With the news centering around Dayton Moore over the past few weeks regarding the Braves general manager job, it’s been interesting to see the reactions to the possibility of him leaving. Many saw the news as the architect of the best stretch of Royals baseball in three decades potentially leaving the organization as bad news. Others never believed in exactly how the team was built, so believed it was best for the organization. And a third group was appreciative of what he helped the Royals accomplish, but weren’t so sure his organizational tactics were enough to make them a winner again.
I fall in the third category, but the last few years of Royals baseball has taught me something pretty interesting. I was very much in the anti-Dayton crowd a few years ago. I had my pitchfork out when they traded Wil Myers and I pretty much saw the bad in every move he made. Could you blame me, though? When he took over the job, he made promises that he simply didn’t deliver on. Then it became that he didn’t deliver quickly enough, and if my options are that a guy doesn’t deliver or he doesn’t deliver as soon as I’d like, I’ll take the latter all day long.
Because of this, I kind of came to the realization that “my” way isn’t the only way. I thought it was ridiculous that he was building a staff of fly ball pitchers and a team of guys who swung at everything and didn’t hit the ball out of the park. As it turned out, he built a staff of fly ball pitchers in a time when the ball was flying out as infrequently as ever over the past couple decades. The team swung at everything, but they made a ton of contact too, which went well with the way the game had trended. And they won. A lot. Sure, there’s some luck involved to have baseball evolve basically exactly the way it had to for those teams to be successful, but find me a team that wins without luck and I’ll tell you you’re a liar.
Of course, partially because of the shift in the game, some of that luck ran out. That made it easy for some to say that they told you so about the Royals and about Dayton Moore. I could probably very easily be in that crowd, but there is most definitely more than one way to build a winner, and that’s something I’ve learned over the last few years of following this organization as closely as I do.
But now I’m back to having my doubts. With offense trending the way it has, that makes pitching even more important than ever before. And maybe more importantly, it makes developing pitching more important than ever before because pitching is going to cost a pretty penny on the open market. We’ve already seen what it costs to bring in an aging middle of the rotation starter because they haven’t been able to develop that themselves. Maybe I’m being a little unfair. The Royals did mostly develop Sean Manaea and Jake Junis looks like he’s at least good enough to fill in at the back of the rotation for a few years.
And let’s not forget the impact of losing Yordano Ventura. The team likely wouldn’t have Jason Hammel, but a rotation of Ventura, Danny Duffy, Nate Karns, Junis and Ian Kennedy would probably make people a lot more optimistic. See? This is the issue I face. Every time I’m ready to go back to my old ways regarding this organization, I start to think about the fact that they have done a lot more right over the last few years than they did in the first few years of the Moore regime.
And, you know, maybe Dayton is just better at building a winner rather than maintaining one. If you look at the 2014 and 2015 World Series clubs, there were a fair amount of guys brought in from the outside, but there weren’t many big splashes. They won mostly with the guys they said they were going to win with in those years. Sure they had big help from the haul from the Myers deal and some huge mid-season acquisitions in 2015, but bringing in top tier talent is never a bad plan when you’re in win-now mode.
The last couple years have seen a lot of moves paying way too much for non-top tier talent. Ian Kennedy was a clear overpay, even if I didn’t hate the signing as much as many. The Alex Gordon move hasn’t worked out in the slightest, and I’m not sure it would have been made if they weren’t coming off a World Series win. I loved the move and nobody expected this, but it just has been a disaster so far. Joakim Soria has been a dud (though he was way better in 2017 than people will give him credit for). The deadline deals in 2017 were more about hoping guys would fit rather than going after that top tier talent. I had no problem with either of the big trades they made, but they also weren’t exactly dealing for stars.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m torn. I still have my doubts that Dayton can build a winner again. Had he taken the Braves job, I would have been really excited to get a new face in his chair to maybe see the organizational philosophy shift at least a little bit. A decade plus is a long time for one person to be in charge, so being able to get some new ideas would have been nice. But at least for now, there won’t be a change. And I’m interested to see if they can continue to develop some pitching as they have a bit over the past few seasons. I’m interested to see how guys like Khalil Lee, Raul Mondesi, Nick Pratto advance and develop and how they take their draft haul I think they’ll have in 2018. Maybe that’s my official stance. I’m interested. If you made me bet, I’d say it won’t work, but, hey, the Kansas City Royals won the World Series a couple years ago. Anything is possible.