Fire Dayton Moore

Fire Dayton Moore
It's time.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Not the second baseman we deserved, but the second baseman we needed

If you remember my first post on, and I'm sure you do not, you'll remember I began it with a quote from "The Dark Knight." Today the Royals acknowledged their signing of second baseman Omar Infante and I can't help but think back to another quote from the same film (hint: it's the headline).

According to, the Royals will hold a press conference Tuesday morning to announce the deal, which supposedly will include a team option for 2018. So from what's been reported, Infante will receive a four-year deal worth $30.25 million plus incentives and the Royals will apparently have the option to extend that to a fifth year.

First thing's first: Omar Infante is not a sexy acquisition. Regardless of what you've been led to believe, the Royals could afford 10-years, $240 million on Robinson Cano when you factor in the revenue such a signing would have generated by itself. I already wrote about my desire to trade for Nick Franklin. I'm sure Royals fans have had their hopes set on Howie Kendrick of the Angels since the summer. The Reds have been shopping Brandon Phillips. I personally thought Mark Ellis (1-year, $5.25 million to St. Louis) would have been a decent option. And I seem to remember hearing trade rumors in the past linking the Royals to Gordon Beckham, Jose Altuve and Rickie Weeks.

Some of those players are better than Infante. Some aren't. Most are sexier names, though. Even Ellis has appeal as "the one who got away" after being traded from the Royals to Athletics in 2001 as part of the Johnny Damon dump. However, if the Royals are actually getting Infante for a little over $7.5 million a year, it's hard to argue with the value in signing him compared to chasing down any of the alternatives.

Even though the Royals could have afforded Cano, it would have been a bold move this front office isn't capable of. And Kansas City might not be Cano's favorite hotspot anyway. Franklin wouldn't have come cheap (in terms of trade assets), no matter how dysfunctional the Mariners front office may be. Kendrick would have cost even more in trade assets and will make $18.85 million the next two seasons. The asking price for Phillips wouldn't have been any less than Kendrick and Phillips will make $50 million the next four years (compared to Infante, Phillips is a half-year older and his OPS was 89 points lower than Infante's last season, despite hitting in a much friendlier home ballpark). Ellis is four years older than Infante and the biggest thing he has going for himself is he isn't Chris Getz or Johnny Giavotella.

As for Beckham and Altuve, I'd say both would have been long-shots to land simply because the White Sox are apparently refusing to commit to a full-blown rebuild and the Astros seems to be making an effort to be competitive in 2014. As for Weeks, he has the name recognition, but he's been backsliding the last three seasons and I doubt a change of scenery would be enough to reverse that trend for the 31-year-old.

But the one thing I'm absolutely certain of is the Royals could not afford to go into 2014 without upgrading at second base and hope to convince anyone they were serious contenders for a playoff spot.

I've devoted countless words to chastising Dayton Moore for failing to acquire a single serviceable second baseman since he traded away Alberto Callaspo (July 2010). I've devoted nearly as many words to pointing out the faults of Getz and Giavotella. Getz had worn out his welcome in Kansas City and I for one am wholeheartedly in favor of making Giavotella the next Mark Ellis and shipping him off to the first team that expresses interest. Was it fair for Giavotella the Royals never truly gave him a shot to win the job last season? No, but what's done is done and, barring an injury to Infante or Bonifacio, he's just going to be battling Christian Colon for at bats in Omaha now.

In Infante, the Royals may have actually taken advantage of a market inefficiency. Cano signed a contract worth nearly eight times what Infante's deal is supposedly worth. The Tigers gave up Prince Fielder to get Ian Kinsler. The Dodgers were reportedly considering trading Matt Kemp for Phillips. But the Royals snuck in and snagged Infante away from teams such as the Yankees, who also desperately needed a second baseman. And the best part is, the Royals got Infante for almost $10 million less than what he was supposedly asking for going into the winter meetings.

What does Infante bring to the Royals other than his bargain bin price tag?

His age, 31, is in the same neighborhood as all the other openly available second basemen. So even if the Royals exercise his option for a fifth season, he'll only be 36 when that contract runs out (the same age Ellis is now, to put it in perspective). With his addition, Emilio Bonifacio is now freed up to be an uber utility man with a fielding history so long on, it won't even fit on one screen (simply put, he's played every infield position left of first base and every outfield position at some point in his career).

More importantly, Infante's production is surprisingly solid. Last year with Detroit, he slashed .318/.345/.450 with 24 doubles, 10 homers, a handful of steals, just 20 walks in 476 plate appearances, but more importantly just 44 strikeouts. For his career, he's struck out more than 73 times in a season just once (112 times in an inexplicable 2004 campaign). Although his at bats have fluctuated greatly over his career, he's averaged just 51.3 strikeouts per season even with the 185 whiffs he recorded from 2004 to 2005.

The Royals were attracted to Infante for his propensity to be aggressive at the plate, put the bat on the ball and limit his strikeouts. He figures to slide in behind Norichika Aoki as the club's No. 2 hitter, so all he needs to do is set the table for Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler and Salvador Perez. Anything he can contribute in the form of counting stats will be a bonus. And although we already know Kauffman Stadium won't allow Royals players to walk or hit for power, his counting numbers could improve with the Royals.

Infante has spent parts of eight seasons in Detroit, hitting at Comerica Park. His career home slash line is .274/.315/.385 whereas his career road slash line is .285/.322/.419. It's only a slight difference and maybe his age will offset any uptick he might have experienced otherwise.

But at the absolute worst, the Royals have taken a position that was a black hole last season and filled it with an above-average player at a competitive price. Ben Lindberg of Baseball Prospectus wrote an incredible piece on the Infante acquisition. If you've read this far, you owe it to yourself to read his story.

Lindberg echoed some sentiments I've professed over the past year, but he did some tremendous research as well to illustrate just how abysmal Royals second basemen have been in recent years. You have to read it to believe it.

Infante isn't a player who will overly excite even the most optimistic Royals fan. But he will reverse the trend Lindberg documented. He's more than just a stopgap at second base. He's an instrumental piece of what the Royals hope will be a competitive team.

The Royals lineup and defense appears complete. If Moore wanted to trade an outfielder, he certainly could. But the focus now, without question, should be on adding another starting pitcher — even if it costs the team a draft pick. The Aoki and Infante moves mean nothing if Wade Davis starts any more than three games for the Royals in 2014. Whether they want to admit it or not, the money is there. Whether the desire is truly there remains to be seen.

Fire Dayton Moore

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Not as relieved as I thought

If you had told me two months ago the Athletics would trade Brett Anderson but not to the Royals, I probably would have sighed with relief. It's not so much that I don't believe in Anderson. It's not so much that I don't think the Royals could use him.

The talent is there without question. For his career, Anderson has a 3.81 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 7.1 K/9 rate in 450.2 innings (84 appearances/73 starts). He's left-handed, turns 26 in February. The problem is, those stats were accrued over the course of five seasons. Since tossing 175.1 innings as a rookie in 2009, his innings dropped to 112.1 in 2010, 83.1 in 2011, 35 in 2012 and back up a tick to 44.2 in 2013 (although predominantly as a reliever). The culprit? Injuries.

According to Wikipedia, Anderson suffered from forearm soreness in 2009, although it didn't cost him any starts. The next year he suffered a forearm strain, cutting his season in half, and he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011. Even after coming back from TJ in 2012, an oblique strain landed him on the DL. And last year he suffered from an ankle injury/stress fracture in his right foot.

The red flags run up and down Anderson's 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame.

So the knowledge that Anderson would not be breaking down again as a Royal would have been a load off my mind. Plus, any time Dayton Moore can avoid trading with Billy Beane is a plus in my book.

But that would have been my mindset two months ago. On Nov. 21, the Royals inked left-hander Jason Vargas, who will turn 31 the day after Anderson turns 26, to a four-year, $32 million deal. In the best of all possible scenarios, Vargas will be nothing more than dead weight on the Royals' 40-man roster by 2016.

And today the Rockies traded Drew Pomeranz and minor league arm Chris Jensen for Anderson.

Pomeranz is known mostly for being drafted No. 5 overall by the Indians and then traded as part of the deal for Ubaldo Jimenez. Other than that, his professional career has been less noteworthy than Anderson's, with a career ERA of 5.20 and WHIP of 1.54 in parts of three seasons. Jensen will report to Double-A Midland for the Athletics and, at age 23 going into his fourth year of pro ball, is not an especially dazzling prospect. Entering the Oakland organization and exiting Colorado's is sure to help, though.

There's no clear winner in this deal. Pomeranz just turned 25 himself, but the A's will control him for the next five years whereas Anderson will be a free agent in two years (he has a club option for 2015). The A's also save $8 million this season and potentially $12 million in 2015 ($1.5 million buyout). But the Rockies had obviously seen enough of Pomeranz and decided the devil they didn't know was preferable to the one they did.

Ah, but did that $8 million catch your attention? As in the same $8 million amount Vargas will be making this season.

So today, armed with the knowledge that the Royals filled out their rotation with an $8 million nothing of a starter, I am actually disappointed to learn the Royals didn't trade for Anderson.

I'm not saying the Royals should have been the team trading for Anderson today. Depending on the price, which appears to have been reasonable, I'd have taken Anderson today if it meant bouncing Wade Davis to the bullpen. If it would have cost the Royals anyone more promising than Danny Duffy, though, I'd probably have backed out. And from what I read, Beane was adamant about getting at least one starting pitcher back in any deal involving Anderson.

However, if you go back to Nov. 21, that was before the A's had gone coo coo for relievers, trading for Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson. So playing the "what if" game, at that point in time, perhaps Beane would have taken Louis Coleman and a pitching prospect not in the Royals top 15 prospects for Anderson. It's possible.

At that point, Moore would have acquired a pitcher with much higher upside than Vargas for the same monetary amount and an expendable price as far as assets go. And whereas Vargas is sure to be a burden on the 40-man in two years, even at $8 million, there would have been little long-term risk involved with Anderson.

If Anderson had come in this year and been hampered by injuries yet again, a pitcher of Vargas' quality would no doubt have been available midseason via trade. Then after the season you buy out Anderson and look for the next bargain bin arm.

Or, if Anderson's body had finally held up and he pitched as well as he's proven capable, $12 million is an absolutely fair price to pay to bring him back for 2015. After that point Moore have taken a wait and see approach to signing Anderson long-term. Even if Anderson would have walked as a free agent, Moore would have had the peace of mind knowing the $4 million extra he spent on Anderson was money well spent compared to having Vargas for another two years and another $16 million.

That's why if you're the GM of a budget-conscious organization like Moore, you don't throw yourself at the first nondescript free agent that shows interest in you. Those are the players you wait on until January.

November and December are reserved for the bold, savvy moves. As long as they don't involve trading your best hitting prospect for a two-year rental.

Fire Dayton Moore

Friday, December 6, 2013

Why Royals fans might cheer Robinson Cano the next time he visits Kauffman

Nearly 24 hours later, Magic Johnson is still the only source to come out and actually confirm Robinson Cano's 10-year, $24 million contract with the Mariners.

However, for all intents and purposes, I think it's safe to say Cano will be in a Mariners uniform on Opening Day 2014. However, this move could have a ripple effect from the Pacific Northwest all the way to Kansas City, if not further.

With the addition of Cano, Nick Franklin now finds himself without a job. Well, without a starting job in the Major Leagues anyway.

For those of you unfamiliar with Franklin, he's a 22-year-old, switch-hitting second baseman who made his Major League debut last season with the Mariners. He was drafted in the first round of the 2009 amateur draft out of high school. By 2011, Baseball America had rated him the No. 53 prospect in baseball. The next year ranked him the No. 54 prospect in baseball while Baseball America left him off their list. But last year he was ranked by both publications, No. 47 by and No. 79 by Baseball America. So pedigree is on his side.

In five minor league seasons he combined to slash .287/.360/459 with 46 homers, 80 doubles, 24 triples, 63 steals while being caught stealing 18 times, and he struck out 338 times while drawing 168 walks. Percentage-wise, he struck out 22 percent of the time while walking 11 percent of the time. However, last year in Triple-A he struck out 20 times while walking 30 times, so he's come a long way since his first full season of pro ball in 2010 when he struck out 124 times and walked 51 times.

In 102 games last year with the Mariners, he slashed .225/.303/.382 with 12 homers, 20 doubles, a triple, six steals, just one caught stealing, and 113 strikeouts (31 percent) to 42 walks (11 percent) in 369 at bats. In the second half of 2013, all of his percentage stats dropped off while his strikeouts more than doubled even though his at bats increased only by 70 percent.

There's a lot to like with Franklin and there are some disturbing numbers as well. So it goes with young talents that are a few tiers below the can't miss prospects.

However, one thing to remember with second baseman is a below average one won't kill you but an above average one can give a significant edge to a team hoping to contend. That's my opinion anyway.* Look at the Royals. They won 86 games last year despite playing Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella at second base for over half the season. And regardless of your feelings on Giavotella, rest assured he's every bit as bad as Getz and, together, they were arguably the worst starting second basemen in the American League last year, if not all of baseball.

*If you don't buy into my theory, consider the fact Cano just received $240 million for his hitting prowess as a second baseman and the fact the Tigers last month traded Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler, who I might not even rate a Top 5 second baseman, but has proven to be one of the better hitting second basemen in the game.

Even in a little under two-thirds of a season last year, as a rookie, Franklin hit 12 home runs, 20 doubles and stole six bags. In 250 combined at bats (about half a season), Getz and Giavotella produced just one homer, nine doubles, one triple and 16 steals (Giavotella actually only accounted for three doubles and nothing else in those categories). Franklin's 42 walks nearly doubled Getz and Giavotella's combined total of 24. Getz struck out significantly less than Franklin, but he's also seven years older.

Franklin will, or should, develop more patience and a better command of the strike zone with experience. And he should also only add more power to what were solid power numbers as a rookie. As I mentioned, Franklin is a switch-hitter and his numbers were better hitting as a left-hander against right-handed pitchers, which is positive since he'll see righties a majority of the time. But I would expect his numbers as a right-handed hitter against lefties to improve as well with more experience.

If everything breaks right, I could see him developing into something between Brandon Phillips and Martin Prado. But even if everything doesn't, I see him becoming a player of substance. He's not Getz or Giavotella material.

Of course, I'm not the only one who likes Franklin's chances of being a solid Major League contributor and, if I'm right, I'm definitely not the only one thinking about what it might cost to lure him away from the Mariners.

First and foremost, the Yankees could use a second baseman to replace Cano. They don't have the deepest farm system in baseball, but they certainly have enough to afford Franklin and the Mariners and Yankees do have a bit of history trading with one another. The Rays are also rumored to be interested in Franklin as a piece for a trade that could send David Price to the Mariners. If there is any truth to those rumors and I were the Mariners, I would probably explore every possible avenue that could net me Price.

That being said, the Royals might be able to offer a little something of value to the Mariners, as well.

The way the Mariners lineup stacks up right now, it is predominantly left-handed. Cano, Brad Miller, Kyle Seager, Michael Saunders and Dustin Ackley are all left-handed. Justin Smoke and Abraham Almonte are both switch-hitters. That leaves Mike Zunino and, if they dare play him, Jesus Montero as their only right-handed bats. That's as of now. Now with Cano in the mix, it's a guarantee the Mariners aren't done shopping.

Scanning over that list, though, the most glaring hole is designated hitter. A hole that could easily be filled by the rotund Billy Butler, who just so happens to be a right-handed bat. Sadly with the season Butler is coming off of, that might be his most attractive attribute to Seattle and he's certainly not in the same class as a David Price. But the pieces fit and maybe the Royals could coax a pitching prospect away from the Mariners, as well, given Butler's history of hitting better than he did in 2013. In this scenario, I imagine talks with Carlos Beltran might heat back up for the Royals.

With the addition of Norichika Aoki on Thursday, that could also free up Lorenzo Cain to be dealt if the front office has lost some love for him with his latest injury woes. And if you look at Seattle's outfield of Saunders, Ackley, Almonte, it's not as if his services couldn't be of use. A Cain for Franklin deal straight up would be agreeable for both teams, I would think.

Other than that, I would be willing to send a Danny Duffy to the Mariners for Franklin, but I'm not sure Dayton Moore would. Actually, I have no idea what Moore values when it comes to pitching, which brings me to my rant for today.

Did Moore not learn his lesson last year with Scott Feldman?

I wanted Moore to sign Feldman last offseason, but instead the Cubs got him on a one-year, $6 million deal and eventually traded him to Baltimore for two decent long-term pieces. Well, Feldman was snatched up today by the Astros on a three-year, $30 million deal.

Feldman is actually five days younger than Jason Vargas, and last year owned a lower ERA (3.86 vs. 4.02), WHIP (1.18 vs. 1.39), an identical K/9 rate (6.5), in more innings (181.2 vs. 150). On a blind resume alone, it's a no-brainer as to which is the better pitcher. It's equally as obvious that at just $2 million more per year, Feldman is the better value and comes with less risk since the deal is a year shorter. A shorter, yet still reasonably priced contract, also makes Feldman more valuable as a trade asset for when the Royals inevitably return to rebuilding mode. At no point in Vargas' tenure with the Royals will he hold any trade value whatsoever.

There is nothing Moore is going to do with those extra $2 million to make it worth signing Vargas instead of Feldman. I wish I had a nickel for every time I said this, but Dayton Moore blew it again.

So far this offseason the Astros have acquired Dexter Fowler and Feldman while Moore has managed Aoki and Vargas. Just another example of why the Astros won't be a laughing stock for long and the Royals will be again before Moore's contract is up.

Moore has a chance to redeem himself by acquiring Franklin, but it goes without saying I'm not holding my breath.

Fire Dayton Moore

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Making sense of the offseason (thus far)

I must apologize for my hiatus. I've actually just come back up for air after a two-month celebratory bender in honor of the 2013 Kansas City Royals. I mean, is it just me or does it feel like not Boston, but Kansas City is the reigning World Series Champion?!

No. It doesn't.

The last time you heard from me, I'd thrown my hands in the air and decided ridiculing Dayton Moore could wait for another day. Almost everything that happened post All-Star break for the Royals defied reason or explanation. Moore's lucky rabbit's foot or whatever he was using at the time skipped warp speed and went straight to plaid as Justin Maxwell belted five home runs and slashed .268/.351/.505 down the stretch for the Royals, for example.

It was simply Moore's year and, although none of the math added up, even I couldn't argue with the results. When the dust settled, the Royals turned in 86 wins, a third place finish and unpunched tickets to the playoffs — 7 games behind American League Central champ Detroit and 5.5 games out of the wild card. You already know this. I basically predicted it. (I officially predicted a fourth place finish behind the White Sox. Those games I expected the Royals to lose to the White Sox but turned out to be victories nosed Kansas City above .500 while Chicago fell off the face of the planet).

But I'm back. So is Ned. And, more importantly, so is Dayton (of course) through 2016. Assume the position.

Up until today, all I had to rant about was Moore doing what Moore does — sign a mediocre pitcher to an excruciatingly long contract to get a bargain price. Giving Jason Vargas four years and $32 million was such a pathetic attempt to replace Ervin Santana, I couldn't muster the energy to return to the blog just yet and I can't even expend much energy on it right now.

Vargas will be a league average pitcher for the first two years of the deal. The final two years, he will make fans wish Moore had just given him an extra $2 million per to cut the length of the contract in half. And compared to my friend and Mariners fan/blogger, whose blog you should visit here, I'm being optimistic.

Vargas is slotted to be the Royals' No. 3 starter and that makes the Royals most optimistic of all. Then again, Wade Davis is penciled in at No. 5, so what difference does it make? And as much as I still hate the Shields-Myers trade (see below), it is downright frightening to think what the rotation will look like in 2015 (a whole lot of Guthrie, Vargas and Davis if Danny Duffy and his younger cohorts don't figure things out fast), let alone 2014.

(From Jonah Keri's Trade Value piece on Grantland, where Myers rated the 23rd most valuable trade asset and Shields went unmentioned. As did Wade Davis.)

Simply put, Vargas is a back-end arm on a contender and a mid-rotation guy on any team that's simply crossing its fingers and hoping for the best. If Moore had developed any arms internally in seven seasons, the Vargas signing never happens and that $32 million dollars goes to fill another hole. Like taking a chance on a pitcher with upside like Phil Hughes (3-years, $24 million) instead. Or maybe toward signing Mark Ellis, which I would be in favor of. Moving on.

Actually, before today, Moore had annoyed me more by what he hadn't done than what he had done this offseason.

The Athletics traded for a reliever not once, but twice. The Tigers, who desperately need bullpen depth, unloaded Doug Fister for the equivalent of a homeless person's shopping cart. And the Houston Astros acquired Dexter Fowler for a back-end arm and fourth outfielder (if only I knew of another team with a storm shelter full of such assets).

I don't know and I don't care why Billy Beane was suddenly falling over himself for relievers. And I'm also not huge believer in Brett Anderson. But would I have coughed up Louis Coleman and a middling prospect for him? Sure. Regardless, I feel a Brett Anderson trade coming and it won't be that cheap now that the A's bullpen is set.

As for Fister, according to Ken Rosenthal, many GMs were unaware Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski was shopping the lanky stat-head darling. I have no doubt Moore had his head in the sand on the matter and I have quite a bit of doubt Dombrowski would have felt compelled to deal Fister within the division. However, I'd have offered up Greg Holland and Johnny Giavotella without thinking twice about it and that would have been a better return than what the Tigers ultimately received for Fister.

Finally with Fowler, who was traded for Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes, would have only added to the Royals stellar defense and could have allowed Lorenzo Cain to shift to right field and maybe stay healthy in 2014. If Moore had been so inclined, he easily could have topped the Astros' offer with Jarrod Dyson and Duffy and, even with the Royals' rotation in its current state, I still would have paid that price. Duffy has potential but has proven nothing. Fowler has more potential and has proven a little bit.

Fowler would have been a "want" acquisition. Fister would have filled a need (and sent Davis to the pen). And it just would have felt nice to feel like Beane got duped, trading any starting pitcher for any reliever. These are the kind of deals I wish Moore were capable of, but I simply don't think he is.

That is, until I woke up this morning. The news that the Royals had acquired Norichika Aoki from the Brewers for Will Smith shook me to my core.

Moore had somehow acquired a leadoff hitter. He'd landed a decent defender capable of playing all three outfield spots. He'd brought in a left-handed bat he shouldn't have to platoon. And, most astonishing of all, he had added an on-base wizard. Norichika Aoki. The first Japanese-born player to play for the Royals since Darrell May.*

*Not true

Aoki has spent two years in the Majors, posting a .355 OBP in 2012 and a .356 in 2013, so there's no reason to expect anything but the same from him hitting in front of Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and (maybe) Billy Butler.

He fits the leadoff prototype after leading MLB with 40 infield singles last year and 140 base hits, which led the National League. Even more impressive, his .339 average against left-handed pitchers was the highest for any left-handed hitter, so David Lough appears to be out of a job and that's OK with me. (Lough served his purpose and Moore would have been foolish to go into 2014 expecting the same production from him, but more on this situation later.)

As someone who hated the way the Royals toyed around with Mark Teahen, I shared similar sentiments with how Gordon was constantly shuffled around the lineup. So I'm pleased he will be able to settle into the middle of the order next year.

And considering how brittle Cain has proven to be, it doesn't hurt to have an everyday player capable of manning center field (sorry Jarrod — although Gordon would probably be capable).

Suffice it to say, Thursday's trade was the most pleasantly surprising move from Moore since he brought in George Kottaras last offseason. Kottaras, of course, posted a .349 OBP last year and added five home runs in just 100 at bats, yet most Royals fans are probably still under the impression he was a bust. Moore didn't completely disagree when he let Kottaras go in November to the Cubs for cash considerations.

The only catch with the Aoki move is his stay in Kansas City, like Kottaras', is almost certain to last just one season. He will be a free agent after the 2014 season. Meanwhile the Brewers will have Smith under team control through 2019.

However, I'm not that concerned about either factor. Shields will also be gone after 2014 so, barring a miracle, the Royals are on a collision course for a rebuild project in 2015. If that doesn't happen, Aoki may become as enthralled with Kansas City as Ervin Santana appeared to be and actually resign with the Royals. As for Smith, I see him as a decent bullpen arm and nothing more. Well, maybe a little more in the National League. Regardless, he wasn't a key building block for the Royals' future (you know, LIKE WIL MYERS!).

I'm actually more concerned with how Aoki might regress in other offensive categories aside from OBP. His doubles dropped from 37 to 20 last year. Overall, his slugging went from .433 to .370 and his OPS went from .787 to .726. His average and OBP stayed essentially the same because his singles increased from 99 to 140 and his walks went from 43 to 55. And even if he hit .339 against lefties in 2013, he slashed .264/.345/.357 against righties, which he faces a majority of the time.** Also his steals decreased from 30 to 20 while he was caught stealing 12 times in 2013 compared to just eight in 2012.

**I don't know what would be more profound: Lough platooning with Aoki even though they both hit left-handed or Maxwell platooning with Aoki, meaning Aoki faces lefties as a left-handed hitter and Maxwell faces righties as a right-handed bat. As crazy as it sounds, Maxwell slashed .262/.335/.462 last year and hit six of his seven homers against righties. Lough slashed .284/.310/.408 with three homers against righties last year.

So his power and speed are both dropping substantially. The speed might stay the same, but we already know Kauffman Stadium is a black hole for power. And, now that I think about it, we can't be too sure Kauffman won't negate Aoki's ability to walk.

But seriously, let's call Aoki what he is: a rental. And he certainly appears to be more serviceable than most of the rentals Moore is known to acquire. Because of the corner Moore painted the Royals into with the Shields trade, a move like this needed to be made to improve the Royals chances in 2014 and Aoki does just that while losing Smith does little to undercut the Royals beyond 2014.

So far this offseason Moore has made one poor move and one decent one. He says the team isn't done yet (which is so sad that he even has to say after adding Jason Vargas and Norichika Aoki), so we should have many more opportunities in the near future to...

Fire Dayton Moore

Friday, August 9, 2013

A box of chocolates

I can't believe I didn't see this before. Dayton Moore doesn't just look like Forrest Gump. He doesn't just have the luck of Forrest Gump. Dayton Moore IS Forrest Gump.

Moore has ascended beyond the realm of lucky rabbit feet and horseshoes. He's literally Forrest Gumping his way through the 2013 MLB season. There's no other explanation.

Wil Myers is running away with the Rookie of the Year despite having his debut stalled until June. Meanwhile James Shields has seen his ERA, WHIP and OPS against do this since May:

ERA: 2.92
WHIP: 1.08
OPS: .664

ERA: 3.05
WHIP: 1.38
OPS: .732

ERA: 3.45
WHIP: 1.50
OPS: .746

August (two starts)
ERA: 6.75
WHIP: 1.67
OPS: .971

Has there been any overwhelming fan outrage? Suffice it to say, there was more outrage over Johnny Giavotella being demoted in July in favor of Chris Getz — two interchangeable players.

Wade Davis (5.42 ERA, 1.74(!) WHIP) continues to undermine the Royals' winning efforts as Ned Yost continues to misuse him as a starting pitcher while Jake Odorizzi shows some promise in Triple-A for the Rays. There's no love lost between fans and Davis, but the fact Odorizzi could do just as well at a fraction of the price seems to go unnoticed.

Winning truly cures all. Even if Moore has arguably cost the Royals wins, despite James Shields' (2.4 WAR*) positive efforts, by taking Myers (1.8 WAR in two months) out of the right field equation and adding Wade Davis (1.3 WAR) to it.

*By comparison, Felix Hernandez has a 4.8 WAR this year.

Moore has complete immunity this season for these 10 reasons:

  1. The average Royals fan doesn't watch enough MLB Network to notice Wil Myers on the highlights (my guess is the common Royals fan doesn't realize Myers once belonged to the Royals).
  2. Shields' steady decline has been overshadowed by his sparkling start to the season.
  3. Fans are so used to terrible starting pitching, the fact there's only one main offender, Davis, feels like a positive.
  4. Fans have no idea how expensive Davis is, how expensive he will be in 2014, and how expensive he could be through 2017.
  5. Forget Myers, fans have no understanding of how inexpensive Odorizzi would be and how long he would have been under team control. For the amount of money the Royals could have saved with Myers and Odorizzi (this year and beyond) compared to Shields and Davis, they could have found another free agent pitcher or two and won even more games.
  6. Ervin Santana is a social media darling (follow him on Twitter @ErvinSantana_54) and has backed it up other than tonight's start.
  7. Miguel Tejada is a Twitter account away from equaling Santana in fan popularity. In fairness to Tejada, he has earned every penny of the contract he signed this spring. That was a legitimately good move by Moore that I can't knock — except Tejada's services wouldn't be needed if Moore had found a legitimate second baseman by year seven.
  8. Eric Hosmer has overcome early season scuffling to finally look like the budding star he was two years ago.
  9. The Royals had three All-Stars.
  10. The Royals went on an uncanny streak immediately after Moore predicted one and new acquisition Justin Maxwell has crushed three home runs already during said streak.

Logically, there's no reason the Royals should have a winning record right now. There's no reason they should have recovered from Santana's poor start tonight. But they do and they have. In the irony of all ironies, the Royals could conceivably join the Rays in the one-game playoff.

The Orioles had this kind of season in 2012. Some team had to have this kind of season in 2013. I'm putting logic and reason on the back burner, I'm putting my blinders on and accepting that the chips are going to fall where they may.

If the Royals wind up proving me wrong and Dayton Moore right, so be it. Santana, Tejada and Maxwell have been good acquisitions. But the Myers-Shields trade was an immediate wash and long-term loss. Not even a one-game playoff will be worth the loss of Myers. Especially when it could have been achieved with Myers.

Fortunately for Gump, I mean Moore, he has enough chocolates left in that box of his to last through the rest of his contract.

Fire Dayton Moore

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The day after the day

Even during the most forgettable Trade Deadline in recent memory, the Royals managed to be, well, forgettable. The Royals made one minor trade with the Houston Astros. This post will delve into that trade and elaborate on what Dayton Moore should have done if he were serious about competing this season, as well as in years 8-10, which are suddenly and conveniently at the heart of "the plan."

The Trade
Royals receive: OF Justin Maxwell (age 29)
Astros receive: RHP Kyle Smith (age 20)

The Players
Maxwell: In in his fifth Major League season, Maxwell is suiting up for his third team in the Royals. He will be a free agent at the end of the season. Over his career, he's posted a 3.8 WAR and his high year was a 2.0 WAR in 2012 — the only season in which he appeared in more than 67 games. His rookie season was 2007, so if you're wondering why the math doesn't add up with his Major League service time, that's because he didn't make an appearance in 2008 or 2011. Suffice it to say, Maxwell is an "org" guy* with just enough talent to hold his own in the big leagues. Had he not been in the Astros organization in 2012, 67 games would probably still be his career high.

*In the minor leagues, players who aren't expected to reach the Major Leagues are referred to as "org" guys or "org" players because they're basically signed to fill roster spots throughout the organization. While the term mostly pertains to minor leaguers, I think there are certainly big league equivalents, such as Maxwell. Such players can fill the 25th roster spot and not embarrass themselves.

In Maxwell's career 2012 season, he did hit 18 home runs, but offset that with a .229/.304/.460 slash line. The flash of power was somewhat impressive, but has proven to be fluky given his 11 additional home runs in parts of four more seasons. He can play all three outfield spots adequately, but not spectacularly.

The fairest description I can come up with for Maxwell is he's the kind of player that, if he's already in your organization, you're fine with keeping him around until his contract runs out. However, he's not the kind of player you go out of your way to acquire.

Smith: In his second professional season, Smith was drafted in the fourth round out of high school. He began 2013 at High-A Wilmington and remained there up until the trade. In 19 starts, he'd posted a 2.85 ERA and 1.17 WHIP as well as 96 strikeouts in 104 1/3 innings, an 8.3 K/9 rate and a 3.31 K/BB ratio.

The projections for Smith aren't quite as sparkling as the numbers. At 6'0", 170-pounds he certainly doesn't fit the starter prototype (6'2"+, 185-pounds+) and he was not going overly deep into games (averaged fewer than six innings per start). Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks had this to say of Smith:

I know Yahoo's Jeff Passan and ESPN's Keith Law posted similar tweets regarding Smith. One tweet in particular mentioned Smith's fastball ranged from 88-90, which also isn't ideal for a right-hander, whereas left-handers seem to get away with lower velocity stuff. Smith was a fringe Top 10 prospect in the Royals' organization by most noteworthy sources, which of course has something to do with the depth in the system, and I'm sure he'll slide into a similar spot within the Astros' system.

All that being said, I think there is a place for Smith in baseball. To my knowledge he hasn't lost velocity since being drafted, so it's safe to assume he's always had suspect velocity but has still found a way to succeed at every level he's pitched. It's not out of the realm of possibility he develops into a dependable No. 5 starter someday. The Royals might actually be within striking distance of the Tigers if they had a dependable No. 5 starter this season. But even if Smith doesn't make a rotation, he could certainly have value in a middle relief role. This trade deadline showed the value of middle relief in the game right now, so he might even have more value if he's converted into a solid reliever.

The Breakdown
The value Maxwell is supposed to offer the Royals is as a platoon option with David Lough in right field. Maxwell, a right-handed hitter, is hitting .302/.348/.488 against lefties this season, although both of his whopping two home runs have come against righties. For his career, his splits are .253/.370/.455 and 10 home runs against lefties compared to 19 homers against righties. So he's better overall against lefties, but loses some of his pop, which is minimal to begin with.

Looking forward, it's expected that Alex Gordon will continue to man left field, Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson will split center field duties, and Maxwell will platoon with Lough in right. All of that makes some amount of sense and I'm sure Royals fans are giddy that Chris Getz became the odd man out when he was placed on the disabled list to make roster room for Maxwell. However, what part of that outfield screams playoff push? Maybe 1/5 of it. The rest has mediocrity written all over it and it's pretty much the outfield Royals fans have to look forward to at least the next 14 months. And just because Getz is out of the equation doesn't mean the Royals' second base woes are solved. It just means Moore and Ned Yost are sampling from a different bottle of poison.

Meanwhile, the Royals sold early and low on Smith, in my opinion. He obviously had value or the Astros, a well-run organization the Royals could learn from, wouldn't have traded for him. With the numbers he was putting up, it's expected he would have some value. But imagine if next year he were in Double-A putting up those numbers. Suddenly he goes from a C+ prospect to a B prospect. Instead of a throw-in piece in a larger trade, he could be a centerpiece of one. There simply wasn't much reason to trade him unless the Royals were getting a substantial player in return. Maxwell is gone after this season and probably won't produce much before he departs. Even if he does, what are the odds it will come in meaningful games?

The last thing I'll say about Smith is, even if he doesn't have the best stuff, if he's been able to succeed to this point, I think he could have added value to the Royals' system from a leadership standpoint. Maybe he's figured out something to get by with subpar stuff. So imagine how much he could help teammates with better stuff, but less know-how. Just because he's 20 doesn't mean he couldn't add value as a leader in the minor league ranks.

I'll leave the final say on the trade to someone smarter than me:

Even if that scout was being generous to Smith's timeline, I think he was equally kind to Maxwell, who could be in Japan next year.

The Alternatives
Despite the limited player movement before the deadline, a few players changed teams that easily could have helped the Royals this year and beyond.

Ian Kennedy (from Diamondbacks to Padres): It's not so much that I'm a fan of Kennedy as I'm merely anti-Wade Davis and the price for Kennedy was incredibly cheap. The Padres acquired Kennedy from the Diamondbacks for Joe Thatcher (a reliever), a minor leaguer (a future reliever), and a draft pick. The Royals have nothing but relievers and minor league arms to offer. I have to think a Luke Hochevar and Kyle Smith offer would have been comparable, although Thatcher is a southpaw. If that was what the Diamondbacks were looking for, offer Bruce Chen and a little better prospect. Kennedy has Wade Davis-like numbers this year (5.23 ERA, 1.42 WHIP) but based on his past numbers, 2013 feels like an aberration. If he would have come anywhere near his 3.99 career ERA with the Royals, he'd have been more than serviceable as a No. 3-4 starter. He's making more than $4 million dollars this year, but isn't a free agent until 2016. I'd have gladly given up one of the Royals many relievers and a prospect or two and bet on Kennedy bouncing back in 2014 and 2015. Especially if the move put Wade Davis one step closer to the bullpen.

Grant Green (from A's to Angels): I actually mentioned the idea of trading for Green recently. The price proved to be much lower for Green than I anticipated as the A's dealt him for former Royal Alberto Callaspo. Back when Callaspo was traded by Moore to the Angels, I thought he sold low, getting nothing more than Sean O'Sullivan and Will Smith. I think the Angels made out like bandits acquiring Green, who was drafted as a shortstop but has been moved to second base. Now the Angels are free to deal Erick Aybar or Howie Kendrick. As much as I might admire Callaspo, he's not a good second baseman. However, the Royals have nothing but mediocre second basemen. I have to think an offer of Miguel Tejada or Elliot Johnson and a low-level prospect, let's say Kyle Smith, could have caught Billy Beane's attention. The Royals could have then let Green take his lumps the rest of this season and had him ready to go next year for his first full year in the big leagues.

Howie Kendrick (stayed put): Let me get one misconception out of the way first. Earlier in the week it came out that the Royals are on Kendrick's "no-trade" list. However, that doesn't mean the Royals are powerless to trade for him. It doesn't help, but that alone doesn't kill a trade. No-trade clauses are put into contracts as a bargaining chip for players. Some players use them for teams they think they could get traded to, so when that team inquires the player can say, "Sure, I'll accept a trade to your club, but how about a 3-year extension?" In Kendrick's case, he's 30 and signed through 2015. He'll be 32 when that runs out, so a 3-year extension to get him to 35 is probably what he'd reasonably be looking for. It'd be hard for the Royals to make that kind of commitment in a matter of days or hours, especially when Kendrick is already making over $9 million a year, but I just wanted to point that out. Maybe a trade this offseason will develop. I doubt it, but he's the best second baseman available and second base will continue to be the Royals' biggest hole going into next season.

That is, unless you remember a 27-year-old rookie and soon-to-be 30-year-old journeyman are platooning in right field while Wil Myers runs away with Rookie of the Year.

Fire Dayton Moore

Click here to sign our free, simple petition to save baseball in Kansas City.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dayton Moore's one talent

In case you missed it, I sent out this Tweet a couple nights ago:

And if you missed that, you must not be following @FireDaytonMoore so you should probably remedy that. Anyway, it later occurred to me I'm probably being too harsh on poor ole Dayton.

I mean, forget Davis' league-worst 5.92 ERA among qualified starters (yes, by the most liberal of definitions, Davis is a "qualified" starter). Forget Davies' 5.34 career ERA with the Royals over five seasons and 531 innings (yes, one of the worst starters in the history of the game lasted that long under Moore's watch). Forget Mazzaro's 6.72 ERA in two seasons with the Royals (after years with David DeJesus as the Royals' "best player" that is all they wound up with the show for it). Forget Hochevar's 5.45 ERA from 2008-2012 (No. 1 overall pick, everybody). And forget Sanchez's 7.76 ERA in 12 starts with the Royals in 2012. Forget that at least one of those five pitchers has been starting games for the Royals every year since 2007 even though, you'd think, Moore would have stopped pursuing such pitchers by like 2010.

Forget all that.

It's not fair to point out all those complete and pathetically utter failures on Moore's part and not bring to light the successes.

Sanchez began his career as a middle reliever and was slightly less implodable. Hochevar has a 2.00 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 36 innings as a middle reliever this season and, although most of those inning have been low leverage, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes he's the Royals' best trade chip. Mazzaro has a 2.62 ERA in 44 2/3 innings this season for the Pirates in a middle relief role. Davies' last success came out of the bullpen in 2011 (in Triple-A — he never experienced Major League success). Davis' one year of positive contribution in Tampa Bay came as a reliever in 2012, posting a 2.43 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 70 1/3 innings.

So there you have it! Dayton Moore may be the worst general manager in all of sports — by leaps and bounds — but he does have a hidden talent. He has no equal when it comes to finding pitchers that are useless as starting pitches, but above average as relievers.

And perhaps that explains why Moore is so stubbornly refusing to part with Ervin Santana.

Amid some criticism last October, Moore acquired Santana for Brandon Sisk. Seeing how Santana was entering the last year of his contract, it wasn't the boldest of moves. However, Santana was coming off arguably the worst season of his career, so expectations were low, to say the least.

Nine months later, Santana has exceeded all expectations and proven to be an ideal No. 2 behind James Shields, spoiled only by the fact Moore neglected to fill out the rest of the rotation, let alone the lineup.

So from Moore's perspective, certainly he must be aware 99 percent of the moves he's made with the Royals have flopped. Throwing back the one catch he reeled in worth celebrating probably isn't easy.

Probably isn't easy for Moore, that is.

Billy Beane built a mini-empire trading prospects like Brandon Sisk for players like Ervin Santana only to turn around months later and cash in such a player for a collection of prospects or a younger player under team control. It's simple economics.

Former GM and current ESPN analyst Jim Bowden puts it simply:

Santana's on the mound again tonight against a great Orioles offense. If he shuts them down, his value will continue to climb. And, as I wrote last time, if Moore plays his cards right as July 31 approaches, he should land a few prospects on par with what the Cubs received for Matt Garza.

And I did just read a Tweet from Rosenthal that said the Royals are willing to listen to offers for Santana. I suppose that's encouraging. I can only imagine how many middle relievers Santana is worth.

Fire Dayton Moore

Click here to sign our free, simple petition to save baseball in Kansas City.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Santana's time is up

One bit of news seems to be dominating the sports universe today. Of course it's not the story of the football player who will miss four games due to a drug suspension, it's the story about a baseball player who will miss 65 games with no pay. But I'm not here to write about witch hunts and double standards.

I'm here to write about the second biggest news item of the day in baseball. The Rangers finally landed their man, Matt Garza, from the Cubs. The deal was as follows:

To Texas: P Matt Garza
To Chicago: 3B Mike Olt, P C.J. Edwards, P Justin Grimm, one or two players to be named later
Garza, who sports a 3.17 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, nearly 8 K's per nine innings and a 3.1 K/BB rate in 11 starts this year, is a free agent after the season and turns 30 in November. So for a two-month rental, the Cubs received perhaps their third baseman of the future, an exciting pitching prospect, an inexpensive arm to fill the back of the rotation or front of the bullpen, and perhaps something of value from the one or two PTBNL. Not too shabby.

And let us not forget the Cubs already dealt Scott Feldman (30, also a free agent after the season) for two interesting arms in Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop plus cash. Thus, the Cubs have virtually set the basement and ceiling prices for starting pitching this summer.

Just a little further west across the Midwest, Kansas City owns the rights to a pitcher with a 3.18 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 3.7 K/BB in 19 starts against more American League hitters than Garza. This pitcher is also a free agent after the season and turns 31 in December, so therefore should be on the Royals' trading block. This pitcher is, of course, Ervin Santana, and the operative word here is "should" since we must, of course, factor Dayton Moore into the equation.

Late last week ESPN posted five American League and five National League trades that must or needed to happen. This was No. 5 on the NL list, looking at it from the San Francisco Giants' perspective:

Right off the bat, I see one glaring problem with this deal. The Giants are arguably in worse position than the Royals. Yes, they're only 5.5 games out of first place and 9.5 games out of a wild card spot. However, they're fourth in their division.

As much as I would like to think the Diamondbacks' chariot will eventually turn into a pumpkin, they've made it this far. The same could be said for the Rockies. But most importantly, the Dodgers are surging. I have a sinking suspicion Brian Sabean views the rest of the season more rationally now than Moore viewed the Royals' 2013 season back in December. In other words, I don't think he'll be buying.

Even if Sabean is buying, Gary Brown isn't the prospect he once was. Brown is a Quad-A player if I ever saw one, slashing .244/.304/.421 this year in Fresno in the PCL of all places. He has 12 homers and 12 steals, but he also has 96 strikeouts in 97 games (a 24 percent strikeout rate compared to 16 percent in 2012) and he's been caught stealing nine times. He's supposedly a strong defender, but all of this adds up to him being a career fourth outfielder.

As for Williamson, he may never even reach Triple-A. At 23, he's a year younger than Brown, but is currently at San Jose in High-A. He is slashing .280/.364/.480 with 17 home runs and seven steals. Those numbers look nice and all, but he's also struck out 94 times in 98 games at a 25 percent clip and he's walked just 35 times. At 23, he should be hitting much better at such a low level. It would appear to me he's simply crushing young pitchers' mistakes and flailing at their good stuff. But to be fair, you can't really scout stats.

Suffice it to say, if Santana is dealt for such a package, I'll be sorely disappointed. I'd rate it even below what the Cubs received for Feldman.

From my point of view, the Cubs got three Major League contributors for Garza, who is a facsimile of Santana. Olt probably won't live up to the hype that surrounded him last season but as long as Moustakas is in the majors, he won't be the worst hitting third baseman in the game (although Olt's glove is probably inferior). Edwards might flame out (he's been assigned to the Cubs' Double-A affiliate) but if he doesn't could be exciting, and Grimm is what he is, but he is capable of holding down a 25-man roster spot, which at the right price is valuable in itself.

Now that Garza is out of the equation for any suitors the Rangers were bidding against, the price for Santana, if anything, should be higher. The A's were rumored to be in the mix. Maybe that was Billy Beane working his magic to raise the Rangers' bid for Garza and that wouldn't surprise me.

If the A's are genuinely looking for another starter, though, a straight up swap of Santana for second baseman Grant Green would seem reasonable to me. Green is currently up with the A's and hitless in his first 12 big league at bats, but they can't all be Yasiel Puig.

In Green, the Royals would get a 6'3", 180 pound second baseman with a shortstop background, who would erase the memory of Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella. Green has averaged nearly 14 home runs a season (including only a half season this year, obviously) the last four years and he stole 13 bases last year. His strikeout rate the last two years, both in Triple-A, is 16 percent although his walk rate is below 10 percent. So maybe he would carry over some of Getz and Giavotella's shortcomings, but he at least has some power potential, he is a former first round pick, and is under team control for some time.

I don't know who would say "no" to that deal. I presume it would be Beane because I'm sure he would feel confident about getting Santana for someone like Jemile Weeks instead or get more than just Santana in return for Green. In which case, I'd gladly include Getz/Giavotella and/or a reliever and/or pay the rest of Santana's contract. If that's too rich for Beane's blood, there are other options out there.

Such a deal is just a phone call away with another club. Well, and the Royals need somebody on their end of the line savvy enough to pull it off, which sadly they do not.

Fire Dayton Moore

Click here to sign our free petition to save baseball in Kansas City

Friday, July 19, 2013

Could it be?

On the evening of Sunday, December 9, 2012, I received a text message, informing me the Royals had shipped off their most valuable minor league asset for a rental pitcher, a Quad-A pitcher, and a player to be named later.

I was livid. Burning a top prospect on a rental is one thing, but why give up more assets to add dead weight? Expensive dead weight at that. I sat with my dad in his living room, neither of us able to speak. Dumbfounded by the unthinkable coming to fruition. I couldn't wait to read columns lambasting GM Dayton Moore for such a foolish move — not just shortsighted, foolish. I expected sports radio stations to have phones ringing off their hooks from callers protesting the trade. If I had woken up on Monday and found the skyline of Kansas City engulfed in flames, I wouldn't have wondered as to why.

Instead, other than writers such as Rany Jazayerli, most opinion pieces on the move were measured in their criticism. Some analysts I highly respect, such as Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks, defended the Royals' side of the deal. My dad said reviews of the trade on sports radio were mixed. I'm fairly certain not even a match was lit in Jackson County in the hours following the deal. I began to wonder if I had overreacted. Maybe I judged Moore too harshly. I took a step back and reassessed the situation.

Upon further review, I dug in. The trade made no sense. Not even James Shields could catapult the Royals into a contender. Wade Davis and the player who turned out to be Elliot Johnson sure as hell weren't going to point the Royals in a positive direction. Whatever good Shields might do would no doubt be undone by the loss of Myers, who could have replaced Jeff Francoeur by June (Myers hit his fourth home run in 27 games on Friday — Frenchy hit 3 in 59 games and added approximately nothing else whatsoever other than a big, toothy grin and his legendary "clubhouse presence"), the inclusion of Davis on the pitching staff, and loss of all the years of inexpensive club control of Jake Odorizzi, who at the absolute worst, would have been no worse than Davis.

I'm not a sabermetric expert, but it didn't take one to realize Moore had made a mistake that would set the franchise back a number of years. Yet, the outrage was nowhere to be found. So, could it be, a transaction involving two of the smallest, least significant players in the organization turns out to be what breaks the floodgates wide open?

Thursday afternoon news broke that Johnny Giavotella was optioned with Everett Teaford to make roster space for Kelvin Herrera and none other than Chris Getz. Mr. Jazayerli documented the nonsense of this roster move quite well on his Twitter feed.

Giavotella was given two weeks, 10 games, and 34 at bats to prove he was worth a 25-man roster spot. He managed only seven hits, two doubles, a couple walks to sport a .206/.289/.265 slash line. Well, what can you do? He's obviously not Yasiel Puig. Might as well toss him back on the scrap heap. Getz had clearly fixed his impatient approach, after all, failing to draw a single walk while at Triple-A. Yet, he made up for it by reinforcing the fact he also has no power whatsoever, going homerless as well.

This time, Rany was not alone in his crusade to criticize Moore. Twitter blew up. I did my best to capitalize and draw traffic to the site and our petition, which you can sign here. Fans were beginning to mobilize. This site attracted close to 200 views. Our Twitter followers for @FireDaytonMoore increased by almost a third. Our number of signatures for our petition to save baseball in Kansas City, which again you can sign here, doubled. As I write this, we're merely 64 signatures away from reaching our goal.

All over a 5'8" second baseman with a career slash line of .206/.289/.333 in 393 career at bats. It's not how I pictured it happening, but I'll take it.

And I get it, Giavotella is like the backup quarterback on a crappy football team. Fans have seen enough of the incumbent starter. Any other option represents a better option. But when it comes down to it, Giavotella and Getz might as well be the same player — a player who has no business playing in the big leagues. For example, even Dan Uggla and his .200 average and NL-leading 116 strikeouts has a .315 OBP and 18 home runs. Giavotella and Getz's inability to get on base is matched only by their complete absence of pop. And they're no defensive wizards, either.

The problem really isn't that Moore didn't give Giavotella enough playing time. It isn't that Moore brought Getz back into the fold too soon. The problem is it's almost August and Moore is trying to con Royals fans into believing the Royals can still contend when he can't even put a Major League second baseman on the field. In reality, the Royals haven't had an acceptable second baseman since Mike Aviles in 2010 or Alberto Callaspo in 2009 and neither player is headed to the Royals Hall of Fame any time soon. Mark Grudzielanek held down the position the three years prior to that — coinciding with Moore coming to the Royals.

So what we have here is a GM who has had a glaring need at a position since his first day on the job. More than seven years later, fans are living and dying with Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella because Moore has failed — failed miserably — at filling that need. At no point along the way did he come close, aside from his back-to-back one-year wonders.

And he still expects people to believe him when he says the Royals are poised for a second half breakout? Most notably, his boss?

Unlike a majority of Royals fans, I won't blame David Glass completely for the state the Royals are in. He has provided the funds. Unfortunately, he's entrusted them with someone incapable of making sound decisions with that funding and every day Moore is left to run things, the further he will set the franchise back.

The Royals beat the Tigers tonight. La-di-da. Ervin Santana tossed a gem tonight. That's actually significant. Whoever loses out on the Matt Garza sweepstakes would have to be interested in Santana, who is a free agent after the season.

If Moore fails to cash in on Santana's trade value to blindly cling to postseason hopes that won't be actualized, fans had better not stop revolting. What Moore does with his second base situation is inconsequential. Holding onto Santana and letting him walk for nothing after the season is a fireable offense. One of many to choose from for Moore.

Let your voice be heard.

Fire Dayton Moore

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The negative 2%

How cool is Jonah Keri? Super intelligent. Has already written an incredible book on a super intelligent MLB team (hint: not the Royals). And he will interact with almost anyone on Twitter.

On Monday, I noticed him responding to questions regarding what teams should do as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. Naturally, I wanted to ask about the Royals. On one hand they're 43-49, but on the other they're only eight games out in the AL Central. But back on the one hand, they've lost five straight and seven of their last 10. OK, I'm struggling to come up with anything else on the other hand that doesn't have something to do with the Athletics overcoming second half deficits. But back to the one hand, the Royals will play their first seven games post-break against the Tigers and Orioles and will play 44 games in 44 days from late July to early September, so I'm sure that won't be a train wreck.

That being the case, even Jonah Keri didn't have a straightforward solution for the Royals:

You see, that's all Dayton Moore accomplished over the winter. He raised the Royals from the American League sewer all the way up to swirling around a flushing toilet (Congratulations, by the way, to the Royals' three All-Stars in Flushing, NY!) but refusing to go down, threatening to clog the stool at best.

In a way, the Royals are in the worst position of all. Face it, there's zero chance they reach the postseason. But they're just good enough and have been so pitiful in the past, the front office is scared to sell off spare parts and push back the "window" Moore crudely constructed by trading for James Shields.

Prior to the Shields trade, 2014 was a reasonable opening for a window to compete. Wil Myers would have been entering his first full season in the bigs. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez would all have another year of experience (for better or worse with Moose). Alex Gordon and Billy Butler would still be around. The club would have had ample money to spend. And with any luck, the development staff would have done its job and produced some — any — arms for the rotation. Meanwhile the Tigers would have aged, the White Sox would be bottoming out, the Twins would be rebuilding and the Indians would be a wild card.

I'm not uncovering anything new in saying that was supposed to be the plan all along until Moore panicked over his job security. Now the Royals are out of contention and, barring a handful of unforeseen prospects emerging by next season to help at second base, the outfield and the rotation, the team will be in the same boat in 2014. Remember, few impact players are expected to be available through free agency. Any Royals prospect of value for trade is in the low minors now. And by the time the Royals are out of contention and elect to deal Shields, they will recover merely a fraction of what they lost to get him and that's assuming he's still healthy and still pitching well.

So 2015 is technically the start of the window. But wait, Shields will be gone one way or another. By 2016, Billy Butler might be gone and the club will feel the effects of Moore whiffing on first round pick Hunter Dozier this year. By 2017, Alex Gordon* might be gone and the franchise will suffer from having a mid-first round pick in next year's draft, rather than an early-first round pick — another result of the damage done by Moore this year.

*I'm guessing Moore didn't budget for this either:

Because of one trade, the Royals aren't just in limbo for the rest of July. They're in limbo for the rest of the decade. Another decade, that is.

While I'm on the topic, I should mention Sam Mellinger wrote a great column for The Star about yet another small market team surpassing the Royals during Moore's tenure. Please read it here.

Mellinger mentioned the Pirates having the huevos to trade Nate McLouth at the peak of his career, even though it seemed he would have to remain a cornerstone if the team were to realistically compete. As it turned out, Pittsburgh couldn't have traded him at a better time and it has reaped the rewards.

So, as Jonah Keri and I discussed as in-depth as we could in 140 characters, Shields would be a prime trade chip this month. If Moore played his cards right and waited for a team desperate enough on July 31, he could probably get back as much as he gave up to the Rays. But doing so would signify throwing in the towel for 2014, thus putting his neck back on the chopping block, which we already know he doesn't have the integrity to do.

Instead, the Royals are left with one legitimate trade chip in Ervin Santana. He would fetch maybe one useful prospect. After that, like Keri said, maybe Chris Getz would fetch Yoenis Cespedes' batting gloves from the Home Run Derby. Maybe. I don't think any team would give up much for Jeremy Guthrie. What's worse, I'm sure Moore thinks he's actually a front end arm. The Royals have never been good at cashing in on relievers, unless you consider the pitcher formerly known as Leo Nunez for Mike Jacobs a success.

Of course, July trades have never really been the Royals' thing. You owe it to yourself to check that link out. Sums up the franchise nicely. Never buying, always selling, and bad at it. And if that truly was the Royals' best July trade, it wasn't made by Moore.

Not even someone who's used to having the answer knows what to do with the Royals at this point. Why is someone who clearly doesn't have the answers still running the franchise?

Fire Dayton Moore
(Please click here to save baseball in Kansas City)

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Big Picture: MLB sucks at its job Pt. II

Sunday afternoon I was watching the Royals give away another game — their 49th loss of the season, compared to just 43 victories — and I thought to myself: "I wish there was something else to watch."

Then it hit me: "Oh yeah! The MLB Futures Game is on!"

Well, it was on, but I only caught the last 12 outs of the game. That was just enough time to see both Royals representatives, Miguel Almonte and Yordano Ventura, but looking at this from a broader scope, this is just as troubling as MLB's lack of internet self-awareness, which I wrote about last week.*

*It dawned on me after last week's post that Hunter Pence, whose official website still lists him as a Houston Astro, was a candidate for the Final Vote. He didn't stand much chance against Freddie Freeman and Yasiel Puig, but still. A player whose only hope of making the All-Star Game was based on his internet popularity doesn't even have an up-to-date official website.

What is the second most exciting day in the NFL's season besides the Super Bowl? The first round of the NFL Draft. What lifted the NBA out of the doldrums of the late 1990s/early 2000s? The influx of young talent in the form of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade. Fans appreciate wily veterans. They tune in for young, dynamic players.

Well, MLB's First-Year Player Draft doesn't conduce itself to must-see TV. College baseball isn't popular. High school baseball is a mystery., ESPN and Baseball America scouts aren't household names like Mel Kiper Jr. or Bill Simmons.

On top of that, NFL and NBA rookies make instant impacts. MLB draftees are thrown into the obscurity of the minor leagues. Only years later can they burst onto the national scene like a Mike Trout or Bryce Harper.

The Futures Game is the only realistic opportunity for baseball prospects to make a splash on a national scale. Why the hell is the game on in the middle of a Sunday afternoon while virtually every MLB team is also playing?

The Futures Game should be on at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN the Sunday before the All-Star Game every single year. Let every MLB team play in the afternoon and showcast the Futures Game in the evening. This should have happened years ago and it's a shame it probably hasn't even occurred to Bud Selig.

It would save diehard baseball fans from having to pick between watching their big league club or watching a game that happens just once every year. It would give baseball a chance to attract the more casual fans who probably aren't in front of their televisions in the afternoon. It would make the experience even more special to the players, who would play under the lights, rather than play in the afternoon like they do on get-away days.

The only obstacle I can think of is I think the celebrity softball game and maybe something else takes place after the Futures Game. My response to that is: So what?

I don't need to see the cast of "Grown Ups 2" scamper around a mini diamond in primetime. That event was made for a Sunday afternoon. Right up there with World's Strongest Man episodes from 1997.

Hold still, my All-Star Makeover is just getting started.

How about a skills competition? Hardest fastball. Strongest/most accurate outfield arm, Tom Emanski style. Fastest player from first to third. Catcher throwdowns to second base and pickoff throws to first and third. Infielder with the most range — sorry Derek Jeter. You can probably think of more off the top of your head.

MLB players shouldn't risk injury in a skills competition, you say? Fine. I don't need them. Keep some future stars around an extra day. Have two or three of them go head-to-head in their respective competition. Use the competitions to break up the monotony of the Home Run Derby.

Won't that make the Home Run Derby insufferably longer than it already is, you ask? No. Shorten the derby itself. Keep it at three rounds. Give them five outs apiece instead of 10. Or leave it at 10 outs but make it two rounds. I actually like that option better. Is there anything (excluding the "No Smoking" alert above every seat on an airplane) more unnecessary than the middle round of a Home Run Derby? If every player gets 10 outs, we don't need a second round to find out who deserves to go to the finals.

So, two rounds in the derby. Have half the skills competition before the first round and the second half before the finals. Start it at 7 p.m. ET and viewers will probably get to bed earlier than they do now. And happier.

They'll be happier because the derby itself will be more interesting in addition to being shorter because I'm still not done.

Enough of this "every home run is created equal" stuff. One that wraps around Pesky's Pole is not equal to one that lands in the San Francisco Bay. Give points based on seating tiers or decks in the outfield. Give bonus points for hitting certain ballpark landmarks. Fountain shot in Kansas City? Bonus point. Apple at Citi Field? Bonus point. Non-gang member at Dodgers Stadium? Bonus point.

Heck, let the players earn style points by calling their shot. If they call a foul pole shot and do it, just hand them the trophy and keys to a new Chevy Equinox right there. I would watch that and actually listen to Chris Berman regurgitate the same basic script he's used since the Reagan administration. Right now I have the derby on mute while listening to the Adam Carolla Show podcast and writing this post and texting and negotiating fantasy baseball trades.

And I'm basically the cutoff for generations that still care about the Home Run Derby. If this is all the attention I'm paying to it, it won't be long before the 18-35 demographic doesn't even register in the event's ratings.

At least the All-Star Game itself is flawless and above reproach.

Fire Dayton Moore
(Please click here to help save baseball in Kansas City)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Big Picture: MLB sucks at its job

Last month I noticed a curious headline on the homepage.

Milton Bradley was in some legal trouble — sorry, I should have advised you to sit down before writing that — but rather than refer to him as an "ex-ballplayer" ESPN deemed him "Ex-Dodger."

Bradley, of course, played for eight teams in 12 seasons. The Dodgers were third stop, where he lasted just two years — one of five teams he played at least parts of two seasons with. His best season by far was his All-Star season of 2008 with the Rangers, three years after leaving the Dodgers. He finished his career in Seattle. "Ex-Dodger" is one of a dozen adjectives one could use for Bradley, but certainly not the first one that comes to mind.

There's no logical reason to tie Bradley to the Dodgers in a national headline. More likely, ESPN figured the Dodgers are a marquee team and "Ex-Dodger" will equal more traffic than "Ex-ballplayer."

I must not have been the first one to notice the odd headline as ESPN changed it later on, but the first words of the story description were "Former Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners outfielder," which is almost even more bizarre.

Whatever the reason, it's ESPN. It's the company's job to promote traffic, so if a buzzword like "Dodgers" works for them, more power to the Worldwide Leader. And it's ESPN's job to help create stories. That's why the "bottomline" this week on its television networks has read something to the effect of, "Puig trails Freeman in Final Vote..." rather than, "Freeman leads NL Final Vote."

ESPN knows what people are interested in — or at least it thinks it knows — and it doesn't hold back on pushing those stories onto viewers and readers. Again, that's what has led to ESPN's success. As much as most of us despise Tim Tebow wall-to-wall coverage, there must be people somewhere who crave it or ESPN would move on.

Major League Baseball, on the other hand, must have no one with ESPN's knack for having a finger on the public pulse.

Who could forget this gem from earlier this year, which features fan favorite Kyle Davies, who must have been the only Royals player captured on camera in a powder blue hat in 2012.

Even the players themselves are strangely out of touch, or maybe just stuck in the past.

It's been two years since Pence played for the Astros. He's on his third team now in San Francisco. If you actually visit his site, it's amateurish at best. I feel like I could have designed it. So, my first assumption was a fan created the site and dropped it after Pence was traded.

However, the "Hunter's Bio" is written all in the first person, leading me to believe Pence had something to do with the site. As does the "Beyond the Field" tab. The "Stats" tab does actually link to Pence's profile.

And this is Hunter Pence we're talking about, not Milton Bradley. It befuddles me. Even if Hunter doesn't stay on top of his site, you'd think his people, his team or MLB itself would. I shouldn't have to frequent to know Pence is known as "Captain Underpants."

Of course, MLB is too busy with this tire fire.

That's right. The show cannot go on until the voters elect one of these five pitchers — all of whom having spent the majority of the season in middle relief roles* — an All-Star.

*I'm not going to get into the sabermetrics of this. Of course many middle relievers are more valuable than many closers, but "closers" carry much more meaning and interest with casual fans.

This cannot happen.

(Author pauses to cast his 18th vote for the AL Final Vote.)

I know Jim Leyland is a crotchety old man who Bud Selig respects to the nth degree and rightfully so. He's probably the kind of guy you pick your battles with. But this is a battle you have to fight.

All Selig had to do was give Leyland a call and suggest taking Ben Zobrist off the team, drawing one of the above five names out of a hat, and letting Zobrist try his luck in a final vote with Josh Donaldson, Evan Longoria, Carlos Santana, Nelson Cruz and Old Hoss Radbourn. Then Bud could send Jim some nice cigars as a thank you. Crisis** averted.

**Or should I say, most pointless online vote in history averted.

Sure, Puig is a compelling story line as the Final Votes are tallied. But that's only the National League. The American League is the other half of the story — or at least should be — so why render it irrelevant?

Instead of pundits debating only whether Puig should make the All-Star Game after playing just a month in the bigs, they could also be talking about Oakland voters rallying to recognize Donaldson for transforming from a minor league catcher to an All-Star third baseman. Donaldson is no Puig when it comes to sexy story lines, but he's a story. Five relievers couldn't be less significant when it comes to attracting masses to your sport.***

***Unless of course there are throngs of people in the Dominican Republic/Detroit, Toronto, New York City, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Japan/Boston on their edge of their seats following this Final Vote.

If anyone has actually visited to partake in the Final Vote, it's been to vote for the National League side and maybe provide their input on the American League while they're at it. As a diehard baseball fan, I think that's sad.

When it comes to ESPN, only two factors force the network to move on from a story. Either people stop caring (the day after the World Cup) or the story dies out on his own and becomes irrelevant (I guess Jeff Francoeur isn't The Natural).

If baseball continues to make itself irrelevant, people will quit caring.

Fire Dayton Moore