It’s crunch time for Kansas City Royals, and particularly for one Dayton Moore. Yes, he recently signed a two-year contract extension, but that is hardly the ringing endorsement Moore likely would have preferred considering the 4-year deal he received back in 2009, and the relative success the team has begun to show. The extension gives fans some insight as to just how much rope he’s got left with ownership.
While it is clear things are moving in the right direction, there are a lot of “make-or-break” decisions facing Moore and the Royals management team this off-season, and the degree to which they are successful this year and next will likely decide the direction of the franchise for many years to come. If the model proves effective, Moore may be staring at a long-term deal when his current deal expires, if not, there will likely be a new GM at the helm in 2016.
As fans, we all have to hope that Moore’s decisions to trade for Norichika Aoki and third baseman Danny Valencia, and maybe adding to the rotation with a starting pitcher like David Price, or Ubaldo Jimenez, or even Ervin Santana, or his inability to acquire another proven, run producing hitter, tells us a lot about the caliber of players Moore feels the team already possesses.
The homegrown methodology where scouting and player development provide the lion’s share of the team’s ultimate success is still the way the Royals must build a team. It’s clear Moore and the Royals feel the team is now in a place where all that’s needed is some fine-tuning coupled with the king of improved performance up and down the lineup that comes with adding more experience to an extremely young core groups of players.
It is certainly reasonable to expect the young core of the team which includes players like Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, and Salvador Perez to improve to some extent. They are all now established major leaguers who understand the demands of the game from day-to-day over the full season. There aren’t any more surprises lurking for them, and they should begin to really blossom towards their respective talent ceilings.
Less clear is how players like Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Alcides Escobar will fair. Like the players
mentioned above, they are all believed to have very high talent ceilings but they too are past the point where they can cite youth and inexperience as reasons for their on-field performances. They must improve markedly, particularly offensively, if the Royals are to succeed.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the team is the pitching staff. If, as Moore is clearly telling Royals fans, young hurlers like Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura, and perhaps even Kyle Zimmer, can hold down a couple slots in the rotation, this could be a very exciting year.
Is it reasonable to expect the bullpen to be as good as last year? Perhaps not, but it’s equally unreasonable to expect the wheels to fall off it either. Allowing for a minor regression in the bullpen, coupled with at least a couple of the team’s young pitchers producing solid seasons, the Royals hurlers look primed to contend for the division.
Even more interesting would be if Luke Hochever and/or Wade Davis can find a way to translate their bullpen success back into the starting rotation. In that event, the Royals end up with possibly one of the stronger starting rotations in the league anchored by arguably the best bullpen in baseball. It also affords them the flexibility to pull a trade for that coveted big bat if the right opportunity presents itself.
To his credit, Moore has either drafted or developed most of these players having only added a few proven veterans who fill niche responsibilities or needs on the team. It’s very apparent that now he’s prepared to sink or swim with this group. When Moore was first hired back in 2006, Royals president Dan Glass said,
“We are fortunate to attract one of the brightest young minds in baseball.”
These next two seasons will tell us whether Dayton Moore deserved those accolades. Today’s Royals roster and farm system reflect what Moore has striven to build since his arrival. Remember, Moore grew up a Royals fan and was a protégé of formal Royals GM John Schuerholz. He wanted to bring the team back to dominance, and to do so with the same formula Schuerholz used; namely, pitching, defense, speed, and aggressive offensive play.
Well folks, with this year’s off-season moves, it would appear the Royals have finally realized the model…at least in Dayton Moore’s mind. All that’s left now is to see if he’s right.