The 2013 Kansas City Royals were able to turn some heads. Around the Kansas City area, fans knew what we had heading into the 2013 season, but the Royals even grabbed some national attention by the end of the season. Last season was no fluke. The Royals and General Manager, Dayton Moore, had been preparing for last season for quite some time.
Despite being in the wildcard hunt in late September and finishing 10 games above .500, it still did them no better than a third place finish in the American League Central.
To make up ground and compete for a division title, the 2014 Royals would have to do a lot of things right this offseason. Here is my take on the offseason moves of Dayton Moore thus far:
Offensive Outlook: B-
The B- indicates that the offense has improved, however, we have yet to fill our biggest need: Power. With the additions of a true lead-off hitter in Norichika Aoki and a second baseman with the ability to hit at a higher level than AAA in Omar Infante, the 2014 Royals will indeed have an improved batting order.
With that being said, only 2/3 of the offense’s offseason needs have been fulfilled; with the largest missing part still to be solved. I don’t necessarily blame Dayton Moore for this. The price for a power hitter in this market is just much too expensive for Kansas City’s payroll.
The Royals were in on the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes for a while, but when that fell through, their options became limited. Rumors of trading Billy Butler had surfaced for a while, and the idea is still not out of the question. Although, I do not see the team improving by trading Butler (still one of the top DH’s in the league). At this point, the lineup is set, and this is the order we will be sending out to the field for Opening Day 2014.
Defensive Outlook: A+
The 2013 Royals defense was hard to improve upon, and the Royals really didn’t need to make any moves to improve on defense. However, while improving the lineup offensively with Infante and Aoki, I think Dayton Moore was also able to improve it defensively. Infante is at least as good defensively as anyone the Royals had at second base in 2013. Aoki, with 6 Gold Gloves in his time in Japan, is a big improvement in right field (which was probably our soft spot in our defense in 2013 if we had to choose one spot).
Pitching Outlook: C
This is where Dayton Moore needs to make a move or else the 2014 Kansas City Royals will not contend. Kansas City’s bullpen was stellar last season; we don’t need to make any improvements, and the Royals can afford to use some of their relievers as trade pieces (as they did with Will Smith to bring in Aoki). The rotation is the only part of the team that is looking weaker than it did last season.
Unfortunately, it is what will keep the Royals from competing if they do not upgrade. Losing Ervin Santana is going to hurt. Although the Royals haven’t officially lost him, it is doubtful Kansas City can afford his demands. So far, the only move the Royals have made to “replace” him is signing Jason Vargas. This is not enough.
In reality, Vargas is no more than a #4 pitcher, but it seems as if he will be the #2. Additionally, the Royals took a pretty large risk by giving Vargas a long-term deal. Four rotation spots have been filled with rumors of the #5 role belonging to one of Yordano Ventura, Wade Davis (yuck), or Luke Hochevar (please, no).
While Ventura could be the long-term solution, the Royals may not be comfortable with someone as inexperienced as he is making a start every five days in Kansas City’s most important season in two decades. Unfortunately, Dayton Moore has missed out on most of his free agent starting pitching opportunities (Phil Hughes, Josh Johnson, etc.)
One free agent in particular is still interesting: Johan Santana. Of all the free-agent pitchers left, Santana has the highest winning percentage, the lowest ERA and WHIP, the highest career WAR. Of course, he will most likely not be anywhere near the Johan Santana of the past, but if Moore can sign him to a one year deal for around $1 million, why not take that risk?
If the Royals can turn an average pitcher into the best free agent pitcher in 2015 (a.k.a. Ervin Santana of 2014), then they have a legitimate shot at winning the AL Central.
That about does it for Dayton Moore’s offseason report card thus far into the offseason.
Overall Offseason grade: B