When the Kansas City Royals hired Dayton Moore to be their GM of the future and replace Alan Baird I was a big fan. Moore was tutored by former Atlanta Braves GM John Schuerholz, who was the architect of the remarkably successful Braves teams of the 90s and early 2000s. I thought Moore was a new school thinker who knew how to operate on a smaller budget and would get creative with the roster and payroll. Since then he has made some nice acquisitions, but for the most part I have not been impressed.
What I like most about what Moore has done is invest in the draft. This year the Royals topped all other teams in spending on the amateur draft, coming in at $11,148,000. This was the most ever spent on the draft in MLB history. The majority of that $11 million went to Eric Hosmer, the best high school hitter in the draft. With another $1.25 million going to Tim Melville, a high school pitcher who fell to the 4th round due to signability concerns. All this after spending big on Mike Moustakas, their first round pick a year ago. Spending money to sign talent out of the draft is the best thing a rebuilding franchise could do, and I applaud Moore for investing heavily in young talent. However, despite all this spending the Royals farm system remains threadbare and it will take time for these new players to make their impact.
Where Moore has struggled is at the major league level. One of his first big forays into free agency was to spend $55 million over 5 years on Gil Meche, who did quite well his first season but has predictably regressed some since then. No matter how well Meche did though, it didn't make sense to pay a pitcher $11 million per year when the club wouldn't be contending soon anyway. This overspending on a pitcher is forgiveable as pitching talent is hard to come by, and Meche has been pretty valuable and his contract doesn't look so bad these days, so he could probably be traded without too much of a fuss. Moore then proceeded to sign Jose Guillen last off-season to a stunning 3 year $36 million contract. Guillen was coming off a good year with the Mariners, but it didn't appear that there was anyone offering that much money to him at the time, considering he was a malcontent who had a reputation for blowups. Additionally, he hadn't posted an OPS over 850 since 2003, and while his OPS had been over 800 every year since (excluding an injury marred 2006 in Washington), I can't consider it a good investment to spend $12 million per year on an average outfielder with an attitude on a team that wasn't going anywhere in the next 2 years at the least. I won't even get started on the money or playing time (although that blame should go to the manager) alotted to Ross Gload...
Another area where Moore has not impressed me, and the inspiration for this post is on the trade front. Moore recently co-christened the hot stove league with Florida Marlins GM Larry Beinfest by trading reliever Leo Nunez to the Marlins for first baseman Mike Jacobs. This trade just exacerbates the Royals biggest problem: OBP. They ranked 27th last year, with a team OBP of .320. Jacobs had a good year in the power department, mashing 32 homers and slugging a cool .514. His downfall though,(as if there was only one) is his OBP, where he came in at a sparkling .299. To compound this issue, Jacobs is also a terrible defensive first baseman, one of the worst in the league. And on top of that, the Royals position of strength, is first base/designated hitter with Ryan Shealy still around, Billy Butler still not getting enough ab's, and first baseman Kila Ka'aihue who has nothing left to prove in the minors. Ka'aihue would almost assuredly outperform Jacobs if given the opportunity to do so, but instead the Royals have opted to give up a cheap decent reliever for a below average 28 year old first baseman who will cost them significantly more through the arbitration process. Lastly, Jacobs did hit 32 homers last year, but that was big improvement over his career high of 20, and he can't be expected to duplicate last years "success".
I feel bad for Royals fans, because there was such hope that Moore could right this ship. And while he has gotten Royals upper management to spend money in the free agent market, he is not spending it wisely. He should be looking to make low key moves that will payoff down the line. Signing Guillen for 3 years won't matter because the Royals aren't going to contend in that time period, so it is a waste of money and any production they recieve. Hopefully Moore can correct some of his mistakes, and the draftees should help produce in a couple years, it just remains to be seen whether Moore will be there to see it.