Tomorrow, July 2nd, marks the beginning of the international signing period. The Royals are expected to land one of the top Latin free agents by signing Nicaraguan 3B-Cheslor Cuthbert to an expected bonus of $1 million to $1.5 million. Cuthbert will most likely be the only high profile prospect the Royals land, but they are expected to target several of the second tier talents. I will be closely watching their activity starting tomorrow since one of Dayton Moore’s stated goals when he took the job as Royals GM was to increase the team’s presence in Latin America. To date he has followed through and the Royals have started to become larger players in the region. The Cuthbert signing will be another result of those efforts, and a significant one at that. Cuthbert may flame out and never get near the ML roster but that is immaterial. Regardless of how Cheslor’s career pans out, long gone are the days under Allard Baird that the Royals were shopping in the bargain bins of the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and other Latin American countries. Long gone are the days when their typical bonus payment was not to exceed $25,000. Not only are the Royals going to land Cuthbert, they are expected to pay out $100,000+ bonuses to several other prospects. Again, regardless of the results, the importance in these efforts is simply that legitimate effort is being made.
I bring this back up on the heels of yet another loss, another series of puzzling managerial decisions, and the rapidly approaching trade deadline. Dayton Moore is starting to come under fire for several questionable trades, bad contracts given to free agents, and poor free agent signings in general. However the drafts he has presided over look to provide better returns than recent drafts prior to his arrival. Naturally much of this can be attributed to the additional financial backing and freedom he has been provided when compared to that of his predecessor. Then again, it is in part due to Moore’s own demands prior to taking the job that the Glass family has provided him with that financial freedom to draft and sign the best talent available.
Dayton gets my approval for the Royals increased scouting and spending in the international FA market. He also gets my approval for his 2007-2009 draft classes. While we won’t know the results of those picks for several more years, there is no doubt that they were taking the best talent available to them. His free agent signings have largely been met with my indifference, but tend to be on the wrong side when all is said and done. Okay the Farnsworth and Bloomquist signings made me really mad but Dayton was right on Bloomers and had no hope of being right on Farnsworth based on the amound of money he was signed for. Moore has often come out on the wrong end of trades, but he has yet to move one of the Royals major pieces, so I hold out hope that he can successfully pull off the major deal. All that said, there is no longer any doubt in my mind that Dayton Moore’s biggest mistake as GM has been hiring Trey Hillman to manage this team.
Those of you who read my work routinely have witnessed the evolution of my opinion on Trey Hillman. Before the season started, I was unsure about him but gave him the benefit of the doubt with respect to his potential as a manager. I dismissed many of his mistakes and failings last year as learning on the job. This year I was mystified by early decisions he made, but he seemed to be learn from them and adapt. Slowly my confidence in him has all but eroded. His mismanagement of his lineup and bullpen and his curious pinch hitting patterns and defensive substitutions have, to put it nicely, “frustrated” me. On top of all that he shows no consistency in his decision making. One minute he is managing by his gut, and the next minute he goes by the numbers. I am fine with a guy preferring to manage one way or another but the constant back and forth is not beneficial to the team.
Up until today I have been on board with the stance that firing Trey Hillman prior to the offseason would have little long term benefit to the organization. At the very least waiting till the conclusion of the 2009 season would afford Dayton Moore to pick from a larger pool of replacement candidates. After his usage of Gil Meche, on the heels of his dead arm and concerns about his ability to make today’s start I am now in the fire Trey Hillman now camp. While firing Trey and replacing him with John Gibbons as interim manager may not make the Royals any better for the remainder of 2009. I am completely confident that Gibbons will make better in-game decisions and command more respect in the locker room. As an added bonus using Gibbons as interim manage still allows Moore to pursue all candidates he deems worthy in the offseason.
Players aren’t stupid. You think they weren’t muttering under their breath when Meche went back out for the 6th inning? You think they can just dismiss all of the inconsistencies and questionable decision making simply because he is the team’s manager? I don’t buy it for a second, and you shouldn’t either. Trey has to go folks. Not at the end of the season, but right now.