Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Dayton Moore

In a recent Kansas City Star article, David Glass dispelled rumors that he was selling the team.*  Many fans and large swaths of the commentariat greeted this news with dismay.  Some of the rumors have also suggested outspoken Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has an interest in the team, a proposition that excites many in K.C..  These reactions are not surprising.  The Royals have been historically abysmal during David Glass’ ownership. Mark Cuban has done wonders for his NBA franchise, and his over-the-top style is something fans gravitate to, especially at a distance.  I don’t want to further these rumors because I have absolutely no substantiation to them whatsoever, and I’d prefer writing things which I know are based in fact.  Instead, I thought I would take a look at David Glass as an owner.

*Rumors which the Star suggested came from the blogosphere, but to which I can find no evidence.  Every mention of this rumor came from either Jack Harry or sports talk radio.  While the blogosphere does in many cases spread rumors, in this case it isn’t true.  This is the first mention of this rumor on Royals Authority, and I’ve been unable to find mention of it on any of the more than a dozen Royals blogs I subscribe to.

How exactly does one grade an owner?  At the most basic level it has to be about how well a team produces on the field.   That isn’t a complete look at an owner, but it certainly is important, especially to fans.  Identifying when David Glass became the owner of the Royals is kind of murky, since he was appointed the Interim Chairman and CEO when Ewing Kauffman died in 1993 and didn’t become the sole owner until April of 2000.  For these purposes, I am going to use 2000 as the starting date of his ownership.  Since 2000 the Royals have a 725-1019 record, which ends up being a .415 winning percentage.  That winning percentage would average out to a 67-95 record.  That is phenomenally bad, but you probably already know this.  So if you were to judge him on the record of the ballclub alone then you have to rate him as one of the worst owners of all-time.  Other than moving the team out of the city, he couldn’t have been worse.

However, grading the owner involves a bit more than just the record on the field.  Although in the end, he can’t be a considered great owner until he builds a winner.  Taking a step back from how this particular owner has been, I think it would be instructive to identify the qualities that one would want in an owner.

First, he has to be willing to spend money.  It takes money to win. He is the guy that has complete control of the purse strings. You can’t be a good owner if you refuse to spend money in the draft, in development or in free agency.  It’s just not possible.  Of course what that amount should be is certainly up for debate, as is where specifically it should be spent.  But where is less the owners job than that of the General Manager.

Second, a good owner doesn’t meddle in the baseball affairs of the club.  This isn’t a hard and fast rule. I mean if Bill James was a billionaire and owned a ballclub, then I’d be happy if he put his two cents in.  However it is pretty commonplace to have owners who do NOT have expertise in building winning baseball teams, and therefore when they get involved in specifics it almost never works out.

Finally, and this is more a subset of the first point, an owner should attempt to improve the ballclub as much as possible in an attempt to create a winning franchise.  This point is in some ways the least important and in some ways the most.  I believe that every owner in baseball truly wants to build a winning franchise.  Yeah, they get into the game for the money and prestige, but I would be amazed to find any owner that genuinely didn’t want to win games, even if it cost them some profits.

So how does David Glass fit into this mold?  Honestly, it depends on when you ask.  If you were to ask that question in say 2004, by all accounts he was being extremely cheap and meddlesome.  The team cut expenses in Latin America, spent little money in the draft or free agency and was widely rumored to have squashed deals or made his front office take certain players in trades.  So on both counts he failed miserably.  However, when taking a closer look at the David Glass of 2010, we find a completely different owner.

Spending the Monies

Glass has been notoriously known as a complete cheap-skate in terms of running the Kansas City Royals. However, he has improved in that aspect.  The Major League payroll has ranked 21st overall the past two years, which is the highest it has been in the 10 years of Mr. Glass’ ownership.  In 2000, the payroll was 28th in the MLB at $24.9m and has risen to 21st with $71.4m.  So suffice to say, he has both increased the raw amount of money he has spent at the MLB level and done so at a rate greater than the overall increase in MLB payrolls during that time.  Part of that does stem from the fact that so little was spent earlier in the decade, but he still has spent more money.  Often, when people critique an owner this is where the analysis stops.  They look at a major league payroll and assume that is all the money an owner spends on a team.  However, that is just part of it.

Recently released documents from the Pirates and other MLB teams have shed some light on how much money some teams spend in all facets of the game and how much revenue they take in.  For example in 2007 the Pirates spent $21m in player development and in 2008 spent $23m.  It is unclear if those numbers include the bonuses paid in the draft, but the Pirates spent $9.7 in 2008 in that department.  David Glass isn’t the owner of the Pirates, but the examples are instructive.  Lots of money is spent on the organization beyond the Major League Payroll.

So beyond the payroll, Glass has spent $24.5m in draft bonuses from 2008-2010, which is fifth in the MLB.  Part of that comes from having high draft picks which get higher bonuses, but they haven’t been cheap with those draft picks and have signed lots of guys for over-slot money in lower rounds like Wil Myers, Mike Montgomery, Brett Eibner, Chris Dwyer, John Lamb and Jason Adams.  Add to that some Latin American signings like Cheslor Cuthbert ($1.4), Noel Arguelles ($6.9) and Humberto Arteaga ($1.1m) and you get lots of money being spent by the organization.  Money that was not being spent in the early 2000’s.

However, spending money is all relative, right?  Yes Glass was cheap earlier in the decade, but just spending more money doesn’t really make him a big spender. It could just make him a little less cheap.  So, again let’s take a look at some of the recently released financial information.  We can do a little extrapolating from the information to get a good gauge of how much money the Royals take in, then do some dirty math on expenditures and see just how much revenue is being put back into the team.  We need to take a deeper look at revenues to determine what is adequate spending.  I think it is fair to expect the team to turn a profit each year, and even to turn big profits if those can be spent in subsequent years to get that one free agent who can take a team to the playoffs.

The Pirates are a great comparison.  They have been bad for a long time, but are in an established baseball community with similar attendance figures and likely similar revenue structures.  In 2008 the Pirates received $39m in revenue sharing and got $30.3m in 2008.  I don’t really see a reason to assume the Royals got much more or less than that.  The Pirates received $39m in TV money, but I believe that is more than the Royals get from Fox.  Across the board teams make about $5 per attendee in concessions, so with roughly 1.5m people coming to the K that is approximately $7.5m in concessions.  The Pirates had gate receipts of roughly $33m, and received $2m from MLB Advanced Media.  All told the Pirates had after tax profits of around $15m each year.  They likely pull in more for TV, more for stadium naming rights and have spent a little more in the draft.  However their major league payroll has been on the order of $20m less than the Royals the past few years.  Looking at all of those numbers, my first thought is that I don’t see how the Royals have made a profit these past few years.  They have claimed to break even or make a small profit, but without a major new source of income I don’t know how that would be.   So in terms of what is spent vs what is coming in the door, I would say that lately Glass has been a very good owner in that regard.

Meddling

This is a little harder to quantify.  I am not around David Glass 24/7 or even .01/1, so I don’t know for a fact whether he meddles or not.  I will have to go on rumor and what people much more connected than me say.  But the consensus is that during the Allard Baird era David Glass regularly killed trades and meddled in free agent signings.  On the flip side, I have never heard that rumor or even the hint of that rumor on the Dayton Moore era.  In fact one of the biggest criticisms fans seem to have lately is that David Glass is never around.  It’s almost assuredly a good thing that he isn’t around.  It means he can’t get involved in baseball decisions that he doesn’t have the skill set to be involved in.  It doesn’t take advanced statistics to realize that the presence of an owner doesn’t make the players on the field better.

Wanting to Win

This one is impossible.  I almost left it out completely, but I know that people want to discuss it and it means something to them.  But all I need to know is the numbers above.  David Glass by all accounts is spending lots of money to create a winning franchise, you can argue whether it is spent properly or not, but that isn’t his job it is the job of the General Manager.  I would say that spending the amount he has given what we know the revenues are, is about the biggest statement one can make about his willingness to win.

So in all three categories which make a good owner, David Glass has morphed from terrible into great.  I am honestly trying to come up with things I wish he would do differently, and I struggle to find somthing.  Every criticism and knock on him as an owner is something which doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.  The old David Glass is STILL killing this team due to the absolute ineptness the club was run with in the earlier part of the decade, so you can continue to blame him for that.  But if you imagine that somewhere around 2006, a new owner bought the team with the same name as the old one I don’t know that there would be much criticism of him.

What I also find interesting is why he has changed and why he was so bad in the first place.  A lot of fans talk about the Wal-Mart mentality, which is simplistic but accurate.  The primary Wal-Mart mentality is that costs are the enemy.  They must be destroyed everywhere possible.  Rising costs will never benefit you in any way.  I can’t imagine a guy so steeped in that culture can swiftly change to a baseball mentality where spending lots of money in the right places can help you to grow revenues significantly in the long run.

I also wonder how much of what David Glass did at the beginning of the decade was designed to bring about increased revenue sharing.  It wouldn’t be surprising  if he and Bud Selig got together and hatched a plan to help bring it about.  A large part of the plan was that Glass had to be on Bud’s side in everything, from paying slot-bonuses to not over-spending in free agency.  Together they worked on some other smaller market owners and got the luxury tax and revenue sharing instituted.  In my mind the coup de grace is the 30 team even-split of MLB Advanced Media money, which is quickly becoming baseballs cash cow.  If in fact, David Glass hurt his own team’s chances of winning to get these changes in baseball and it was the only way it could happen, then I think it was a good call.  It would be a very tough decision in the near term and he took major heat from other owners and his own fanbase, but in the very long term he may have saved Kansas City as a viable Major League city.  Maybe I am giving him too much credit for these changes, but I doubt we will ever know.

The other potential reason he has changed his ways could be due to hiring Dayton Moore.  Most of the changes do coincide with Moore being hired as the General Manager.  I have no doubt that Moore was aware of how much the spending had been cut under David Glass and how meddlesome he had become in baseball affairs.  With that knowledge, I could see Moore asking Glass to let him run the baseball side of things and to increase the budget in all facets of the organization if he was to take the job.  Frankly, if the only thing Dayton Moore accomplishes in his tenure as General Manager was to create David Glass 2.0, I would be pretty satisfied.

Throughout the decade of David Glass’ ownership of the Royals, the team has lost a record amount of games.  Those losses without question are the direct result of the things Glass has done as an owner.  However, from all the information available, it seems that he has become in many respects a model owner in recent years.  His prior mistakes continue to haunt the franchise and will do so for at least a couple more years.  He shouldn’t be given a pass for those mistakes; however he should be praised for changing his ways and doing the right things.  Dayton Moore gets a lot of credit for building one of the best farm systems in all of baseball, and rightfully so.  However, without David Glass increasing expenditures and letting the baseball people make the baseball decisions we wouldn’t be looking as hopeful at the 2012-2015 timeframe as we are now.

Nick Scott is the host of the Broken Bat Single Royals podcast.  You can email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com or you can follow him on Twitter at @brokenbatsingle

August 2nd, 2010.  In many ways it was just another day in baseball.  The Royals got beat by 6 runs in Oakland.  Brian Bannister wasn’t effective. Chris Getz let a runner score while he was arguing with the umpire.  A perfectly executed hit and run was busted up when the shortstop caught the line drive while moving to cover 2nd base.  Kila Ka’aihue got one pinch hit plate appearance.  However in the bottom of the 8th inning, Greg Holland made his major league debut and as you may or may not know, Holland is the first draft pick by Dayton Moore to play for the Royals.

On the mound he seemed stiff and uncomfortable, which isn’t all that surprising for a 10th round draft pick out of Ball State Western Carolina University facing big league hitters for the first time.  I’d imagine standing on a major league mound is a pretty intense experience the first time you do it.  Things started off well when he got Rajai Davis to ground out.  However, he followed that up by walking Gabe Gross and giving up back to back singles by Cliff Pennington and Coco Crisp which allowed Gross to score.  Holland then loaded the bases by walking Daric Barton.

I would assume that the young mans mind was racing at this point.  His entire baseball career might have been flashing before his eyes.  I am sure he knows all about players who merely got their cup of coffee, got sent back down and never made it back to the majors.  It was impossible not to see it on his face.  Royals manager Ned Yost then emerged from the dugout instead of the pitching coach.  Normally that means a new pitcher is coming into the game.  Again, I’d imagine Holland thought his debut was over just like that.  However, Yost went out there to offer some words of encouragement, not pull him from the game.

Whatever Yost said; it worked.  Holland quickly got the next batter, Kurt Suzuki to ground into an inning ending double play.  Just like that, Greg Holland was out of a bases loaded jam.  The team was still down six to nothing, but things didn’t get much worse.

It’s probably a little bit cheesy to use a single relief pitching appearance as a metaphor for the Dayton Moore regime, but I am going to do it anyway.  Holland entered a game which the Royals had little hope of winning,which isn’t much different from what Dayton Moore inherited when he showed up as General Manager.  He had some early success and made some odd moves which seemed a little like a guy finding his sea legs.  Then things turned sour and the results were not as advertised.  Finally, he got a reminder that he had a plan, just trust what you have and do what got you to where you are.  Finally, something goes right and the current predicament is over.

The story isn’t written on Greg Hollands major league career just yet, and neither is the one on Dayton Moore.  Things haven’t gone as well as anyone had hoped, its been rocky and ugly.  There has been a handful of bright spots, but they’ve been overshadowed by numerous dark ones.  Regardless of how many good individual pitches a pitcher makes, if you load the bases, you load the bases.  However, it can be completely erased by a single double play ball.

Whatever unfolds in the future for Dayton Moore and the Royals, the possible excuses for not building a winning ballclub are dwindling.  Just like a pitcher, it doesn’t matter what kind of stuff you have if you can’t get guys out.  Both Holland and Dayton Moore will be judged by their results on the field.  Personally, I hope both succeed wildly but we will have to keep watching and see.

The trades made by Dayton Moore this weekend pointed out the wide disparity of opinions that one fan base can have.   While the majority of us blogging about the team and those who read what we spew out were in favor of moving veterans like Scott Podsednik and Rick Ankiel, it was interesting to read or hear the reactions of many other fans (casual or serious) who hated the moves.  

While finding a united opinion amongst a fan base might be impossible, I would wager that if you went back in time to early 2007, we Royals’ fans had visions of lots of series like this:

  • Friday night – a walkoff home run by Alex Gordon
  • Saturday night – a two run go ahead homer by Billy Butler in the 8th
  • Sunday afternoon – a run scoring double in the first from Butler and a home run from Gordon in the fourth

Never mind that the games were against the Orioles and never mind that the sweep only got the Royals within 15 games of .500:  THIS is what we thought/hoped would be the norm by now.   Maybe it was just a good weekend against a bad team, but maybe, just maybe, it is the start of something good.

At any rate, for most of us, this was a fun weekend to be a fan of the Kansas City Royals.   In addition to the Gordon-Butler heroics, we saw the organization, for maybe the first time, really embrace the future as opposed to paying it just lip service.

Alberto Callaspo and Scott Podsednik were both good enough players that the Royals could have kept them, ran out the ‘not enough value coming back to trade’ line and ground out a couple of more wins between now and October, but instead they shipped them out for four younger players.   One of those younger players is Sean O’Sullivan, who 11 innings into his Royals’ career, I am already more confident in than Brian Bannister or Kyle Davies.

What the above two moves really did, however, was solidify an everyday spot in the lineup for Alex Gordon’s next last chance and opened up third base for Mike Moustakas whenever he is ready to take on major league pitching (the over under is May 22, 2011, who’s in?).

Dayton Moore followed up those two deals by doing what all the old crusty columnists say cannot be done:  trade garbage for value.   Nothing personally against, Ankiel and Farnsworth, but they have enough warts on their professional baseball resumes that trading them seemed pretty illogical.   Instead, Moore went to the Braves’ well once more and pulled out an unconventional reliever with real upside (Tim Collins) and a serviceable centerfielder (Gregor Blanco), plus another reliever.   Return aside, the upside of that deal is that it clears out one more veteran who was just going to take at-bats from players who need them (Maier, for example) and another who was in the way of letting the Royals have a look at the crop of young relievers coming up in the system.

After all that, the Royals still found themselves with one Jose Guillen too many, but that did not deter them from recalling Kila Kaa’ihue from Omaha.   The long awaited and much deserved promotion was welcome news, even if the plan to get him at-bats was less than pleasing.   

This will be a test of what Ned Yost is about as, fresh off signing a two year deal to manage the Royals, he should be ready to find at-bats for Kaa’ihue at the expense of Jose Guillen and, to a smaller extent, Willie Bloomquist (which means Guillen in right field, but who doesn’t need to see that a couple times a week?!).    With the trade of Podsednik, it’s easy to put Gordon in left and ‘find out’, but it’s going to take a little intestinal fortitude to right Kaa’ihue in the lineup everyday with Jose Guillen glaring at you from across the locker room.

Of course, the idea of trading Guillen in August is very much alive.   With all the activity over the weekend, there are teams out there who woke up Sunday morning and wondered if they could have/should have done more.   Guillen will clear waivers and hence tradable all the way through August to whomever might be in panic mode.   The key for Yost and Moore is to not wait for Guillen to be moved before installing Kaa’ihue in the everyday lineup.    

Hey, no one said being general manager or manager of a major league team is all sunshine and roses (although it has to be pretty sweet gig).   Sometimes you have to get called an SOB by an angry veteran for the good of the team’s future.    You got the new contract Ned – now go out there and write down the lineup that will help you win meaningful games in 2011 and 2012 and not meaningless games this August.

Can you imagine what the Royals’ corner of the Internet would be like if the team actually turns into a contender one of these years?   Where else could the trade of a nice (not to be confused with a ‘good’) player on a one year deal getting traded generate this level of interest?

Greg Schaum broke down the prospects shortly after the trade of Scott Podsednik went down and Matt Klaasen over at FanGraphs  gave us his analysis of the trade not much later.  Minda Haas had a great post on the musings of the casual fan and it’s always fun to read the comment strings over at Royals Review.    Plus, we had Nick’s podcast up (see below) as well and all of that is really just the tip of the iceberg.

Having newly integrated myself into the Twitter lifestyle (cfosroyalsauth by the way), I spent enough time following the feed last night on my phone that my wife was certain I had a couple of girlfriends.  (Doesn’t she know I have an entirely different phone for them?!!!)   At any rate, I cannot offer much more insight than more astute writers already have to what I am considering a ‘good trade’.

Very quickly, the Royals gave up a decent player in Podsednik having a decent year (.310/.353/.400), but his 12 caught stealing and 3 pick-offs (none of which, I believe, were the result of botched hit and runs or missed signs on a sacrifice bunt) mitigate that batting average down to .270 with a .316 on-base percentage.   Now, that ‘mitigation’ is the result of some pretty rudimentary statistical analysis, but just let it go, Pods is gone.

In return the Royals acquired a AAA catcher of marginal prospect status with some pop.   Now, like everyone else, Luke May has no doubt benefited from playing in Albuquerque (.296/.352/.496), but he also hit .306/.390/.468 in Chattanooga last year.   He is still learning the game behind the plate, having converted from shortstop in 2008, but he gives the Royals another high minor catcher to pair with Manny Pina.   Frankly, both guys have another full year of watching Jason Kendall play every day in the majors to refine their games.

Dayton Moore also added another young arm in Elisaul Pimentel, who has raised his strikeout rate in each of his last three stops in the minors.   I view Pimentel as another guy to put into the ‘second wave of pitchers’ behind the almost unbelievable AA rotation of Montgomery, Duffy, Crow, Dwyer and Lamb.   Pimentel fits in with Melville, Sample and recently acquired Will Smith.    Hey, you really cannot have enough young arms.

Heck, on this feel good Thursday, I have even reconciled myself to the Royals’ apparent move to a 13 man pitching staff in the short term.   While the promotion of Bryan Bullington was at best uninspired and at worst unimaginative, all signs are pointing towards the promotion of reliever Greg Holland (an ACTUAL PROSPECT) to Kansas City.     Holland is a power arm who, after getting a rude welcome to AAA, has been lights out since then.     He was going to have to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this winter, so Holland needed a 40 man roster spot sooner and later.  Plus, as I have been advocating recently, the Royals need to spread out the experience factor of the trio of quality relievers they had in Omaha (Holland, Hardy and Coleman).   Chances are that this 13 man staff is a temporary deal, as the Royals continue to market Kyle Farnsworth and might well have seen about all the need to out of Blake Wood and/or Dusty Hughes.

Further helping the mood today, are the statements in the Kansas City Star and on WHB radio this morning of Dayton Moore indicating that Kila Kaa’ihue’s long awaited promition to and installation in the Royals’ everyday lineup ‘can be expected to happen shortly’.   Hopefully Giants’ GM Brian Sabean will panic that the Dodgers added Podsednik and offer something, anything, for Jose Guillen.   Really, Brian, ANYTHING will do, just offer.

At any rate, it at last just feels like the organization is positioning this team with an eye towards the future.    Another look at Alex Gordon, a first look at Greg Holland and a chance for Kila Kaa’ihue are all a start.  

Now, Mr. Moore, let’s keep the ball rolling.

Episode #027 – Nick reacts to the Podsednik trade, discusses Meche’s surgery, weighs the criticisms and praises of Dayton Moore and says FREE KILA.

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If you listen to my podcast, which is posted here at Royals Authority and elsewhere, then you probably know that I am not the biggest fan of Scott Podsednik.  We probably all have our own personal favorites and not-so-favorites on the team, its just part of being a fan.  However, sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due, and Scott Podsednik has been on fire lately.

I know he has a 13 game hitting streak, but I kind of thought it was one of those empty streaks with lots of 1 single games.  Not only  does he have 6 multi-hit games during his streak, seven of his 21 hits during the streak have been for extra bases.  He has 3 doubles, 2 triples and 2 homeruns.  During his 13 game hitting streak, Podsednik is hitting .375/.407/.607.

The thing that absolutely blew me away though, was the fact that his streak would be 23 games if not for a single game with no hits on July 7th.  If you look at all of his games from June 21st through yesterday, you have over a month of Podsednik putting up All-Star numbers.  I mean literally All-Star or better type offensive numbers.  Over his last 28 games, Podsednik is hitting .364/.395/.496 for an OPS of .891.  That is excellent production out of the leadoff spot for the Royals.

During the off-season, the Royals signed a bunch of outfielders.  They inked Brian Anderson, Rick Ankiel and Scott Podsednik.  At the time, I thought it was a little crazy, but my guess is that Dayton Moore figured that hopefully one of these guys would end up being productive and instead of just trying to guess which one it would be, he signed all three and hedged his bet.  Brian Anderson is becoming a pitcher, Rick Ankeil has been injured most of the year and I have to admit, Podsednik has been a valuable player.  We know that in most offseasons, the Royals don’t have the money to go out and sign a top flight free agent who has great odds of panning out, so in lieu of that, a great strategy would be to get a bunch of decent guys and hope one has a career year while jettisoning the rest.

On top of that, if the team ends up struggling then you can hopefully trade off the guy who is performing well and net some young talent in return. And that is exactly what may happen. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports last night Tweeted:

Source: Royals getting bombarded with sudden interest in Podsednik from NL West contenders. Would fit for #Giants, #Padres, #Dodgers.

If the Royals can turn Scott Podsednik into some young talent, then it easily will be the best off-season signing of the year for Dayton Moore.  Sometimes as fans we have trouble seeing the forest for the trees, and I think that for me the signing of a bunch of outfielders in this last off-season was one of those times.  Now, if he can only stay healthy until he can be traded.

You can contact Nick at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com, via twitter @brokenbatsingle or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/brokenbatsingle

So, we’re about 10 days from the trade deadline, so why not handicap the Royals and the chances they’ll be moved in the next week and a half.

Kyle Farnsworth – 35%

Kerosene Kyle has been effective out of the pen this year and teams are always looking for relief.  He could get dealt for a grade C prospect.

Jose Guillen – 5%

It’s not that Dayton Moore won’t trade him.  It’s that he can’t trade him.

Alberto Callaspo – 20%

Reports on Tuesday had the Angels offering Sean O’Sullivan and a fringe prospect.  Once upon a time, O’Sullivan was the Angels fifth rated prospect, but has struggled since moving past Single-A.  I don’t blame Dayton – if the reports are true and he turned this offer down.  However, if that’s the best bounty Callaspo will bring, he’s not going anywhere.  Although the Angels seem like a fit.

Willie Bloomquist – 15%

He would return a PTBNL.  At most.

Zack Greinke, Brian Bannister, Kyle Davies – 0%

The rotation is thin with Gil Meche and Luke Hochevar on the DL.  There’s absolutely zero chance Dayton guts his rotation.

Joakim Soria – 5%

He’s signed at to a club-friendly deal and is a closer.  Both points matter a great deal to management.  Those Soria to New York rumors (and for Jesus Montero!) were so laughable, I’m not even sure they need to be addressed.

Bottom line: This is baseball’s silly season.  I get the feeling there are a few national writers who scour losing teams for quality players on low dollar contracts.  In other words, bargains.  And those writers immediately throw those names into the trade cauldron.  We get it… The Royals are the chum and the Yankees are the sharks.  It’s lazy and unprofessional and total B.S.  It’s like closing your eyes and throwing a dart and guessing where it will land.  So the Yankees covet Soria.  Really?  If I had to guess, I’d say there are 28 other teams who covet the guy.

Soria isn’t going anywhere. Yet.

David DeJesus – 20%

This is the one guy who the Royals are willing to part with (although no one on this team should be “untouchable”) and he’s the one who would net the greatest return, so his odds are the highest outside of Farnsworth.

I could see him headed to Tampa or the Giants.  And yes, I could see him in Boston.  The Royals will have to lower their asking price though.  No, he’s not a fourth outfielder, but he’s much more valuable to the Royals than he would be to say the Rays.  That’s not a knock on DeJesus, it’s just a fact.  And because that’s the case, teams aren’t going to want to give up a ton.  Although if Jeff Passan’s report that the Royals are seeking a major league ready prospect and a mid level prospect is accurate, that seems fair to me.

It will take a savvy GM to get a team to pony up what the Royals are looking for.  I don’t think we have that GM.

The Field – 15%

Overall, I think the odds that GMDM and the Royals make a trade is around 15%.  I just don’t see much happening at the deadline.

I hope I’m wrong.

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Really not much to analyze in a 13-1 beatdown.

– It was one of those nights when Anthony Lerew looked like a Triple-A pitcher and the Blue Jays looked like the team leading the AL in home runs and second in slugging.  The Jays were ripping Lerew all over the park.  It was the Laser Show prelude to the Lightening Show.

It was only a matter of time before someone lined one up the middle and off the pitcher.  Honestly, Lerew was throwing BP out there – he probably should have had the screen in front of him.  At the time, I thought that was the last thing the Jays wanted to do… Why knock out the pitcher who has nothing?  Turns out it didn’t hurt as Kanekoa Texeira wasn’t any better, allowing both inherited runners to score before allowing two more to plate in the third inning.

Early word on Lerew was a bruised rib cage and bicep.  I bet.  He’s feeling the pain right about now.

– Speaking of BP, that was exactly what Blake Wood was throwing.  That 95 mph on a string… No way a slugging team like the Jays doesn’t just crush the ball against a pitcher like Wood.  And crush him they did.  Bautista smoked a double off the Royals reliever and Lind hit a liner that bounced off the top of the wall for a home run.  In both instances, the hitters were sitting fastball.  In both instances, Wood obliged.

– If you were a major league player and your best chance at getting on base was to make like a fastpitch softball player and execute a swinging bunt, would you be embarrassed?  Just asking…

–  There was a Brayan Pena sighting as he entered the game in the eighth as a pinch runner for Jose Guillen with the Royals down by 10 at that point.  Love the strategic maneuvering.  Gotta keep Guillen fresh.  And it was muddy out there, too.  Gotta keep him safe.

–  If you love spectacular defensive plays, this was your game.  The Jays had Web Gems all around the infield on Tuesday.  And Alberto Callaspo turned in a couple of nifty plays to his left as well.

– The Blue Jays had 16 hits, while the Royals had 11.  Yet the Jays scored 13 runs, while the Royals could only muster a run.

Perhaps the difference was that the Jays had 10 extra base hits to the Royals one.

That seems to be the story of the Royals offense in a nutshell.

When I hear someone say Kevin Seitzer has done a great job with this team, I just shake my head.  Not that he’s done anything wrong or horrible… But he hasn’t done anything to really make a bit of difference with this offense.

The point of the offense is to score runs.  The end.  I could care less that the Royals are leading the league in batting average.  They’re second to last in walks and their 4.37 runs per game are 10th.  They rank seventh in OBP (at .335, which is actually a surprise given the lack of walks… And a good thing) and 11th in slugging at .402.

It’s not like Seitzer can teach guys power, so I’m not going to dock him points for the Royals team slugging percentage.  But when you depend on guys to string together three singles to score one run, it’s going to be difficult to get the runs across the plate.

A week ago today, I wrote a column speculation on how many players the Royals would need to add right now to become a contender.   The number I came up with was eight.   Some commenters suggested nine (the ninth being a catcher) was the more reasonable number and that may well be true.

Be it eight players or nine players, I summarized that column by pointing out that it is possible that maybe all but one of those positions could be filled by the ever improving farm system.   There are two big problems with that sentence however:

  1. Not all prospects reach their potential.
  2. While prospects develop the major league roster changes.   You might fill one spot, only to have another open up due to contract issues, age, etc.   Basically, it is all fine and good that Mike Montgomery might well be an ace-type pitcher in 2013, but that won’t make the Royals any better if Zack Greinke left via free agency after the 2012 season.

In my mind, Greinke is the crux of the issue.   Unlike Carlos Beltran or Johnny Damon, it is not a lock that Zack will leave the Royals once his current contract expires.   If Kansas City is beginning to look like a winning organization during the 2011 and 2012 seasons and IF management is judicious in allocating salary, the possibility of resigning Greinke is relatively high in my opinion.      

Should the Royals still be floundering along at 70-92 and Greinke is still getting less run support than a college softball pitcher, what would be his incentive to stay?   Sure, he may not want to pitch in New York, but they score lots of runs in Anaheim, Texas, Tampa and Chicago.     

If you want to keep Greinke, then The Process has to be showing real signs of coming to fruition no later than the start of the 2012 season.   In fact, the Royals probably need to be at least looking like contender if not actually contending next season.   

The message:  don’t abandon The Process, but let’s get focused and hurry up.

Now, back to last week’s column.   The eight players that I thought the Royals needed were:

  1. Number two starting pitcher
  2. Number three/four starting pitcher
  3. Middle reliever
  4. A second middle reliever
  5. Impact, corner infield bat
  6. Good defensive middle infielder with an average-plus bat
  7. Good defensive centerfielder with an average-plus bat (or better)
  8. Impact, corner outfield bat

Where can the Royals afford to build from within and where do they need to be aggressive and go find someone to fill those spots from outside the organization?

If the Royals were a better offensive team and Gil Meche was healthy, they probably have a good enough starting five as it is.  That said, better than ‘good enough’ is preferable.  With the return of Danny Duffy (even if 2010 is pretty much a lost year), you have to like the idea of having him, Mike Montgomery and Aaron Crow all within hailing distance of the majors.   I am content to wait for one of those three to emerge as that number two starter by the end of 2011.

The key to making that happen, however, is getting Gil Meche healthy and here’s why.   Meche has zero trade value right now.   The Royals would be wise to take months making sure Gil is really at full strength before running him out to the mound.     There would be nothing wrong with a healthy Gil Meche being your number two starter for the first three months of 2011.    When healthy and right, as he was in 2007 and 2008, Meche truly is a number two starter.   He would buy time for Montgomery and company.   Can he get healthy and right?  Hard to say, but you might as well keep Meche around to find out as opposed to dumping him for little or no value this year.   So, the plan for the number two starter is keep Gil Meche, while you wait for Montogmery, Duffy or Crow to take his spot.   Keep in mind, if this scenario plays out, Meche will have real allure as a trade chip next July.

As for the number four type starter, I again am content to wait for the three guys above to come to the majors.   Behind them comes the John Lamb, Chris Dwyer, Tim Melville, Kelvin Herrera, etc. group of arms, who will also come into consideration as Hochevar, Bannister and Davies begin to become contract issues (or get worse, instead of better).

Truthfully, I like the Royals rotation of the future.   A 2011 crew of Greinke, Meche, Hochevar, Bannister, Montgomery/Davies would morph into a 2012 rotation of Greinke, Montgomery, Hochevar, Crow/Duffy, Bannister/Davies and frankly, if you resign Greinke, get better from there.   That statement allows for one of the Crow-Duffy-Montgomery trio to wash out and really counts on just one of the next group of young arms to truly develop into a major league starter.

Anyway, when it comes to the two starting pitchers the Royals need, I will ‘Trust The Process’ and do so without any hint of sarcasm.

When it comes to the two bullpen arms I believe this team needs, Robinson Tejeda might have already filled one of those spots, but let’s be greedy and add two more arms anyway.   Again, I like what the system has to offer in Greg Holland, Louis Coleman, Blaine Hardy among others.   Heck, considering I am talking about your fourth and fifth best bullpen arms, I might be willing to see if Dusty Hughes can continue to develop.  

Although Dayton Moore has done a lot the last two years to test my faith that ‘you can always find a competent middle reliever’, I am still going to stick with the organization to fill these roles or a low-cost veteran arm when the time comes.

Whether it is in July or October, the Royals are going to lose Jose Guillen and gain $12 million dollars.   When they do, someone should pin Dayton Moore down and tattoo ‘Kila Kaaihue is my designated hitter for 2011′ on his hand.   It is very possible that Kila might be only a modest (if that) improvement over Guillen, but Kansas City has to finally find out.    Spending time and money to fill this spot is simply a waste, given that one of your number one picks (Eric Hosmer)will be playing first base in AA come 2011.    While Kila is not really fill one of ‘the eight’, he fills a spot so that the organization can actually focus on ‘the eight’.

Mike Moustakas, on the other hand, IS one of ‘the eight’.   Is there anyone out there that is not hoping for a mid-season promotion to AAA, followed by an early season call-up to be the everyday third baseman sometime in 2011?   In the interim, Alberto Callaspo still hits and seems to annoy me a lot less in the field at third than he did at second.   The Royals can take their time with Moustakas, but they don’t have to be deliberate about it either.  I am content to rely on Moustakas to be my impact, corner infielder.

Since we are talking about impact bats, let’s move to the outfield corner.   Do we believe in Alex Gordon here or not?  Do we have a choice?   At some point this year, the Royals will bring Gordon up to play either right or left field.   When they do so, they had better be ready to give him 2011, too.     Kansas City pretty much has to give Alex one more chance to become that impact bat because there is no other outfielder anywhere close in the system that can fill this role.  

The downside to this year and one half commitment is pretty limited in my opinion.   Not only does Guillen salary come off the books this year, Meche’s will be gone after 2011.   Sure, other players (Greinke notably) will be getting paid more, but the Royals could still have some serious spare change in the cushions to go get an established free agent outfield bat after the 2011 season if Gordon washes out.

Okay, so now I am running the risk of being a Dayton Moore apologist, as I have filled six of my eight spots with homegrown talent.   I have done so, however, without counting on every pitcher to develop or speculating on a dramatic rise through the system by Eric Hosmer or Wil Myers.   I may be optimistic, but not euphoric…I don’t think, anyway.

Let’s stay in the outfield for a moment.   As I write this, it becomes clear to me that the Royals should keep David DeJesus and pick up his option for 2011.   We know what we will get from DeJesus and it is, frankly, pretty good baseball.   Having him around in 2011 gives Mitch Maier, David Lough and Jordan Parraz a little extra time to become, well, the next David DeJesus.   Hey, there is nothing wrong with one DeJesus in an outfield – two, however, is one too many.  That takes us to player number seven in our ascension to contention, who happens to be a centerfielder.

I am intriuged by Derrick Robinson, who spent four seasons proving to us that he could not hit, only to revert to his high school batting stance and suddenly pop the ball to the tune of .302/.394/.390 so far this year in AA.  Robinson brings tremendous speed and defense to the table, but two months in a hitters’ league does not a surefire prospect make.

That said, the free agent market the next two years is not exactly ripe with possibilities.   Next year, in fact, is pretty much without any real solution.   After the 2011 season, how do you feel about a 35 year old Carlos Beltran?   What about Nate McLouth or Grady Sizemore, assuming their options don’t get picked up?  I don’t know, man, I just don’t know.

This is a position that I think you go out and try to trade for a prospect or younger player that is, basically, a better prospect than Derrick Robinson.   That takes us back to getting Gil Meche healthy and a viable tradeable commodity at the deadline in 2011.   Perhaps you could package a Brian Bannister and Alberto Callaspo to fill this spot or do you same them for….

….player number eight:  the middle infielder.  

Again, I don’t see a ready solution in the system.  Somewhere between Mike Aviles, Chris Getz (yes, I said CHRIS GETZ), Jeff Bianchi and Johnny Giavotella, you have one solid middle infielder, but I’m not sure you want to base your playoff run on having two of them up the middle.   Maybe, but maybe not.

Truthfully, there is enough potential there that the Royals don’t have to panic (you know, go out and trade for Yuniesky Betancourt or something), but they ought to be looking around.   A guy like Yunel Escobar comes to mind, although his current mental state is pushing him closer to a Betancourt-type player than a real solution-type player.

In a stream of consciousness type of writing style, I find myself wondering what type of young player a team could net if the trade package was Meche (healthy and effective, mind you), Bannister AND Callaspo?   If the Royals made that trade in mid-2011 and the return was a potential star player in centerfield then maybe they can contend with a middle infield of Aviles and Bianchi in 2012.   Or, in the alternative, maybe they could live with Robinson or Lough in center if they had a star shortstop in the making.

Is it possible the Royals are six internal players, one star acquisition and a year and one-half away from contending for a period of years?   If so, is a healthy Gil Meche the single most critical piece of the entire puzzle?  

Honestly, all six of the prospects I am counting on to fill these positions won’t come through.  I think five is more likely, which puts this team one big, good trade and one rather expensive free agent away and all that without dealing with the catching situtation.   That said, I can actually see the future and, rose colored glasses or not, it looks promising. 

I am interested to hear what some of you think about the above scenario or feel free to propose one of your own.   Also, check back for the Royals Authority Annual Mock Draft coming this weekend.

So Ned Yost is the new man on the hot seat. Honestly, I’m surprised Dayton Moore pulled the trigger this early in the season.  I fell firmly into the camp that Moore was convinced Hillman was his guy and he would give him the full three years.

Surprised, but happy.  The change simply had to be made.

A couple of thoughts:

– There are rumblings this firing came from above.  I suppose that’s possible.  The Glass family has been known to meddle from time to time.  However, if this is true and this was a Glass family hit, this is the first time since GMDM assumed his role that they have gotten involved in the day to day operations.

One reason GMDM took this job was because he had assurances that he could run the team his way.  What’s going through his mind if he was ordered to fire Hillman, less than 48 hours after declaring he was, “The right man for the job.”

If this is true, this can’t be a good sign for GMDM.  As a fan, I hope this was entirely Moore’s call because if the Glass family becomes involved in the day to day operations, this is going to get much worse before it will ever get better.

Whatever happened, GMDM was visibly upset… Taking a few moments to compose himself at the start of the press conference.  That was kind of bizarre.  You can listen to his comments here:

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– Trey Hillman is an odd guy… The unicycle, the long walks alone in the outfield, However, there’s no denying he handled his firing with class.  Told the night before there was basically no way he could survive, he went out and managed (a win!) and faced the music following the game.

His press conference was strange – as you would expect.  He opened by discussing the game and then addressed his firing.  It was part Academy Award acceptance speech (he thanked the grounds crew) and part exercise in humility.

I’m glad he didn’t use the opportunity to drive the team bus over Billy Butler one more time.

I kid… It was a surreal, yet classy final exit.  Listen here:

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– How about Ned Yost?  What do we know about the new manager of the Royals apart from the press release details?

Yost is remembered for the 2007 Brewers.  And not too fondly in Milwaukee.

That team charged to an eight game lead in late June, only to cough it all up with a dreadful July.  By August 1, they were tied with Cubs for first.  The two teams traded spots in the division for most of August and into September.  However, by the middle of the month, the Cubs had put some space between themselves and the Brewers.

With the Brewers fighting for their post season lives, trailing the Cubs by three games with seven left to play, the St. Louis Cardinals rolled into Milwaukee.  That’s when all hell broke loose.  Yost, who had been ejected in the Brewers game the Sunday prior and then blamed the umpires for his teams loss, was tossed while arguing a call at the plate involving current Royal Rick Ankiel.  The next evening, Cardinal manager Tony LaRussa thought the Brewers were throwing at Albert Pujols and Yost and LaRussa yelled at each other from their respective dugouts.

Since this was LaRussa, and LaRussa is a jerk, he needed retribution.  So he called on current Royal Brad Thompson to throw at Prince Fielder the following night.  Warnings were issued, but Yost wasn’t happy and he wasn’t finished.  He decided to get his pound of flesh and had Seth McClung plunk Pujols in the back later in the game.

This is where you have to question Yost’s thought process.  He’s going to engage in a beanball war? His team had just taken the first two games of the series and was just two games back of the Cubs.  The score was 3-2 in favor of the Cardinals, so while the Brewers were losing, they were still very much part of the game.  Of course, after McClung hit Pujols (and was ejected – along with Yost.  His third ejection in four games.) the bullpen couldn’t work around the base runner.  The Cardinals broke the game open with four runs. Had the Brewers and Yost controlled their emotions, they could have pulled to within a game of the Cubs, who lost that night.

The Brewers would go on to drop three in a row and eliminate themselves from contention.

Why in the world would Yost fall to LaRussa’s level?  And to the point where it possibly cost them games they absolutely had to win?  It was a foolish move.

There were plenty of fans who wanted Yost out following the collapse of ’07.  Not only did the Brewers bring him back, they exercised his option for 2009.

In 2008, the Brewers were once again in contention – this time for the Wild Card.  And once again, they were fading.

They entered September with a six and a half game lead, but after winning only three of 14 games – including a four game sweep at the hands of the Phillies who pulled even with Milwaukee in the wild card race, Yost got the axe.  It was an unbelievable move… No one could recall a team in a pennant race firing their manager with two weeks left in the season.

That the Brewers felt this firing was necessary now scares the hell out of me.  Basically, they thought he was choking away another post season.  Wow.

Yost frequently came under fire in Milwaukee for the way he used his bullpen.  Great.  Early in his 2007 season, he came up with a bullpen rotation that was initially successful.  That success faded in the second half as he leaned on his relief corps too heavily and they ultimately became ineffective.  Once the relievers started breaking down, Yost couldn’t come up with a way to patch together a successful bullpen and stuck to his plan for far too long.  Despite evidence that the bullpen was broken, Yost did little to shake up his reliever rotation.  This was a key reason the Brewers sputtered down the stretch.

See if this sounds familiar.  From 2008:

Ned Yost had used reliever Guillermo Mota 15 times this season in the eighth inning. So, when that frame rolled around Friday night with the Brewers holding a three-run lead, Yost made the call for Mota once again.

In the process, he removed the hottest pitcher in his bullpen, Carlos Villanueva, who cruised through a 10-pitch seventh inning with two strikeouts. The results were nothing short of disastrous.

I swear, change the names and you could be talking about the Royals.  This kind of reflexive bullpen management screams SABR Trey. (I had to drop that in there one final time.)

I don’t think Yost is the right guy for this job.  While I like the fact he comes with major league managerial experience, it’s not like he’s won.  Yost inherited a team with veterans (Royce Clayton, Eric Young) and young players who never fulfilled expectations (Richie Sexson, Geoff Jenkins) with a rotation that had only one quality arm in Ben Sheets.  Sound familiar?  He didn’t approach .500 until his farm system started reaping the benefits of some quality drafts with Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun.

But when he was twice on the verge of winning, his teams literally melted down.

However, when you are looking for a manager in the middle of May, there’s not a ton of available candidates.  And make no mistake.  Yost was hired back in January for this very reason.  He was GMDM’s safety.

While I’m not thrilled with this hire, this is more than the proverbial rearranging of the deck chairs.  Hillman’s time played out.  He was finished.  Through a series of increasingly bizarre moves, he lost the fans and I’m certain he lost the players.  He had to go.

It’s possible Yost will have learned from his mistakes in Milwaukee and will be an improved manager. Time will tell.

Right now, this just feels kind of like a lateral move.  He’s going to have trouble with the bullpen, he’ll struggle to find time for guys like Kila and he’ll move his players around with no rhyme or reason.

Still, it was a move that had to be made.

Trey Hillman is out.

Ned Yost is in.

Dayton Moore is having a difficult time getting through his press conference.  “There comes a point in time when you need to make changes.”

UPDATE #1:

Apparently, Hillman was approached following the game on Wednesday and told his days were numbered.  In between rain delays, it felt to me that the Royals were lifeless… Moreso than usual.  I wondered if the team had quit on Hillman.  Despite Moore’s assertions that Hillman is a “great leader,” you have to wonder… This is a veteran team (why this is the case, I have no idea) and when the losses pile up, the older players start to question the direction of the team.  Moore was asked if the Texas series was the tipping point.  I think it was the first two Cleveland games.  This team laid down.

The one reason Hillman wasn’t axed after Wednesday’s game was because Moore didn’t have a replacement lined up.  He certainly had a pair of candidates in ex-managers Ned Yost and John Gibbons.  Yost is an obvious choice, given his pedigree, both as a former member of Bobby Cox’s staff and as a manager who has led a team to the post season.  Moore said he didn’t approach Yost until today about possibly taking over the team.

Once Yost was onboard, GMDM pulled the trigger.

From the release:

KANSAS CITY, MO (May 13, 2010) – The Kansas City Royals today dismissed Trey Hillman from his role as manager and he will be replaced immediately by Ned Yost, as announced by Dayton Moore, Royals Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager following Thursday’s game with Cleveland.
Hillman, 47, compiled a 151-207 record in two-plus seasons at the helm.  Kansas City was his first Major League managerial assignment after spending five seasons (2003-2007) with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan’s Pacific League, highlighted by three post-season appearances.
Yost, 55, joined the Royals as a Special Advisor to Baseball Operations on January, 13, 2010.  He was manager of the Milwaukee Brewers from 2003-08, compiling a 457-502 record (.477 winning pct.) before being relieved of his duties on September 15, 2008.  Yost had a combined 166-146 ledger his last two seasons at the helm in Milwaukee.
The Marietta, GA, resident served Atlanta’s Bobby Cox as bullpen coach from 1991-98 and as the third base coach from 1999-2002 before being named manager in Milwaukee. During his stint with the Brewers, Yost was part of Tony LaRussa’s National League coaching staff for the 2005 All-Star Game in Detroit.  He caught for parts of six seasons in the Majors from 1980-85 with Milwaukee, Texas and Montreal.

More later…