A few days after committing $17 million dollars for two years of Kendrys Morales, the Royals have dipped back into the rebound market.
This time, Dayton Moore and the Royals brain trust emerge with Alex Rios for $11 million.
I don’t like this signing. (Go ahead, bookmark this post for ammo later in 2015.) Rios is 34 years old, plays subpar defense in right, lost all of his power (in Texas for christsakes), and his ability to reach base is fueled almost entirely on his BABIP. How’s that for a summary?
But here’s the money question: What should Moore have done to fill his Aoki-sized hole in right field? They scouted Yasmani Tomas, but didn’t win his services. They were in on Melky Cabrera, but he went to the South Side on a three-year deal. I never heard they were interested in Nick Markakis. There just weren’t many free agent options in this market.
The trade market is more difficult to gauge. In the last week, I’ve seen articles from “insiders” suggesting John Lamb and Christian Colon or Sean Manaea and Colon would net Justin Upton. Let’s just say if that was accurate, I’d be opening an email from the Royals PR staff trumpeting a “Major Announcement.” That hasn’t happened, so I’ll continue down the road of my own personal skepticism that a pitching prospect and Colon are enough to get one of the best outfielders in the game.
There just aren’t any options. Or should I say, any good options.
Instead of accepting Rios and Morales, we should be asking some questions. Why are the Royals in the position where this is the best they can do? The easy answer is, of course, payroll constraints. The market size works against the Royals. This isn’t anything new. They aren’t going to be in on the top free agents. And they risk losing their top players after six years of service. Such is life in baseball in the 21st century.
I continue to go back to Dayton Moore and his quotes about building a farm system. And at one point, he and his team did build a fantastic farm system. But that system didn’t produce major league talent. Sure it brought Eric Hosmer. Mike Moustakas if you’re feeling generous. Greg Holland was a tremendous find. Wil Myers netted James Shields and Wade Davis. Billy Butler and Alex Gordon as members of the previous regime’s drafts weren’t part of that, so they don’t count.
The Royals found some talent in Moore’s early years via the draft, but lately it’s been a different story. Where are more success stories like Holland – the mid-rounder who defies scouting wisdom and develops into an All-Star? Outside of the Royals closer, they haven’t hit on anyone in the mid rounds of the draft.
Simply put, the Royals are in this position because of several abysmal drafts and the fundamental breakdown of player development.
The Royals 2009 draft brought Aaron Crow and Louis Coleman. The 2010 draft class produced Christian Colon and Michael Mariot. Their 2011 draft yielded Terrance Gore (fun in September and October, but a non-factor until rosters expand) and Aaron Brooks. The Royals 2012 draft hasn’t produced a major league player. The last impact player drafted by the Royals was Eric Hosmer. In 2008.
There are myriad reasons for the failure of the Pipeline 2.0 to produce major league talent. Poor scouting. Failed player development. Even bad luck has played a part. (I’m thinking of Bubba Starling in particular. In a draft where the Royals were targeting one of four pitchers with the fifth overall pick, all were off the board by the time the Royals made their selection.)
The fact is the Royals haven’t had a quality minor leaguer rise through the ranks in quite some time. The pipeline, with scant talent in the high minors, is currently dry. This is a failure of Dayton Moore, his scouting and his player development staff. The Royals window could very well have been 2014. That would be to damn bad, because last October was a blast. As fans, we want more success. It’s possible with Rios and Morales as spare parts we can find that success again. It’s just that at this moment, it feels like a long shot.