The Kansas City Royals have started the 2014 baseball season 4-4 – not a disaster by any means. Still, many of the issues from last year are lingering, namely the offense, and a new problem has crept up, mainly the bullpen. There is another underlying issue, though.
I know, I know. It’s early. It’s only 8 games. A week from now, after a 6-game road trip to face two of the supposedly weaker teams, I may feel much better about this team. Or I could feel infinitely worse.
A few weeks ago, I pleaded with fans to take a look at the team Dayton Moore fielded on his first Opening Day with the Royals in 2007. There is absolutely zero doubt Moore has improved this franchise, with a limited budget, over the years. The Royals are a legitimate Major League baseball team, and not a laughingstock.
The Kansas City Royals are a competitive team, that should battle in almost every series they play. For that, I am grateful.
What bugs me though, is that Dayton Moore and the Royals brass seem to lack the skill to make the little moves that improve the ball club. Hanging onto Chris Getz and Jeff Francoeur too long are the perfect examples. The Royals would have won more games in the first 60 games last year if these two weren’t on the roster. Even one or two may have made a difference down the stretch.
This season, the big mistake was releasing Emilio Bonifacio for no apparent reason, though I suspect the reason was money. The Royals signed Bonifacio in the off-season for $3.5 million dollars.
Weeks later, the Royals designated him for assignment. They were unable to trade him (more mismanagement), and ended up releasing him outright, and eating $575,000 of his salary. Aaron Reese gave a nice rundown of these events several weeks ago.
The Royals evidently did have a payroll number they couldn’t exceed, and when the signed Bruce Chen, they needed to free up some money. The Royals chose to keep $10 million wrapped up in 2 middle relievers (Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis) instead of a talented player who could play just about any position on the field.
Whether Hochevar caught hurt or not, a frugal team shouldn’t be paying a middle reliever with one good year under his belt $5.21 million.
The issue goes deeper than just this though. There are a couple of players on this roster from whom the Royals have to protect themselves. Mike Moustakas, once considered a franchise cornerstone, came into 2014 with horrible career numbers against left-handed pitching (career slash against southpaws – .219/.275/.327/.602).
The Royals traded some of the outfield depth in David Lough to Baltimore for Danny Valencia, who could platoon with Moustakas if Moose failed to improve against lefties. Of course, we know that so far, Moustakas continues to fail as a major league hitter.
The other player the Royals felt they needed to cover for was Lorenzo Cain. In my opinion, Cain is one of the best center fielders in the game today. His performance behind Jason Vargas is a prime example of his prowess in the field. The problem with Cain, and one of the reasons the Royals felt the need to keep Jarrod Dyson, is because Cain has trouble staying healthy.
Now, I really like Jarrod Dyson for what he is – a kid with game changing speed, and a good glove. He can’t really hit a lick but unless Cain gets hurt, he won’t be asked to all that much. His job is to pinch run for Billy Butler late, and spell Cain on occasion. Great!
Emilio Bonifacio could have done both of those jobs, and he is a better hitter.
Justin Maxwell is another guy being kept on the roster for suspect reasons. I like Maxwell, too. He seems like a fun guy to have around. He was kept on as a power, right-handed bat for late innings pinch hit opportunities. Of course, the Royals have Valencia for that now, too.
There was no reason to keep all three – Valencia, Dyson, and Maxwell – over Bonifacio. Bonifacio could play all three outfield positions, second base (hmmm), third base, and back up at shortstop. He was released in favor of a platoon hitter, a speedster, and a right-handed pinch hitter.
You want a guy who can play third base every day should Moustakas continue to fail? Fine, keep Valencia. Need a speedster to steal a base late, and who can cover center in needed. Dyson is great at those things, but Bonifacio could have served in that capacity, and many other things as well. Want to have a chance to hit a pinch hit homer in the bottom of the ninth? Awesome! Frankly, that is a luxury this team can’t afford.
Want to know what else Bonifacio can do? He can play second base. When a team has to cover starters who have big question marks surrounding them, and you cannot carry a utility infielder, some one on the roster has to be able to play those middle infield positions. Bonifacio could. The Royals have already lost a game because they had to start Danny Valencia at second base.
The Chicago Cubs are reaping the benefits of Dayton Moore’s mismanagement, and the Royals are left hoping Omar Infante can return to the line up sooner rather than later, but what then. What do they do with Johnny Giavotella? What do they do with the middle infield situation?
I know it is only 9 games, a microscopic sample size that has no chance at continuing, but Bonifacio has started the season batting .452. He has 19 hits in 46 at bats, and has stolen 7 bases. He has 3 doubles, scored 9 times, and has walked 4 times.
Mike Moustakas, Danny Valencia, Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, Justin Maxwell, Alcides Escobar, and Billy Butler have 19 hits on the season – COMBINED! The Royals have stole 7 bases – AS A TEAM.
Only one Royal has more doubles than Bonifacio (Salvador Perez with 4). Bonifacio has 9 runs scored. No Royal has more 4.
Plus, the Royals have played several games without a back up middle infielder.
I know these numbers will even out as the season progresses. The point is, Dayton Moore threw away a valuable player the Royals could have used effectively, while keeping less valuable commodities. And he paid $575,000 to do it.
It is for reasons like this that fans should be skeptical of Dayton Moore as a general manager. He has done a brilliant job building up the minors league system, and improving the major league roster. It is the little things that need to be done in conjunction with those other things that build championship rosters.
Having a roster with no true back up middle infielder is just plain stupid. Putting the team in a position where Moore didn’t feel he had a choice is another matter. It is an indication he doesn’t know how to put together a major league ball club.