Fire Dayton Moore

Fire Dayton Moore
It's time.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Moore comparing and contrasting

February is days away. Pitchers and catchers are less than three weeks in the distance. Outside of remaining marquee free agents Michael Bourn, Kyle Lohse and Jonathan Sanchez, the offseason is all but wrapped up.

Seeing how the Royals aren't likely to be involved with any remaining free agents — although I'm sure Dayton Moore is kicking the tires on Sanchez — it's time to contrast Kansas City's offseason with some other clubs around MLB.

Looking back at the transactions that have taken place since the end of last season, it's fair to say four teams have drawn lines in the sand: Kansas City, Atlanta, Arizona, Toronto. Whether or not these lines are parallel, perpendicular, or even in the same sandbox, I'm not sure. But Moore, Frank Wren, Kevin Towers, and Alex Anthopoulos have steered their respective organizations in distinct directions that may or may not lead to success.

Yes, I know the Dodgers and Angels have spent piles of money this offseason, but both teams started that trend before the offseason began. I don't count them in this group. The Mariners tried to make a big splash this offseason, but even with all their moves, I don't see them as drastically different or better going into this season. Tampa Bay did what it does. Nothing new. Miami did what it does. Nothing new. (Can the United States please trade Florida for Puerto Rico or something?) The Phillies had perhaps the worst offseason, bringing in the likes of Michael Young and Delmon Young, but this is Fire Dayton Moore. I'm not going to let Ruben Amaro Jr.'s disdain for advanced statistics get Moore off the hook.

Understanding Their Opportunity

The Yankees aren't what they once were and are dealing with some cumbersome contracts while trying to lower payroll. The Red Sox are trying (awkwardly) to rebuild after a 69-93 season. Nobody seriously expects the Orioles to catch lightening in a bottle a second straight season. The Rays are always a threat, but coming off a third place finish and have James Loney as their starting first baseman. Therefore, the window of opportunity in what was once the best division in baseball is wide open and the Blue Jays held nothing back.

Granted, they took on a load of players that led the Marlins to a mere 69-93 record, but they also added a Cy Young winner. Even if R.A. Dickey regresses somewhat, when Reyes, Johnson and Buehrle are at their best (or close to it), they give the Blue Jays one of the two best rotations and the best shortstop in the AL East. And all it cost them was four promising, but certainly not can't-miss prospects, and a bigoted shortstop.

Would it shock me if Anthopoulos' plan imploded and Tampa Bay won the East while, let's say, the Yankees and Rangers earned Wild Card spots? No it wouldn't. But I can't blame Anthopoulos for recognizing a rare opportunity to win and a farm system with valuable trade pieces and using the latter to improve his odds of the former.

Anthopoulos' tenure with the Blue Jays has been highlighted by taking risks (trading for Colby Rasmus, re-signing Edwin Encarnacion between 2009-2010 before his career took off, believing in Jose Bautista). Without those risks paying off, Toronto probably isn't in position to make a major push this offseason. Now the Blue Jays have gone from depending on Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero atop their rotation and Yunel Escobar at shortstop to handing the ball to a Cy Young winner in Dickey on Opening Day and plugging in an everyday shortstop with a 10.7 WAR the last two seasons in Reyes.

Anthopoulos could have waited for prospects like Travis d'Arnaud, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard to reach the Majors and compete with them, but wisely he realized there are no guarantees in the AL East. The odds of those four players panning out and the division still being up for grabs when they did aren't as good as Dickey, Reyes, Johnson and Buehrle leading the Blue Jays to the playoffs the next couple of years. For Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays, the risk was worth the possible reward and I'll be more surprised if it doesn't pay off than if it does.

Toronto's Notable Transactions
  • Signed Melky Cabrera
  • Traded Yunel Escobar, Jeff Mathis, Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Justin Nicolino (prospect), Anthony Desclafani (prospect), Jake Marisnick (prospect) for Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck
  • Traded John Buck, Noah Syndergaard (prospect), Travis d'Arnaud (prospect), Wuilmer Becerra (prospect) for R.A. Dickey, Josh Thole, Mike Nickeas (prospect)
The Towers-ing Inferno

As frustrating as the Royals' offseason has been, I can't imagine what my mental state would be if I followed the Diamondbacks.

From my viewpoint, the D-Backs play in a winnable division no matter how much ravenous spending the Dodgers do or how many trophies the Giants add to their mantle. I didn't necessarily see the Diamondbacks as sure-fire contenders in 2013, but I liked their rotation. I liked some of their outfield prospects like Adam Eaton. No, not that Adam Eaton (shudders). I loved their pitching prospects (Trevor Bauer, Archie Bradley, Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin). I still felt Justin Upton was a franchise player, despite a down 2012 season. When the offseason began and they signed Brandon McCarthy, I was a fan of the move. That's literally the only move Kevin Towers made this offseason that made any sense to me.

Even when Heath Bell saved 43 games in 2011, the underlying numbers showed he was getting by on smoke and mirrors. The contract the Marlins gave him last offseason was ill-advised and the thought of anyone trading for him this offseason was inconceivable. Especially if it left a hole in center field that Towers would apparently try to fill with Cody Ross, who isn't a center fielder, but is listed as the D-Backs' starting center fielder on's depth chart.

Regardless of what position Ross plays, it doesn't add up. In center field, he stunts Eaton's development. If he plays right, he takes Gerardo Parra out of the lineup, even though it would seem he's the kind of gritty, grinding player Towers has been seeking out to appease manager Kirk Gibson. And by signing Ross before dealing Upton, it seemed to paint Towers into a corner that probably kept him from maximizing Upton's value. Especially when you consider he could have shopped Jason Kubel instead and still landed at least one solid pitching prospect and kept Upton or traded him at any point during the season rather than having to trade him in the winter. Of course, Towers wouldn't have been as desperate for young pitching had he not given up on Bauer and dealt him for a glove-first shortstop and little else.

So, recapping Towers' offseason: He went into the offseason with 22-year-old Trevor Bauer as his top young pitcher, 25-year-old Justin Upton as his best offensive weapon and shortstop Chris Owings as one of the Top 10 prospects in his system, according to Baseball America (not expected to be great, but some promise nonetheless). He goes into the 2013 season with 22-year-old Randall Delgado replacing Bauer — a downgrade until Bauer proves otherwise — 30-year-old Jason Kubel and 29-year-old Martin Prado expected to carry the offense (yes, Prado's WAR is solid, but he may not even be with the club a year from now), and shortstop Didi Gregorius ranked just two spots ahead of Owings by BA in the organization's Top 10 prospects.

At best, the Diamondbacks are no better than they were when last season ended, but now Towers has traded away the two best trade chips he had. If these moves don't pay off, Towers will likely have to trade away even more pitching. It seems the logical move would have been for Towers to trade Upton straight up for an elite shortstop prospect. Maybe even toss in a Corbin or Skaggs if he can get a Jurickson Profar in return. Instead, he took the roundabout path to land a shortstop who might not even hit. And even without Bauer I'm not sure why Towers was so dead set to deal Upton for more young pitching.

Maybe the cast of Charlie Hustlers that Towers has compiled will surprise baseball and set back the cause of advanced statistical analysis, but I don't see the Diamondbacks as any better than the .500 club they were a year ago.

Arizona's Notable Transactions

  • Signed Brandon McCarthy
  • Signed Cody Ross
  • Traded Chris Young for Cliff Pennington, Heath Bell
  • Traded Trevor Bauer, Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw for Lars Anderson, Tony Sipp, Didi Gregorius (prospect)
  • Traded Justin Upton, Chris Johnson for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, Nick Ahmed, Brandon Drury
Pushing in His Chips

If you're reading this, you've heard this story before. Going into the offseason there was a team in a winnable division, but one stacked team ahead of it to overcome. So this team's GM put his neck on the line and made a bold, franchise-altering trade. And now that GM's club is in prime position to win.

I'm talking about Frank Wren and the Atlanta Braves, of course. What? Did you think I was talking about someone else? In just three moves, Wren turned the Braves into what I see as a legitimate World Series contender.

Say what you will about B.J. Upton, but if Michael Bourn wasn't interested in re-signing, there weren't any better center field alternatives this winter. Say what you will about Tommy Hanson, but his numbers haven't matched the hype the last couple seasons and, as great as Atlanta's bullpen has been with Craig Kimbrel as closer, Kimbrel and Jonny Venters have logged a ton of innings, so Jordan Walden alleviates some of that workload to ensure Kimbrel and Venters are around come fall. Those were the "minor" moves.

Last week came Wren's hum-dinger — trading for Justin Upton. Wisely, Wren offered up an attractive, but expendable arm in Randall Delgado. I'm sure he would have preferred to give up Julio Teheran, but I'm sure Towers insisted on Delgado. Well, that might be giving too much credit to Towers, but outside of Delgado and the versatile Prado, Wren gave up little else to land a 25-year-old outfielder with MVP potential. That kind of player isn't made available often and he pounced on the opportunity.

If there's any downside to the trade, it's the hole it leaves at third base for Atlanta, and the possible exhaustion Brian McCann might experience chasing errant throws by the Upton brothers.

The Braves may lack the marquee names in their rotation that the Nationals possess and the leadoff spot remains a question, but there's no doubt the Braves are better off now than when umpire Sam Holbrook effectively ended their 2012 season. Because of Wren's savvy moves, I see the Braves testing the Nationals in the NL East and securing at least a Wild Card spot.

Atlanta's Notable Transactions

  • Signed B.J. Upton
  • Traded Tommy Hanson for Jordan Walden
  • Traded Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, Nick Ahmed, Brandon Drury
Objects in Mirror are More Confusing Than They Appear

Earlier I wrote how I felt Dayton Moore should have continued his sale on farmhands to land Justin Upton for the logical reasons. After reading Mark Simon's Tweet above, I can't believe Moore didn't go after Upton for the sheer entertainment value of saying he had personally acquired three of the four outfielders with the most unpredictable arms.

I apologize. But until the Royals actually win something, Moore's just too easy a target. The more time I've spent thinking about and analyzing his moves this offseason, the more warped my mind has become.

He rushed to re-sign Guthrie, as if such a pitcher would fly off the shelf without a comparable alternative to be found. He rushed to trade for Ervin Santana, as if a $13 million commitment for a franchise such as the Royals was a drop in the bucket. He traded for James Shields as if he was the only available "front line" starter. He traded away Wil Myers as if it were mandatory he be dealt in order to acquire a "front line" starter.

Meanwhile, Shaun Marcum signed a 1-year, $4 million deal with the Mets just last week.

If any lesson was learned this offseason, it's that patience truly is a virtue when it comes to running a baseball team. The Blue Jays and Braves were patient in years past and moved to strike this offseason. Kevin Towers apparently lost all patience for his two most promising talents. The Royals had been patient all this time under Moore, but jumped the gun.

This notion of patience has probably held true for years, but I've spent significantly more attention to this winter's wheeling and dealing than years' past. How a person who doesn't realize this comes to run a Major League club is beyond me, but that's probably precisely why I don't get paid the big bucks.

Sadly, the Royals' offseason began with so much promise when Moore managed to dump Clint Robinson and Vin Mazzaro on the Pirates for a couple prospects. News last week that the Royals claimed catcher George Kottaras off waivers for a cool million dollars was also promising. But as far as I'm concerned, those have been the lone highlights.

To be fair, after seeing what Upton was traded for, maybe the market for young power-hitting outfielders has dried up. I would say it's more likely a case of smart GMs taking advantage of desperate ones, but maybe the Upton trade can at least lessen the blow for some Royals fans. I just don't see how the same GM who saw the value in Kottaras (a stat-geek darling) also saw so much value in Shields, Guthrie and Santana.

One more note before ending this diatribe: If Moore were serious about turning the Royals into winners this season and wanted to sign Michael Bourn or Kyle Lohse, it would not cost the Royals their first round draft pick because the first 10 picks in the draft are protected and Kansas City owns the eighth selection.

Don't get your hopes up considering Scott Boras is the agent for both Bourn and Lohse, but if they were to set their egos aside and sign one-year deals, they could be had for below market value. Why would they do that? For one, it's pretty clear teams with unprotected draft picks aren't biting. For another, it's believed that next year's crop of free agents will be desolate and still nine months remain between now and then for players in the last year of their contracts to re-sign with their current clubs. So, while I originally estimated Bourn could get $16 million a year, one analyst I heard recently said he could see Bourn signing for just $6 million on a one-year deal. We'll see.

Kansas City's Notable Transactions

  • Re-signed Jeremy Guthrie
  • Traded Brandon Sisk (prospect) for Ervin Santana and cash
  • Traded Clint Robinson, Vin Mazzaro for Luis Rico (prospect), Luis Santos (prospect)
  • Traded Wil Myers (prospect), Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery (prospect), Patrick Leonard (prospect) for James Shields, Wade Davis, player to be named later
  • Claimed George Kottaras off waivers
Fire Dayton Moore

No comments:

Post a Comment