can be an impact player at the Major League level. He may make me look really stupid for saying this, but the numbers indicate that it just can’t happen. He doesn’t take enough pitches, he doesn’t have enough power, etc. Dayton Moore, though, seems to value him as much more than the platoon partner he should be. I feel like he’s the guy who got ripped off by the watch salesman on the back of a truck and is looking around to see if anybody saw how great a deal he got. He just doesn’t seem to get it.

This was evident last off-season with Ankiel and Kendall both. In Kendall, the Royals signed a catcher who was on the verge of being washed up who had no power, on base skills far below what his career indicated. Yet, Dayton Moore signed him to a two-year deal and lauded his ability to get on base and how is catching would improve the pitching staff greatly. Well, he got on base decently, but he struggled to throw base stealers out and the pitching got worse under his watch. It’s probably not fair to blame Kendall for that, but Dayton Moore’s expectation was that he’d improve the staff and it’s hard to see how he did that. In Ankiel, Moore expected a breakout and instead got 24 games. He was just lucky that he was able to pawn him off on his old employers and receive a real prospect for him (and Farnsworth). He just consistently misjudges the market.

Something else I’ve read from one of the fine posters at Royals Corner is that the very things that make him adept at identifying young talent are hampering him at the Major League level. His scouting mind allows him to envision what a player might become by using all the tools that are apparent to scouts. The problem, though, is that he takes his scouting mind to Major League players where statistics can be used for analysis. It’s why he acquires a player like Yuniesky Betancourt. He sees the tools that everybody else sees, but he sees them developing and Betancourt becoming a star. When you have years of data like is available for Betancourt, he’s become what he’s going to be for the most part. It’s perfectly fine if he does that with minor league free agents such as Betemit, but to spend millions and/or give up prospects to acquire players like this is a problem.

This was not intended to be a bash on Dayton type of post. It was merely intended to point out some flaws that fans should be concerned about as the team begins to turn the corner. It’s why many people believe that the Royals can’t take the next step beyond the prospects until Dayton is gone. I’m not sure if that’s the case just yet. A lot of the players he has gone after have spurned the Royals because they wanted to play for a competitive team. If the Royals had been successful in signing them, this perception would be very different. Orlando Hudson and Torii Hunter are the two names that come to mind immediately as players who do fit in what a winning team is doing, but did not want to be Royals. Maybe when free agents begin to see this young talent, the Royals could bid $20 million on a Carl Crawford and improve their team or trade for and sign an extension for a guy like Adrian Gonzalez. Maybe the Royals see Jose Reyes on the market next year and decide that he’s their shortstop for the next five years and he wants to come here to play next to guys like Moustakas and Hosmer. This book is just beginning to be written, but early on it’s not such a great story. Let’s hope it gets better.

  1. Dave
    December 11, 2010 at 1:19 am

    I think DM can identify and pursue actual talent at the Major League level, as you noted with Hunter and Hudson, but just can’t beat the big boys to sign him. I’m not so worried about that side of his MLB acquisitions. If we develop a competitive team through the minors, he’ll have more success signing good players. It’s the bottom half of the roster that concerns me. Regardless of the MLB talent we produce from the farm, we’ll clearly have to supplement the roster, and considering our payroll limitations, this will require some shrewd decisions in order to leave enough money to bring in impact FAs or to extend homegrown players.

    For where we are now, it doesn’t hurt to pay Francouer or Melky, but if this were 3 years from now and we were competing, and we had a cheap option like Maier available but opted to pay someone 6 times as much for the same production, it would be a mistake. A few million here and a few million there on guys to round out the roster, when they could be had for league minimum, might make the difference in signing that final piece.

    For the Royals to be successful, I can’t help but think we’ll need to round out the bottom third of our roster with league minimum guys instead of a collection of cheapish guys, that when combined amount to a large amount of payroll.

  2. Anonymous
    December 11, 2010 at 2:35 am

    Nice post.

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