On Monday, Royals owner David Glass told Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that he’d do whatever it took to improve the Royals starting pitching in 2013.
That’s a great statement for Royals fans to see, but it’s easy to be skeptical. For years, fans, writers, and radio hosts have vilified Glass for being stingy. A former chairman and CEO of Walmart, his penny-pinching ways have been criticized often. Some of that is earned. For years with Allard Baird as General Manager, Glass wouldn’t invest in the minor leagues, taking draft picks who were signable rather than talented and skimping on scouting. Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran were traded away when the team couldn’t afford a contract extension with them.
The perception is that Glass won’t spend money on free agents or established Royals.
It’s reached the point that campaigns have been built up to compel Glass to sell the team, including banners over Arrowhead Stadium and an advertisement in the Kansas City Star.
So yeah, I can get it when a lot of fans say “I’ll believe it when I see it.” It’s easy to say that you’ll spend the money. It’s another to actually do it.
The encouraging thing to note is that Glass addressed the question at all. He’s not one for these sorts of statements and often doesn’t do a lot of interviews unless it’s an event like the All-Star Game.
“Our bullpen,” he said, “I’ll stack it up against anybody in our division. Our position players, too. We just need some additional help in starting pitching. We get that, and were competitive.” – Glass to Dutton in the Star.
While the Royals watch other small market teams like the Nationals and Orioles fight for playoff spots (or clinch them in Washington’s case), Kansas City still fights to surpass 70 wins every year. This year, the weakness was known to be starting pitching, but the Royals said they were comfortable where they were and didn’t want to block any prospects. Then injuries happened and none of the prospects came up. Any free agent pitching they could have had was on other teams and the Royals were left scraping together a rotation.
This year, the feeling is that they’ll have to go out and get two starters to get on track towards a playoff spot. Free agent pitching isn’t cheap. It’s reasonable to wonder if Glass is aware of what he’s committing himself to here. Will he balk at the cost when it’s apparent that he’ll have to commit $30, $40, $50 million to a free agent? Will he only allow Moore to offer a certain amount to get pitching? Could that lead to lowball offers that are easily dismissed? These are my concerns.
“I have no idea yet of who will be on the market or what it will cost at this point in time. We’re going to have to figure all of that out.”
Perhaps just as concerning is the reputation of Dayton Moore. He’s been very good at finding players who were left at the side of the road and turning them into something. Ask Felipe Paulino, Jeremy Guthrie or Melky Cabrera about that. He’s struggled when the big acquisitions of big league talent come into play. He can afford to hit on the misfits because they’re easy to discard if they fail, but when he has a big check to hand out, Jose Guillen ends up on the team. Gil Meche gets more money than the market warrants. Jeff Francoeur ends up signed to an albatross of an extension. Yuniesky Betancourt is signed at four times the cost of a capable utility player like Tony Abreu or Irving Falu.
Step one is getting Glass prepared to hand out the cash. Step two is using it wisely. Since Moore has taken over, he’s brought the payroll over $60 million in a season four times. Glass has given him the money. Moore just hasn’t used it very well in many cases.
The test will be this offseason. The Royals have been profitable and they’re coming off of a season where the baseball world was focused on Kauffman Stadium for the All-Star Game. Additionally, a deal for TV rights between baseball and ESPN will give the Royals more money as well (though Rany Jazayerli keenly points out that other teams will have money too, so while the Royals can spend more, other teams can too, so there may not be a net advantage here). Bottom line is that the Royals will have the cash to go after players. Glass says he’s willing to spend it. Saying and doing are two different things, however.
My personal opinion is that Glass is the boogeyman. It’s always easy to blame the boss. The idea that he hasn’t put money towards the team is a misguided one. It could be suggested that he hasn’t put enough money towards the team, though. That’s the scenario he’s saying he’ll correct this offseason.
As Royals fans, we’re conditioned to sneer at promises to increase payroll and roll our eyes at the idea that “we’re ready to compete this year”. Patience has worn thin. There’s a great amount of cynicism about Glass’s statement coming on the same day that season ticket renewal forms went out to many holders. Coincidence or calculation?
If what Glass says turns out to be true, though, I don’t think anyone will care. Fans want a winner. We recognize that starting pitching is the big deficiency on the roster. Glass has now stated that he’ll address it.
If he does, Sam Mellinger says he can turn the narrative around. If he doesn’t, he’s going to need to install a moat around Kauffman Stadium and take out insurance against angry mobs, torches and pitchforks. He has an opportunity not only to infuse new talent into the team, but also to win some games and win some good favor with Kansas City. All of those are beneficial to the Royals and to Glass.
Now he just has to make good. But will he?
— Sam Mellinger (@mellinger) September 24, 2012