Fire Dayton Moore

Fire Dayton Moore
It's time.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mr. Shields Goes to Washington

As I write this, the Royals are 35-39, in third place in the American League Central, 6.5 games behind the Tigers and 6 games out of a Wild Card spot. It's a long season and anything can and will happen, but the Royals will not make the playoffs.

I've stated this all along. A 13-9 record in June hasn't changed that. A 18-9 June record at the end of the month won't change that. So, if we can all agree on this fact, it's time to look at possible trades Dayton Moore should be looking into. Moore could have been a buyer, but in my opinion he waited too long to find a legitimate right fielder or second baseman. There's no point in giving up more prospects now.

Also as I write this, the Washington Nationals are 38-38, in second place in the National League East, 6 games behind the Braves and 5.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. They entered the season as World Series favorites but to this point have underachieved and appear to be in desperate need of a shot in the arm. Bryce Harper's eventual return will certainly help, but their rotation is on shaky ground, as well.

The top three Nationals starters are solid with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann, but it peters out quickly with a pair of Rosses: Detwiler and Ohlendorf. Even at the top, though, Strasburg has had injury concerns this year, Gonzalez has been connected to the Biogenesis lab in Florida and Zimmermann's ERA has risen significantly the second half of the last two seasons (0.77 in 2012 and 1.81 in 2011).

But even if we assume the best possible outcomes with Strasburg, Gonzalez and Zimmermann, the back of the rotation remains an issue and there don't appear to be any immediate internal alternatives. Dan Haren is on the DL and was atrocious when healthy (6.15 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 19 HR in 82 innings). Nathan Karns posted a 7.50 ERA, 1.93 WHIP and five home runs allowed in 12 innings between three starts after being called up from Triple-A earlier this season. That means, unless the Nationals look outside the organization, it's all up to Detwiler (4.18, 1.48, 2.9 K/BB rate) and Ohlendorf, who hasn't started more than nine games, posted an ERA below 7.77 or a WHIP below 1.77 since 2010.

Suffice it to say, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo is quickly finding out how quickly the window to win in baseball can slam shut. If he isn't already working the phones to see who might be available, he'd better start soon.

What does this have to do with the Royals? Well, there just so happens to be a pitcher known for his performances in "big games" sporting a 2.92 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 0.8 HR/9 rate this year, who would make a heck of a No. 4 starter. There's also a pitcher with a 2.74 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 4.7 K/BB rate in the last year of his contract but with plenty left to prove.

Those pitchers are of course James Shields and Ervin Santana and both should be on the trade block. It's not too late for Moore to recover some of the promise for the Royals' future he unloaded in the offseason.

The problem is, I'm not sure the Nationals would be the best fit.

The Nationals' top pitching prospect is Lucas Giolito, a first round draft pick in 2012. However, he underwent Tommy John surgery last year and he's just now beginning to throw again. I think he has the potential to bounce back and turn into a front-end starter. I don't believe the Royals would be able to coax that potential out of him, though. The Nationals' top outfield prospect is Brian Goodwin, who has a similar profile to Tom Goodwin despite being no relation that I'm aware of. Goodwin could be leadoff material, but he could just as easily be No. 8 or No. 9 fodder and the Royals already have plenty such hitters.

Pitcher A.J. Cole and outfielder Michael Taylor are also interesting names in their system.

The Nationals also have Anthony Rendon, though, who went right after Bubba Starling in the 2011 draft at No. 6. He was drafted and developed as a third baseman but is now playing some second out of necessity. The ability appears to be there, but injuries have been an issue from the get-go.

Unless Rendon were involved, Moore wouldn't be able to get the quality he gave up for Shields, but he could acquire some quantity. Maybe a deal involving Santana would be a better match.

Another interesting name is Danny Espinosa. Having led the NL in strikeouts last year and finished third in 2011, I think he is what he is, but he might just be a better option at second base than what the Royals currently have. I'd definitely be open to trading for him if it meant getting out of Jeremy Guthrie or Wade Davis' contracts.

My point is, whether it's Shields, Santana, Guthrie or even Davis, the Royals have some commodities that could be of value to playoff contenders. If I was Moore, I'd be searching high and low to see just how much I could get for any of those four pitchers.

We saw what a team with no chance of making the playoffs was willing to give up to acquire them. Who knows what a team in a playoff chase might part with.

Fire Dayton Moore
(please click to voice your opinion and bring forward thinking back to Kansas City)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pick a card, any card

It's easy to forget Allard Baird was the one two drafted Zack Greinke, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. When you think of Baird, you probably don't associate him with that trio of names. Instead, Baird's name is more likely to conjure up memories of Angel Berroa, Neifi Perez and Mark Teahen.

How quickly Royals fans lost sight of what Baird did with limited draft budgets, but dwell on the meager returns from trades he was handcuffed into making. I'm not judging. To this day I fixate on the trades of Royals seasons past. I now fear what the Royals of this decade will be remembered for. Due to my masochistic tendencies, I must first recap the downfall of Mr. Baird.

As the Royals entered the 2001 season, it became clear the club wouldn't be able to afford but one of their four premiere talents: Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, Carlos Beltran and Mike Sweeney. There were only two questions: 1. Who would the franchise choose to build around and what would the club get in exchange for the other three?

If you're reading this, you already know the answer to those questions.

Damon was the first to go in January of 2001, netting a return of Angel Berroa and A.J. Hinch from the Athletics and Roberto Hernandez from the Devil Rays (that's right, kids, they weren't always the Rays).  Dye went next in July of the same year in exchange for Neifi Perez. Then in June of 2004, Beltran was sent to the Astros for John Buck and the Athletics pitched in Mark Teahen and Mike Wood. It's hard to decide which trade hurt most.

Damon was probably a fan favorite and he signed the most reasonable post-trade contract at 4 years, $31 million ($7.75 million per) with the Red Sox. And he was sent to Oakland with Mark Ellis, who was a plucky enough second baseman. Meanwhile Hernandez was useless, closing on a team going nowhere, Berroa was a one-year wonder and Hinch never amounted to anything.

The Dye deal hurt me the most because I was never a big Damon fan. That and I always thought the Royals robbed the Braves, getting Dye and Jamie Walker for Keith Lockhart and Michael Tucker. His next contract wasn't outrageous, either, signing a 3-year, $32 million contract with the A's ($10.7 million per). Dye, of course, went on to hit at least 23 home runs in seven of his final eight seasons, including years with 31, 34 and 44. Can you even imagine a hitter with 44 home runs in the Royals lineup? The only solace I could find from the Dye trade was the Rockies, who technically traded for Dye before shipping him off to Oakland immediately, received a sad package of Todd Belitz, Mario Encarnacion and Jose Ortiz for Dye. Then again, at least none of those three players punished Rockies fans to the tune of a -2.8 WAR like Perez did with the Royals in 2002.

Beltran was easily the most talented of the bunch. Had he stayed with the Royals for his entire career, he could have challenged George Brett for the honor of best player in franchise history. But that kind of undeniable talent was what priced him out of Kansas City. He signed with the Mets to a 7-year, $119 million deal ($17 million per). His departure was inevitable unless he would have been willing to offer the Royals a generous hometown discount. It did sting a little, though, to see him traded seven — SEVEN! — years later to the Giants for phenom pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.

Instead, the Royals made their bed with Mike Sweeney, who fell apart almost the instant the dust settled from the Beltran trade.

Sweeney signed a 5-year, $55 million extension ($11 million per), which ran from 2003-2007. His WAR the first three years of that contract was 1.7, 0.6 and 1.6. He hit 15 total home runs over the final two years of his contract. His combined WAR during that contract was 3.8.

Damon had two seasons with a WAR above 3.8 after departing the Royals. Dye's high post-Royals WAR was 3.0 in 2006 and he never matched his 4.3 and 4.2 WARs in 1999 and 2000 with the Royals, but his home runs sure would have been fun to watch in Kauffman Stadium. Beltran, of course, topped 3.8 four times post-Royals, doubling it in 2006 at 7.6 and nearly doubling it again in 2008 at 7.2.

That's the Royals' self-imposed luck. Four stars to choose from. A 75 percent chance of picking the right one to build around and they still couldn't get it right.

Now fast forward to the 2013 Royals.

Eric Hosmer is in his third season and he's slashing .275/.331/.377 and just hit his fourth home run as I write this, nearly 300 plate appearances into the season. Mike Moustakas is in his third season and entered today with four home runs, but his slash line is an atrocious .207/.266/.305. And eight home runs between your corner infielders with a week left in June is almost vomit-inducing when you realize Chris Davis crushed his 28th home run tonight.

On the flip side, just 10 games into his Major League career, Wil Myers has already produced a quarter of Hosmer and Moustakas' home run total with two in the last four days. It's early, sure. Even a full season of production from Myers won't produce a final verdict based on how Hosmer teased Royals fans as a rookie.

To be fair, despite Myers' eight-game hitting streak, he still hasn't walked and he struck out for the 11th time tonight. You'd certainly like to see that ratio tightened up a bit. Although, a strikeout-to-walk rate like that has to have Dayton Moore kicking himself.

But in all seriousness, I can't help but assume the Royals bet on the wrong horse once again. The odds of picking the best player among Hosmer-Moustakas-Myers may have been considerably longer than Damon-Dye-Beltran-Sweeney, but what makes this rendition of Royals roulette so bad is they didn't have to pick. Myers wasn't going anywhere at the end of the season. His impending promotion from Triple-A wasn't going to impede Hosmer or Moustakas. If anything, his presence from the right side of the plate could have helped the lefties.

Then again, anything would be more beneficial to Hosmer and Moustakas in the way of lineup support than Jeff Francoeur's slash line of .212/.254/.330. How was Moore to know the card he would pick would be a joker?

Fire Dayton Moore
(please click to voice your opinion and bring forward thinking back to Kansas City)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Not adding up

This post is long overdue. There probably isn't anything to say that hasn't already been said by other outlets, but I'm going to say what I have to say nonetheless.

I'm referring to the comments Dayton Moore made last week blaming Kauffman Stadium, not for the Royals' power outage, but instead for the Royals' lack of walks.

"We have the largest ballpark in terms of square footage of any ballpark in baseball," Moore told Fox Sports Kansas City. "When pitchers come here, they have the mindset to use that park -- put the ball in play, throw strikes, attack the zone. There isn't the same fear factor of getting beat deep that you might have elsewhere. I think that plays a huge factor in that walk statistic."

Remember when I wrote that Jack Maloof's bizarre views on hitting at Kauffman Stadium likely weren't his alone? Case in point. Let's recap Moore's remarks.

  1. Kauffman Stadium is spacious. True.
  2. Visiting pitchers try to use that space to their advantage. Conceivable, although unless a majority of that extra square footage is in foul territory, I'm not sure how significant that advantage is.
  3. The Royals get an inordinate amount of pitches to hit at home and therefore don't take enough pitches or even get enough pitches outside the zone to walk. Possibly.

The Royals are tied for last in baseball with just 81 walks at home. On the road, the club is better, ranking 19th with 99 walks on the road and having played two more games on the road than at home.

However, if we assume opponents are putting more pitches in the zone, the Royals should have higher strikeout numbers at home. That isn't the case. The Royals have struck out 199 times at home compared to 266 times on the road.

The only possible explanation I can come up with that wouldn't contradict Moore's statement is perhaps opposing pitchers do put more pitches in the zone when the Royals are at home, but the Royals simply swing at more bad pitches on the road. Bad pitches are harder to hit and thus their strikeout numbers are worse on the road.

If that is the case, though, it reinforces the genesis of this blog — that Moore has compiled a roster of undisciplined, inherently bad hitters. Rather than finding hitters who can work walks in a home ballpark where walks might be particularly beneficial, he's managed to stockpile some of the freest swingers in the game.

Going back to Moore's quote, the first thing that sticks out to me is opponents don't get to field a proportionate amount of fielders based on ballpark dimensions. Whether they have to cover a studio apartment or Yellowstone National Park, teams only get nine fielders. Therefore, by my calculations: more balls in play + more square footage + same amount of fielders = more balls falling in for hits.

That doesn't seem to be the case as the Royals are 25th in baseball with 282 hits at home. However, on the road, the Royals are 8th in baseball with 344 hits. And we already know it's not as if the Royals are experiencing a power surge when they escape the unfriendly confines of The K. They're last in baseball in road home runs with 22.

So when the Royals are on the road, in smaller ballparks, they're somehow finding a way for more hits to fall in, but not leave the park? That doesn't add up to me.

It doesn't add up to CBS Sports Baseball Writer Mike Axisa, who found that the Royals' walk rate in 2013 are actually an exception to Moore's rule. According to Axisa, since 2000, the Royals' have a 7.6 percent walk rate compared to 7.0 percent on the road. So if this is a theory Moore has harbored for some time, it hasn't occurred to opposing pitching coaches until this season.

It also didn't add up to Sam Miller and Ben Lindbergh over at Baseball Prospectus on the Effectively Wild Podcast. In discussing Moore's comments, Miller pointed out two interesting tidbits:

  1. Since 2007, only the Orioles have walked more opposing batters at home than the Royals.
  2. Since 2007, only the Mariners have drawn fewer walks on the road than the Royals.

Even if you were to accept Moore's logic, there's no way to explain those two statistics with his logic. If opponents have figured out the advantage in limiting free passes at Kauffman Stadium, why hasn't Moore's own coaching staff? And if Moore's teams were capable of drawing more walks under normal circumstances, why haven't they been able to away from The K?

I'll give Moore credit for one thing — he's become an expert at ducking blame for the subpar team he's constructed.

He reached in the draft for a player he'll likely champion as the replacement for his current third baseman, who drove in his first run since May 23 on Saturday, months after trading away a right fielder who drove in four runs with one swing of the bat on Saturday.

The Royals have dropped four of their last six, all AL Central games, and could be back in fourth place by the end of the month with a four-game series coming up with the Twins. Maybe there is something to Moore's Kauffman Stadium logic. Something is going on and has been for some time. But even if there is something to it, it doesn't change the fact he's built a roster ill-equipped to succeed in his ballpark.

Fire Dayton Moore

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Not exactly easy listening Pt. VIII

If you're reading this and you aren't a regular listener to Baseball Prospectus' "Fringe Average" podcast, stop reading this, stop whatever else you're doing and listen to last week's episode here.

In the final half-hour, roughly, hosts Mike Ferrin and Jason Parks discus the MLB Draft. The Royals, as you might imagine, feature prominently in the discussion.

They don't grill Dayton Moore to the degree I did, but they too were critical. While Parks doesn't agree with me that Austin Meadows was necessarily a no-brainer instead of Hunter Dozier, he doesn't endorse the Dozier pick. He did mention right field as a possible position where Dozier winds up, which also lends itself to the theory Moore was in search of a quick fix for a position of need. I believe it was Parks who theorizes the Royals went cheap with their first pick in order to afford prep pitcher Phil Bickford with their second pick.

Of course, Bickford went two picks after Dozier at No. 10, so if that was Moore's master plan all along, he couldn't have been more wrong.

And if there's been any defense of Moore, it's been that he drafted Sean Manaea, who was once considered a possible No. 1 pick, at No. 34 in the Competitive Balance Round. But Parks does not fall into line with that defense. He doesn't consider Manaea a Top 5 talent because, well, he wasn't a Top 5 pick. If he were, he wouldn't have lasted as long as he did. And it wouldn't have been a widely known fact he was going to be available at No. 34 if he was an elite talent. Who knows how much further Manaea would have fallen had the Royals not selected him seeing how, you know, most organizations tend to avoid pitchers with shaky mechanics that are already leading to injuries.

One final note of interest for Royals fans from the podcast was their discussion on Jason McLeod, Cubs Senior Vice President in charge of Scouting and Player Development. I said months ago I didn't have any suggestions on who should replace Moore. Now I do. From what Ferrin and Parks had to say, McLeod is on the short list of front office personnel soon to be hired as GM of some franchise. He's worked with the Red Sox, Padres and now Cubs. Seeing how two of those stints were under Theo Epstein, I think it's safe to assume he would focus more on advanced analytics than Moore has. So there you go. Now we have someone to campaign for. His name is Jason McLeod.

Fire Dayton Moore
(click to sign our petition to bring forward-thinking back to Kansas City)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Trashing the hotel room

This is what happens, Kansas City. This is what happens when a lame duck GM is left at the controls.

If you think I'm harsh on Royals management, you should hear what I've said about the Chiefs' brass over the years. But at least Clark Hunt had the good sense to send Scott Pioli packing before he could make any moves of consequence following last season. Nearby, Dayton Moore is scratching and clawing to keep his job. I knew he would use coaches and scouts as human shields to save his job. I never imagined he'd use amateur athletes as a means of self-preservation.

The longer Moore is left in place, the more long-term damage he will inflict on the Royals. It's like when you check into a hotel room. It's not your room. It's just a place to stash your belongings, sleep and try to figure out the local channel listings. You throw your suitcase on the coffee table. You toss your clothes over chairs. You discard of food containers and wrappers on the nearest flat surface when you finish eating. You feel no shame in leaving soggy towels or soiled sheets on the floor. Someone else will clean up your mess after you check out. Well, right now Dayton Moore is using his perch atop the Royals front office as a hotel room. He doesn't care how many of his moves might cripple the franchise three years from now when instead he could be making moves that would benefit the franchise in 2015 and beyond. He's just trying to position himself for re-election in 2014.

With the No. 8 selection in the 2013 first-year player draft, the Royals selected Hunter Dozier, a shortstop out of Stephen F. Austin. They passed on prep outfielder Austin Meadows, the best available player according to Baseball America, which ranked him No. 5 overall.

The positive's from Dozier's scouting report: he's athletic, the ball "jumps off his bat," and he possesses good reactions in the field as well as a strong arm. The negatives: he'll almost certainly have to move off shortstop and, in a down down down year for college bats, he was described as not being "among the few elite college bats in this class." BA summed up the pick as follows:

"This is the first off-the-board pick. Dozier has a good bat, but we ranked him as the No. 39 pick in the draft and expected him to creep into the back of the first round. The Royals probably have a cost-saving deal in place to add another big player later in the draft."

Keith Law, who I respect more than most scouts, had this to say:

Law had Meadows ranked No. 4 overall on his draft board.

Of course, the verdict on this pick won't be final until three or four years from now. But the last time Moore made such a selection with his first round draft pick, the Royals wound up with a college infielder who took until his fourth season in the minors to become a full-time player at Triple-A. And he didn't stick at shortstop either. And he may not see the majors until his fifth professional season. If ever.

Just like the James Shields trade, this pick simply wreaks of desperation.

What were the benefits of drafting Dozier, who was compared to Jeff Kent during MLB Network's draft coverage? First and foremost, he'll almost certainly sign for a discounted rate compared to the slot money assigned to the eighth pick. Also, because the Royals were so kind as to draft him some 30 picks before he was projected to go, he should sign his professional contract almost immediately. Realistically, the Royals don't need Dozier to stick at shortstop like they needed Christian Colon to develop as a shortstop (prior to the Zack Greinke trade). Lastly, in the best of all worlds, he'll move through the system swiftly and either pressure Mike Moustakas or mercifully replace him.

What do I think will happen? I'm confident the first two scenarios will play out. The last, though, remains to be seen and I'm skeptical to say the least. The only glimmer of hope I see in Dozier is the St. Louis Cardinals (an organization that knows what it's doing) were rumored to be interested in him so if he's good enough for them, maybe there's something to this kid.

But I'm more concerned by what the Royals said by passing on Meadows. In doing so, Moore couldn't have made it any more obvious he's simply building a campaign to hang onto his job for another year. As a high school outfielder, Meadows would not be a fast mover through the system, most likely. But his upside is undeniable as he entered the season as the No. 1 prep player on most draft boards. Dozier, on the other hand, has a much lower ceiling, but perhaps a higher floor and, given his age and experience, could advance past Single-A ball this year and allow Moore to parade him as a success going into 2014.

What's more, if Moore were to take Meadows, it would have only highlighted his mistake in drafting Bubba Starling fifth overall in 2011. As someone who doesn't seem to learn from his mistakes, I don't think Moore would have been comfortable with writers connecting those dots had he taken Meadows.

Some analysts who were critical of Moore's first pick, backed off when the Royals selected Indiana State southpaw Sean Manaea with the first pick of the Competitive Balance Round, No. 34 overall.

At one point, Manaea was thought to be a Top 3 pick until he experienced shoulder and hip issues and was eventually shut down for the remainder of his college season. He was expected to demand a hefty draft bonus, so the drafting of Dozier first likely freed up the money to afford Manaea.

So some writers I've read have spun it as the Royals still getting a Top 10 talent to go with Dozier, who would have been a sound pick in the Competitive Balance Round.

Not me. I'm not giving Moore a pass for this.

First of all, Moore had no way of knowing Manaea was going to last. He may have had the foresight to have pre-draft deals in place with Dozier and Manaea so he would know if he could sign both, but that would require an immense leap of faith to make that assumption. The Royals most likely lucked into Manaea, who BA ranked tenth overall, falling out of the first round.

You can only consider it good fortune that Manaea fell to No. 34 if you actually believe he'll pan out. He's beginning his professional career with injury concerns and has a limited track record against top college competition (The hype surrounding him originated during last summer in the Cape Cod League, but he's from a small school and, based on this draft, there weren't many big bats even at baseball powerhouses). And even if he is an exceptional prospect, he'll still have to be developed properly and there's no evidence the Royals under Moore's direction are capable of doing so.

Besides, doesn't it seem a little sad to consider Day 1 of the Royals' draft a success for no other reason than Moore's second pick made up for a questionable first pick? To me, a good draft is one in which a team gets the most out of all of its picks and maximizes its opportunity to acquire elite talent, which just so happens to come earlier in the draft than later. What would have been so bad about getting Manaea AND Meadows? Maybe it would have taken most of the Royals' draft budget to sign the duo, but I'll take two potential Top 5 picks and let the chips fall where they may.

So Moore may have fooled the national media. He may have fooled ownership. But he hasn't fooled us. He's trashing the hotel room and the maid service can't arrive soon enough.

Fire Dayton Moore
(click to sign our petition to bring forward-thinking back to Kansas City)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Two-month review and draft prediction

First and foremost, in case you missed it, we have a petition to bring forward thinking back to Kansas City baseball. It's simple to "sign" and a worthwhile means to having your voice heard.

Now, let's move on. We're a little more than two months into the season. On March 30, I made my official predictions for this season. Here are the actual MLB standings as you read this.

So far I'm exactly right in the AL West. I'm close in the AL Central. I'm not far off in the NL East. Divisions such as the AL East, NL West and NL Central have gone nothing like I expected.

My best calls thus far seem to be pegging the Angels to finish third and not buying into the Blue Jays (although I picked them as a Wild Card team, I pointed out their injury concerns but just had no idea they would be bombarded by so many). Honorable mention would be my support of the Indians' offseason.

My worst calls at this point are counting out the Yankees and Diamondbacks and having any faith at all in the Brewers and Dodgers.

However, I'm not just writing this to toot my own horn. At this point in the season, it's fair to start believing sample sizes. It's time to put stock in the standings. So based on the moves that were made last offseason and where those moves have gotten teams to this point in the season, what is the right way to build a contender?

In January, I focused on four clubs that made significant moves last offseason: the Blue Jays, Braves, Diamondbacks and Royals.

Two of those teams are in first place. Two are already out of playoff contention. So what does it mean? Well, that's a loaded question. Obviously no team — good or bad — is build in one winter. It's a process, as Dayton Moore has found out the hard way. It takes amateur scouting, drafting, international scouting, funding, development, pro scouting, knowing when and who to buy, knowing when and who to sell, and a lot of luck. And a manager who doesn't tinker with his lineups like a teen trying on prom dresses.

The Blue Jays strapped their fate to a handful of players with checkered injury histories (Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson), short track records (R.A. Dickey, Melky Cabrera, Emilio Bonifacio), or who were just over the hill (Mark Buehrle). And they already had players like that on their roster (Brandon Morrow, the rest of the pitching staff, Brett Lawrie and Mark DeRosa).

The lesson? Taking on a handful of players from a 69-93 last-place team and a knuckle-ball-hurling pitcher and combining them with a 73-89 roster might not be a recipe for success. And if you are going to take on such players, they had better have pristine medical records. What's worse, for Royals fans missing Wil Myers, imagine losing Justin Nicolino, Jake Marisnick, Noah Syndergaard and Travis d'Arnaud in the same offseason.

If not for the Blue Jays, the Braves might have had the most eyebrow-raising offseason. They signed B.J. Upton. They then traded for his brother, Justin, basically giving up only Martin Prado and Randall Delgado. They also traded Tommy Hanson for Jordan Walden.

B.J. has been nothing short of atrocious, but his brother has balanced him out, tied for fifth place in all of baseball in home runs. Hanson hasn't been missed because of the Braves' starting pitching depth and Walden has been useful given their need for bullpen arms. If they made a bad move all offseason, it might have been giving big money to B.J. rather than bringing back Michael Bourn. But then maybe Justin wouldn't have wound up in Atlanta, either. So rather than play the "what if" game, let's just look at what they did to get to where they are now — the second-best record in all of baseball.

With Julio Teheran waiting in the wings, they had the luxury of trading an underperforming Tommy Hanson. Teheran just so happened to flirt with a no-hitter today. They don't have a sexy rotation, but all five starters can keep them in games. Although their catcher was hurt for the beginning of the season, a relative unknown in the form of Evan Gattis lit the baseball world on fire and is still contributing in limited at-bats now that Brian McCann is back. Their first baseman, Freddie Freeman, finally seems to be growing into his potential. Their second baseman is a nightmare in so many ways, but he can crush home runs at a position where few players do (Dan Uggla's 10 home runs would lead the Royals by far, by the way). They have a defensive wizard at short and a serviceable third baseman. Combined with Jason Heyward, the Uptons have formed one of the most dynamic, young outfields in baseball. The main concerns for this team are how the bullpen will hold up after a couple years of overuse and whether B.J. Upton can turn things around.

So when you look around the diamond, almost every position was filled from within the organization. Those who weren't — Uggla, Chris Johnson, the Uptons — are finding a way to contribute and the pitching staff has held up. This team was years in the making and the front office just so happened to pounce at the opportunity to land the Upton brothers. So far, the timing seems to be just right.

The Diamondbacks seem to defy all modern baseball logic. They signed Brandon McCarthy, which I liked, but he was shaky to start the season and now he's hurt. They signed Cody Ross. His impact has been minimal other than overcrowding an outfield that doesn't need him. They traded Chris Young for Cliff Pennington, who has been mediocre at best, and Heath Bell, who has miraculously resurrected his career and is now closing games for the club. They also traded former first rounder Trevor Bauer for Didi Gregorius. Bauer is still scuffling while Gregorius already seems to be outperforming expectations. Last but not least, they unloaded Upton for Prado, who has been flatout bad, and Delgado, who has yet to make an impact in the bigs.

That's a whole paragraph of moves and the main contributor from the list is the most unlikely of them all, Heath Bell. Yet they lead the NL West by two games. I'm skeptical that lead will hold, but I'm nonetheless dumfounded they've even been competitive to this point. They've had success, though, because first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has developed into a premiere slugger, Gerardo Parra has been a versatile and dependable outfielder, Eric Chavez has hit like his former self, they've made savvy trades in the past to acquire Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs.

Well, I say that and Parra has been valuable, but nothing close to All-Star caliber, Chavez is hurt, and Kennedy hasn't been particularly good and Skaggs has made just two starts. I still have no idea how the Diamondbacks are winning. Any good moves they've made in the past came long before last offseason. But somehow it's been enough to sustain them in 2013.

Lastly, the Royals. The list: Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, James Shields, Wade Davis and George Kottaras.

Guthrie has gotten by with smoke and mirrors. Santana is showing how much he wants a big payday next offseason. Shields has done his part but received less than no support, proving just how valuable an "ace" is on a bad team (Didn't Zack Greinke already prove this theory? Felix Hernandez?). Wade Davis has been nothing short of Wade Davis. And George Kottaras is but one man. Not even he could make the Royals a legit contender.

Why didn't these moves turn the Royals into winners? Unlike Freeman or Goldschmidt, Eric Hosmer has not developed into an above-average first baseman. If anything, he's one of the league's worst. Second base is a black hole. Alcides Escobar is a defensive wizard, but has no business hitting first or second. If not for Mike Moustakas, Hosmer would seem like a lost cause. That's because Moustakas might be the worst everyday regular in the bigs. Even worse than Jeff Francoeur, who had no business as the Royals' everyday right fielder coming into the season. Lorenzo Cain has been better than expected and has managed to stay healthy, but has displayed Michael Bourn-like power without Bourn-like speed. Sadly, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler are still the only players of consequence in the Royals' lineup.

As for the rotation, a rotation that includes Shields, Santana and Guthrie could be the makings of a playoff rotation. The problem is Dayton Moore has whiffed on so many draft picks and his minor league staff has failed so miserably at developing pitching, they've had to use Wade Davis and Luis Mendoza as fourth and fifth starters. If the Royals had a legitimate No. 1b or No. 2 starting pitcher, which you'd expect from a No. 1 draft pick instead of Luke Hochevar, and even a decent No. 5 starter, instead of Aaron Crow in middle relief, they could have been a .500 team this year. But Moore has proven incapable of turning amateur pitchers into big league contributors.

So when it comes to the right way to building a contender, the answer is what we already knew — there is no quick fix. You can be a team on the brink and make a few moves to push your club over the top. But no perennial loser turns into a winner overnight. Not without a cache of prospects emerging from within the system. Then again, no well-run organization has their young players emerge all at once. Success comes with a steady stream of talent from the farm and the Royals are nowhere close to that even after seven years of waiting. And losing.

Speaking of the draft, it's time for my prediction for the Royals' first pick. I'll give you a few hints first.

He's a physical specimen.

He has 500-home run potential.

He's already written a best-selling book.

He's a member of the Fort Worth Cats — a huge plus in Dayton Moore's book seeing how he's drafted two in the first round in seven years.

He's had a little legal trouble.

The mystery prospect?

Jose Canseco!

I'm pretty sure MLB would allow it. It's preoccupied with its latest witch hunt.

Fire Dayton Moore