In my last two posts I've called out Dayton Moore for his lack of imagination. I imagine some Royals fans might think that's unfair considering what Moore has done building up the farm system.
However, I would argue no amount of imagination has been necessary with rebuilding the farm system. All Moore needed was more backing from ownership and that's exactly what he's received, allowing him to spend over slot for high draft picks and devote more funding to international scouting.
At the Major League level, though, Moore has been anything but creative. As I discussed with a friend yesterday, almost all of Moore's Major League transactions have been traditional, by-the-books moves as if he were running an organization with money to spare on bad moves. The only problem is, the Royals don't have money to spare when Moore makes a bad signing or trade. Instead, they're stuck with that miscue on the roster. Case in point: Jeff Francoeur.
It's a virtual guarantee that Francoeur and his robust -1.2 WAR from 2012 will be penciled in as the Royals' everyday right fielder this season. That means, unless the 29-year-old can miraculously improve in his ninth season, Royals fans can once again expect one of their corner outfielders to post an OPS only Minnie Mendoza would envy.
The only explanation for this is Moore inexplicably sees Francoeur's 2012 campaign (16 HR, 4 SB, .235/.287/.378) as an aberration and his 2011 season (20 HR, 22 SB, .285/.329/.476, 2.9 WAR) as the norm. Of course, this also requires Moore to ignore the fact Francoeur hasn't had another season with a WAR above 0.6 since 2007. He would also have to disregard Francour's two negative WAR seasons since 2008 compared to just one season with a WAR above that same 0.6 plateau. At 29, Francoeur isn't ancient, but with steroid and now HGH testing in MLB, the instances of veterans reinventing themselves are few and far between.
Meanwhile, with Moore's best trade chip already spent, one difference-making free agent remains to cure what ails the Royals outfield: Michael Bourn.
No, Michael Bourn is not a right fielder. He's a center fielder and a spectacular one at that. Seriously. If MLB allowed highlights to be posted onto YouTube, Bourn would have his own channel for jaw-dropping catches. The fact he's a spark-plug of a leadoff hitter, capable of leading the league in stolen bases and, with hitters like Alex Gordon and Billy Butler behind him, runs scored is a bonus.
Those are the impacts Bourn would make that can be easily observed. But how much more would it help players like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas to know they wouldn't have to do the heavy lifting in the middle of the order if Gordon were allowed to drop down and hit in front of Billy Butler?
Finally, you eliminate the issue of playing Francoeur everyday by sliding Lorenzo Cain from center field to right. Then, should Cain falter, the Royals would have Francoeur available to fill in. And since he is such a good clubhouse guy, maybe you could reward him as a ninth inning defensive substitute for his arm. Either way, you replace an everyday player with a negative WAR and career WAR of 10 with Bourn and his 6.4 WAR from 2012 and 21.4 career WAR in 7 seasons.
Of course, with a player of Bourn's caliber (who comes with an agent of Scott Boras' caliber), it's going to cost you. But we're almost to February and Bourn is still available with no team strongly linked to him. Although certainly not ideal for Bourn, the possibility remains he could do what Edwin Jackson did a year ago and sign a one-year deal and try free agency again after the 2013 season — a free agent class that already appears to be devoid of impact players.
So once again, if the Royals were serious about winning in 2013 and 2014, why shouldn't Bourn be a target for Dayton Moore? Shane Victorino signed a 3-year, $39 million contract and B.J. Upton signed a 5-year, $75 million deal this offseason. Both players posted a 3.3 WAR last season. Victorino is older than Bourn. Upton is younger. Odds are Bourn will wind up with a deal close to Upton's on a yearly basis ($15 million per). If Moore is sincere about winning the next two years, a 1-year, $16 million offer to Bourn should be a requirement and a 2-year, $32 million offer to Bourn would be ideal.
That's if Moore has any imagination when it comes to competing with a small market team. Then again, it takes a heck of a lot more imagination to envision winning with Francoeur than it does Bourn.
Fire Dayton Moore