Based on comments made this week by GM Dayton Moore, the Royals are doing things differently this off-season. After coming up just short of a wild card in 2013, the team appears to be on the verge of making a move (Or two. Or three.) this off-season that will send a message of a “win now” mentality, rather than strictly planning for the future.
Moore, in an interview with Royals beat writer Bob Dutton, indicated the team is willing to lose its first round pick in the 2014 draft. This, in my opinion, is a huge statement. Why? Well, if you’re a die-hard fan you are fully aware of Dayton Moore and his “process.” If you are unaware, the process basically consists of building a top-notch farm system to give the franchise a pipeline of affordable talent. By keeping the team mostly homegrown, you have affordable young talent under control for a good chunk of time, and you hope that these guys all reach their potential at roughly the same time. It’s a sound plan for a small market team. I don’t have a big problem with it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve criticized Moore’s strict adherence to this plan in the past. I’ve always wondered why can’t we do a little of both? Why can’t we plan ahead while trying win at the same time? It’s not impossible. Other organizations do it. But for the last several years, there has been a string of seasons in which the fans are asked, year after year, to be patient. Just wait…these guys are developing. Eventually we’re going to be good.
So why is the recent statement so huge? Well, in years past, Moore wouldn’t DREAM of surrendering a draft pick…especially a first round pick. He’s got a knack for finding good talent in the draft (some would debate this, of course), so why give up that pick? Well…because the team wants to win RIGHT NOW. And for the first time since Moore took the reigns here in KC, that is a viable plan.
Last year, after years of losing seasons followed by unexciting off-seasons, Moore shocked everyone. After the 2012 season, prize prospect Wil Myers was traded for veteran pitcher James Shields. This went against everything fans thought Moore stood for. Trading away a player the Royals could keep in Kansas City at a rock bottom price for the next handful of years for a guy with two years left on his contract. People either loved or hated the move. But there’s no denying…it worked. Pretty much. Shields, along with fellow trade acquisition Ervin Santana, led the team through an exciting season. The team fell short of the postseason, but managed a winning season (the first since 2003) and stayed in the hunt until the very end. The Royals were, and still are, back on the map.
If the Myers trade was the “shot heard ‘round the world” that signified a change…the willingness to lose a first round pick, while not as bold as a blockbuster trade, really cements the intent of the front office to win now. I had written off Kansas City’s pursuit of any free agent with a qualifying offer because of the lost draft pick. This, however, opens the door to players I think most people assumed were completely out of the picture.
Is this a complete shift away from the usual business model? No…not really. I think the basics are still in place. Scout well, draft well, and build from within. But this off-season, for the first time in a very long time, the Royals aren’t looking to sign stopgap journeymen while players like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Salvador Perez develop in the minors. This year, Moore gets to roll up his sleeves and try like to put the right pieces in place. For a team constantly waiting on the future…it seems the future has finally arrived.