Fire Dayton Moore

Fire Dayton Moore
It's time.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Well, that doesn't add up

Today, news broke that the Royals signed a left-handed pitcher. This pitcher has posted a 4.32 ERA and 1.34 WHIP since 2009. This pitcher has produced 6.6 WAR since 2009. He did this over the course of 670.1 innings, going back and forth between a starting and long relief role. And the Royals signed this pitcher for $3.25 million in 2014 with a $1 million buyout for 2015, so $4.25 million, in all.

In November, the Royals signed a left-handed pitcher, too. That pitcher has posted a 4.07 ERA and 1.28 WHIP since 2009. That pitcher produced 7.5 WAR since 2009. He accomplished this over the course of 852.2 innings, exclusively as a starter — although two times pitching 150 innings or fewer in a season. The Royals gave this pitcher a four-year, $32 million contract — $8 million per season.

Odds are you already know who these pitchers are. If you don't, Pitcher A is 36-year-old Bruce Chen and Pitcher B is Jason Vargas, who turns 31 on Sunday. In the grand scheme, Vargas is by no means expensive and being five years younger than someone like Bruce Chen does translate into more money and more years. However, what doesn't add up is that Dayton Moore signed both pitchers over the course of the same offseason.

They're the same pitcher! And now the Royals have to burn two roster spots on redundancy. On a roster, might I remind you, that doesn't have a whole lot of wiggle room.

A Royals team that already includes James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Danny Duffy and Wade Davis in it's rotation, Luke Hochevar on the fringes and prospects like Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer on the horizon, does not need Jason Vargas AND Bruce Chen.

And on a Royals team that already has Greg Holland, Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Kelvin Herrera, Louis Coleman, Francisley Bueno, Donnie Joseph, Chris Dwyer, the aforementioned Hochevar, AND just DFA'd Everett Teaford to make room on the 40-man for Carlos Peguero, where exactly does a swing man like Chen come in?

Going into this offseason, the Royals had three glaring needs and X amount of dollars to spend. The money aspect of that equation isn't privy to me or anyone reading this (unless...Hi Dayton! Thanks for reading!) but even the most casual fan could point out Kansas City's needs. Right field. Second base. Starting pitching. And if you wanted to get picky, a backup option at third base could also come in handy.

Enter Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante. Two holes filled at reasonable prices, even if Aoki only fills the RF hole for one season. Then Dayton Moore traded a surplus in David Lough for Danny Valencia, a terrific platoon option for Mike Moustakas, should the Royals choose to go that route. Here's where things get foggy.

Moore came out of the offseason gates signing Jason Vargas. Starting rotation fixed? It wouldn't have been my solution, but money-wise and numbers-wise, there didn't seem to be room for another outside option.

Then Moore trades for Carlos Peguero, because I guess five outfielders aren't enough, and has to DFA Teaford, signaling that the bullpen doesn't need any more help — especially in the lefty department. If it doesn't have a use for Teaford, who's posted a 4.25 ERA and 1.32 WHIP with 63 strikeouts to 35 walks in parts of three seasons for the Royals, then surely the last thing Dayton Moore would go out and spend more money on is a lefty reliever. Right?

Wrong! Then Moore burns $4.25 million on Chen on Thursday.

For an organization that seem to fret over every $1 million it spends, it sure has a knack for throwing away millions of dollars on bit players, rather than using a lump sum of that money on a useful piece.

For example, while Dayton Moore was busy getting his ducks in a row for meaningless Peguero and Chen moves, the Brewers swooped in and signed Matt Garza to a team-friendly four-year, $50 million deal ($12.5 million per with millions in deferred money and multiple performance bonuses and a vesting option for a fifth year). Add up the $8 million Vargas is making this year and the $4.25 million Moore just guaranteed Chen and the Royals could have almost paid the first year of Garza's salary. And the team still has $24 million committed to Vargas after this year — a price tag Vargas will struggle to live up to. That would have paid more than half of the rest of Garza's deal.

With Garza, yes, there is injury risk involved, thus all the performance bonuses written into his deal with the Brewers. However, looking at the Royals rotation, wouldn't he be an ideal No. 2 behind Shields with small-market, No. 1 upside after Shields walks? Yes, he would and yes he does. Because Guthrie isn't a No. 2, not even in a small market. And he sure as hell isn't a No. 1 as we look toward 2015. As an added bonus, Garza wouldn't have cost the Royals a first round draft pick either.

I shouldn't be surprised. I knew this was coming. I knew Vargas wouldn't be the only head-scratcher acquisition this offseason and Moore didn't disappoint. Not only did he add Vargas, but he went on to acquire his doppelganger. Now the Royals must fit the following players onto their 25-man.

Pitchers: Bruce Chen, Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, Wade Davis, Danny Duffy, Chris Dwyer, Jeremy Guthrie, Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar, Greg Holland, Donnie Joseph, James Shields, Jason Vargas. Catchers: Brett Hayes, Francisco Pena, Salvador Perez. Infielders: Emilio Bonifacio, Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer, Omar Infante, Mike Moustakas, Danny Valencia. Outfielders: Norichika Aoki, Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, Alex Gordon, Justin Maxwell, Carlos Peguero. DH: Billy Butler.

That's 30 names. Cutting one of the catchers out of the mix is the most obvious move, but that still leaves four more names to cut out. And I didn't even list Pedro Ciriaco or Johnny Giavotella. Dayton Moore has nickel and dimed his way into having too many bit players and too few horses in what is a make-or-break year.

With the benefit of hindsight, what would have been so difficult about approaching the offseason like this: Sign Bruce Chen right off the bat. Moore has his backend starter who can move to the bullpen when Yordano Ventura or Kyle Zimmer are ready. Done. Move on. Trade for Norichika Aoki. Sign Omar Infante. Trade for Danny Valencia. What is this? Oh my gosh, it's January and the market has stalled on Matt Garza/Ervin Santana/Ubaldo Jimenez? No way! Well I've got all this money I saved by not signing a fringe starting pitcher long-term. Oh, what the hell. Hey Garza/Santana/Jimenez, here's a four-year, $50 million offer. First one to say 'Yes' gets it!

Worst case scenario, Garza/Santana/Jimenez all pass and Moore still feels the need to sign a pitcher. Vargas or a pitcher of his caliber is still out there and might even take less money or fewer years out of desperation. There are always pitchers of Vargas' caliber available. Or Moore decides he doesn't need to sign another pitcher, saves that money, and trusts Ventura to round out the rotation, which he's more than capable of doing.

Look, Dayton Moore has made some good moves this offseason and not just by his standards. I have no complaints with the Aoki and Infante deals. I would like the Valencia deal more if I thought Ned Yost would take advantage of it. Chen isn't even a bad signing, but it wasn't necessary with Vargas already in place and a bullpen overflowing with arms.

The Peguero trade was useless, but maybe Moore owed the Mariners a favor and Teaford probably wasn't going to be much of a factor in 2014 regardless. But the Vargas deal still sticks out as a foolish move to rush out to make in November. And next November after the Royals fail to make the playoffs again while Matt Garza resurrects his career as a Brewer, maybe then Royals fans will rally to...

-Fire Dayton Moore

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

An Open Letter to Royals Fans (not from David Glass but kinda)

Today another Royals blog issued an open letter to David Glass. You can read it here. All I will say about it is: A) It is overtly pie-in-the-sky (I mean, it entertained the notion that Glass could actually make the Wil Myers trade less questionable) yet B) it probably echoes the thoughts of a majority of Royals fans.

I'm not trying to start an internet feud with another Royals blog but seeing how Glass isn't likely to issue a response to this letter, I guess I might as well draft one for him.

Dear Kansas City Royals fans,

I actually do know all of you. Our new ticketing system logs your finger prints as you enter the stadium and we've developed a surveillance system that performs retina scans through your televisions as you watch games from home. (I like what you've done with your "Man Cave," Chuck!)

First of all, I resent you accusing me of attempting to turn the Royals into a "personal ATM." Perhaps you meant "human ATMs." I may or may not have sent Chris Getz to make a deposit here or there for me, but that's none of your business. And I'm neither confirming nor denying that I have asked players promoted from Double A Northwest Arkansas to Triple A Omaha to make withdrawals for me at my bank in Northwest Arkansas and drop the cash off at the Royals offices before they head to Omaha. And I'm certainly not verifying speculation that one of those players was one Johnny Giavotella and, in a show of appreciation for such a favor, I allowed him to appear in 113 career MLB games. I'm not.

However, what I am doing is pointing out my unquestionable investment in putting a winning product on the field at Kauffman Stadium (even though the stadium itself does nothing but steal homers and walks from the very players who call it home). You'll notice in 2012, I spent nearly $61 million on payroll. Only the Astros, Athletics and Padres spent less. But in 2013, I sold a few summer homes, turned in the keys to several cars I was leasing and did some things I'm not proud of to allow myself to up my team's payroll to nearly $81.5 million. I didn't attend no fancy Ivy League school but that's nearly a 34 percent increase in team salary. That placed the Royals 19th in payroll in all of baseball and less than $2 million away from Milwaukee at No. 18.

Did any of that sink in? KANSAS FREAKING CITY was almost in the top half of baseball in spending last year! And how did you "loyal" fans repay me? By having the fifth worst attendance in the game. Barely over 20,000 a game. Pitiful. Minnesota averaged just under 10,000 more fans and the Twins were the third worst team in the league. The White Sox were even worse and averaged more fans per game. The Angels and Phillies were dumpster fires last season and both had more than 15,000 more fans per game. Please, tell me again about how looooooooooooooyal you Royals fans are.

I spent more than FOUR owners who saw their teams reach the playoffs last season: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Oakland and Tampa Bay. Meanwhile the Houston Astros paid their players in Texas-themed belt buckles and became the most profitable MLB team in history. As much as you seem to think it would benefit me to spend and spend on this team, it doesn't. I'd make far more money by cutting payroll 34 percent.

And I put all that money into the team despite ranking 29th on Forbes' list of most valuable MLB franchises last year. (Gee, I bet the team would be worth more if a prospective buyer knew they were buying a team that could record sell-outs on days besides Opening Day and when the Yankees, Red Sox and Cardinals are in town.)

I can't say for sure where our payroll will stack up this season, but with the signings of Jason Vargas and Omar Infante and trades for Norichika Aoki and Danny Valencia, it should go without saying I'm not backing off my commitment to this franchise and our quest to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1985.

I get it. The Royals have been the butt of countless jokes and you've remained loyal and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Know what other franchise hasn't won in forever? The Chicago Cubs. Not only are they known as the "lovable losers" but now they have a mascot more lovable than ours! If anything, we should try to see just how long our playoff futility can last and knock those highfalutin Cubs off their pedestal!!!

Face it. You live in Kansas City. What else are you gonna do? Go to the Zoo every weekend? Become regulars out at The Legends? Be a good husband and finally take your wife to the New Theater Restaurant? The Royals are the only show in town in the summer, bud, and the only one who can tell me how much to spend on them is, well, me.

Truth is, I think we can win as currently constructed. I think we will win as currently constructed. But Ervin Santana isn't going to turn us into World Series contenders. So why spend the money?

As for Masahiro Tanaka? Are you serious? Sure, I could afford the $20 million posting fee but the Yankees and Dodgers and maybe the Angels, Cubs or Rangers are all fully capable of offering more than $100 million for him on top of that. One report said his price tag could near $150 million. And even if I could scrape together that much dough, I'd still have to convince him to want to play in Kansas City. Do you realize Tanaka would have to have an insatiable desire — no, fetish — for BBQ to place Kansas City atop his list of teams to pitch for?

As for extending Shields, the timing isn't right. If this team blows up in my face, afterall, I'll probably be instructing my GM to trade Shields in July, don't ya think? If anything, I might be able to splurge for Santana on a one-year deal, but don't expect much more before Opening Day.

The way I see it, we have MVP-caliber players at catcher and first base. We have a competent, full-time second baseman for the first time since 2009. (Thanks for finally noticing Dayton!) Our third baseman has a capable backup and if he doesn't get his ass in gear he'll soon find himself serving as the backup. Our shortstop won't be able to hit himself out of a wet pair of edible underwear but he's going to field more smoothly than a silk brassiere. Our left fielder is one of the most complete left fielders in the game. Center field is a bit of a weakness, but it shouldn't be a hindrance if we can avoid major injuries. And...let me check...yes, our right fielder is no longer Jeff Francoeur so we're set there, too. And our bullpen will be one of the best and deepest in baseball again.

As for the rotation, we have a proven frontline starter in James Shields. Our 2-4 leave a lot to be desired and our fifth starter has no business being a starter — nor does his top competitor for that spot (hint: he was a No. 1 pick that I regret even more than the Myers trade and, yes, Dayton Moore was responsible for that draft pick). But in reality, those guys are just placeholders for when Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer are ready to join the big league club. Why spend millions of dollars to fill holes we can fill internally?

Given our incremental improvements and the Detroit Tigers' incremental setbacks, the Royals can compete in the American League Central in 2014. Even if we don't win the division, the Cleveland Indians made the playoffs last year with a rotation of Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir, Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister. I already think the 2014 Royals are a more complete team than the 2013 Indians and they've done little to improve this offseason.

In reality, the Red Sox and Rays are going to take two playoff spots. The Athletics or Rangers will win the AL West. So that means we either have to beat the Tigers outright and take the division or feast on an easier division and finish with a better record than the No. 2 team out of the West. Simple as that.

If a bold move is needed in July, I'll open the checkbook again. But that's contingent on the team Dayton Moore has constructed competing the first three months of the season.

If you don't like that, maybe you should have expressed more outrage over me hiring and sticking with a GM who's now in YEAR EIGHT without a playoff appearance. If you don't like that, maybe you should have protested a little louder when I allowed our GM to ship off our best hitting prospect at a position of immediate need for a two-year rental pitcher when there were numerous free agents I would have gladly paid for instead. If you don't like that, maybe the twitter account Fire Dayton Moore should have more than 90 fucking followers! If you don't like that, maybe more than 44 people should have signed their fucking petition to have Dayton Moore fired!

If there are soooooooooooooooooooooooo many passionate Royals fans out there, as you claim there are, then the man most responsible for where the Royals have been the last eight seasons should be held responsible — if not by me, then by you. I've put up the money. I'll continue to put up the money until I either die or sell the team.

But the Pirates, Indians, Athletics and Rays proved last season it's not all about the money. It's about putting the right pieces in place. I'm not qualified to put those pieces in place. So don't blame me for that. If you want to blame me for choosing the wrong man to assemble those pieces and if you want to blame me for keeping this man under my employ for too long, then you have a point. Until then, keep your open letters to yourself.

(not) David Glass

P.S. If you want to blame me for hiring a man who supposedly appeared in a film called "Mayor Cupcake," that might trump my entire catalogue of missteps.

-Fire Dayton Moore

Monday, January 13, 2014

Every silver lining has a cloud

Maybe it's because I'm from the Midwest. Maybe it's because I'm a Kansas City sports fan. Maybe it's because I have a mental illness (most likely). Regardless, whenever things are going well, I brace for detonation. I assume it's all about to blow up in my face.

Oh, you're starting to have feelings for that girl? Wait for it. She's even crazier than you and has actually been stock-piling things you do that annoy her like a survivalist hoarding canned goods and she's about to tell you about them all. Oh, you left with time to spare for that job interview? Wait for it. Traffic is going to be backed up for no reason and everyone else on the road is going to drive like zombies with nowhere to be but in your way. Oh, that Pad Thai tasted as good as any you've ever had? Wait for it. That chicken wasn't fully cooked.

I don't wish this worldview on anyone, but mine probably isn't going to change without professional help any time soon. Which leads me to the Royals offseason.

To this point, my biggest complaint was throwing a 4-year, $32 million contract in the direction of Jason Vargas before the offseason had seemingly even begun (Nov. 21 to be exact). Other than that, Dayton Moore has pretty much proven capable of running a Major League team.

Then today reports surfaced that had observers singing Moore's praises as being "ahead of the curve." The reports were that Dayton Moore and the Royals created $3 million in payroll space for the 2014 season by restructuring Jeremy Guthrie's contract.

Instead of making $11 million in 2014, Guthrie will make the same $8 million Vargas will make. In return, the Royals and Guthrie have a mutual option for 2016 worth $10 million and if the Royals decide to decline, there's a $3.2 million buyout. In other words, when the Royals decide not to bring Guthrie back after 2015, he will have earned $200,000 "interest" on the $3 million he forfeited this year.

Yes, on the surface, this looks like an incredible windfall for Moore and the Royals.

"Yay, the Royals have a whopping extra $3 million to spend on free agency! Surely that will bridge the gap to bringing back Ervin Santana!!!"

I'm sure these are the inner thoughts of the average Royals fan. However, the deeper I dig, the more skeptical I become. Here's why:

  1. Moore stated Guthrie agreed to restructure back in November. He didn't offer an exact day, but it stands to reason it was before the Vagas deal.

    So if we continue under that assumption, why the hell did the Royals bother signing Vargas if they knew they had an extra $3 million to play with? They could have brought in Scott Feldman instead for the 3-year, $30 million deal the Astros gave him and acquired a more complete and capable pitcher with a shorter commitment.

    Or the Royals could have passed on the likes of Vargas and Feldman altogether and saved those theoretical $11 million (from Guthrie and Vargas) and used it as the base for an offer to Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez or Matt Garza.

    In short, for Moore to enter the offseason knowing he had $3 million coming off Guthrie's deal and still make Vargas his first acquisition makes even less sense than it did at the time. And to be clear, it made no sense to sign a pitcher of Vargas' caliber in November.
  2. There is no guarantee Moore spends this money wisely.

    It can easily be argued Moore has already misspent the $32 million he committed to Vargas. I'm not going to speculate as to who Moore might be targeting as Spring Training approaches. For all we know, he's combing the Dominican Summer Leagues for the next Miguel Tejada. And there's no guarantee such a signing would work out so well this time around.

    But looking at the roster and non-roster Spring Training invites, the Royals are set at catcher and around the infield. I'm not in love with an outfield of Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Norichika Aoki with Justin Maxwell coming off the bench, but it's hard to imagine upgrading from that foursome at this point. Giancarlo Stanton ain't walking through that door.

    The bullpen is probably still overstocked, so there shouldn't be any new developments there unless it has to do with shipping someone out. So that leaves...drumroll...upgrading a starting rotation that still includes Wade Davis.

    With the payroll now reported to be a little below $90 million, though, unless ownership is willing to approach or surpass $100 million, that $3 million is merely a fraction of what it would cost to bring in a difference-making arm.

    If anything, that $3 million will only grease the wheels in a Kendrys Morales deal that would make no sense.*

    *If you follow us on twitter (@FireDaytonMoore) maybe you've seen my take on the Morales rumors already. If not, well, I think signing Morales would be one of the most foolish things Moore has ever done as Royals GM. First, it would cost the Royals their first round draft pick in 2014. Secondly, and most obviously, the team already has an accomplished DH in Billy Butler. Third, while it might sound ideal to be able to sign Morales and turn around and trade Butler for an impact starting pitcher, I would just like to know what team that needs a DH is going to ignore Morales' presence but fall over itself to trade anything of value for Butler (who has a $12.5 million option for 2015 and then becomes a free agent). No team, that's what.
    What worries me most about Morales is I've seen the reports that have listed the Royals as a team seriously pursuing him. And if there's one thing about Dayton Moore, it's that where there's smoke, there's usually fire. There were whispers about the Wil Myers-for-James Shields deal long before it went down. And no matter how asinine a move might seem to the average observer, Moore is still fully capable of pulling the trigger. See: Jeff Francoeur, Yuniesky Betancourt, Jonathan Sanchez.

    So believe it or not, this payroll relief could do more harm than good.
  3. Finally, there's no guarantee Moore is going to sign anyone.

    In all likelihood, he's already made the moves he wanted to make with this salary flexibility. The Vargas and Omar Infante signings both came after the agreement with Guthrie. So did the Aoki and Danny Valencia trades.

    As boring as it might sound, perhaps that $3 million simply allows the Royals to retain the services of Emilio Bonifacio, who some thought might be moved to free up a spot on the 25-man roster.**

    **If the Royals elect to go with 13 pitchers, it's going to be a tight fit filling out the other 12 spots and that's even when you assume Jarrod Dyson is out of the outfield mix. Personally, if there's any team that would benefit from having 13 position players, I think it's the Royals. And, personally, if there's any team that could get by with 12 pitchers, I think it could be the Royals. At least until Davis' first start of the season.

When it comes down to it, there were probably too many words written or spoken about Guthrie restructuring his deal compared to what will result from it. Most likely, Royals fans have already witnessed the fruits from Guthrie's generosity. I suspect it might have been crucial to the Infante signing, so for that, Guthrie is to be commended.

But as far as I can tell, unless a handful of Guthrie's teammates step forward and make a similar gesture, the Royals' next big move isn't going down until July, if even then. And if that disappoints you, be careful what you wish for. Moore could still sign Kendrys Morales and suddenly you'll find yourself looking at a team with two designated hitters that nobody else wants.

A Dayton Moore bomb is going off. It's just a matter of time.

-Fire Dayton Moore