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Dayton Moore's Role in Royals' Payroll Problems

This week, there has been quite a bit of criticism lobbed at David Glass for not increasing the team’s payroll in 2014 to accommodate adding Ervin Santana or another impact starting pitcher in free agency. In my opinion, much of that criticism is deserved. With the new television money coming to teams this year, and with the amount of money Glass has made since owning the Royals, having a payroll at or slightly above $100 million, even if it’s just for one season, sounds reasonable enough to most fans. Increasing the payroll to add that final piece could result in a playoff appearance, which could result in more dollars in Glass’ pockets. But alas, it appears Glass is content to keep a payroll that ranks in the bottom half of the league, and the Royals will begin the season needing to rely on a lot of improvement from young players in order to contend. Glass deserves blame for that.

He doesn’t, however, deserve all of the blame for that.

David Glass allowed the team’s payroll to reach a record high in 2013, and it’s going to be even higher in 2014. While I don’t believe Glass is set to lose money on a payroll of $90 million, that amount of money is enough with which to compete. The Rays, Athletics, and Pirates have all proven it doesn’t require a top five payroll to win games. It helps to have money, but teams that wisely allocate the resources they do have can find success. The Royals have sufficient resources to build a playoff roster. The problem, of course, is that the Royals’ front office has not used those resources efficiently.

Dayton Moore gave a four year, $32 million contract to Jason Vargas in November. While I think Vargas is a solid back of the rotation pitcher, and while his $8 million average annual value is far from crippling, it once again appears that Moore jumped the gun in free agency. Players similar to Vargas in value have signed in recent weeks for less money, and fewer years. There are currently two more talented starting pitchers still available on the market who may sign for something close to Vargas’ money, in Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. I have some doubts about both pitchers duplicating their 2013 seasons, but they at least have that front of the rotation ability, which Vargas lacks. Again, I like Vargas just fine as a number four starter, but Moore pretty clearly misjudged the market on this one.

Despite the signing of Vargas, Moore still could have enough money to go after a pitcher like Santana, except he’s paying a couple of relievers and a fifth starter a combined $13 million in 2014.

Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis are solid relievers. Bruce Chen is a decent fifth starter. The Royals have approximately 68 solid relievers. The Royals have a handful of fifth starters. I’m being redundant by saying those players are redundant, but they’re redundant.

Spending that kind of money on those kinds of players, in isolation, is fine. However, Moore had to know what the team’s budget would be when he entered this offseason. He knew how much money he could spend in free agency. He knew these things, and yet, he is still spending a large chunk of his budget on players whose value could be duplicated by other players at a lower cost.

It’s basic budgeting. If I know I have $100 to spend on groceries every week (let’s say I have a large family or a large appetite), I need to look for ways to stretch my dollars. That might be buying store brand pasta noodles that are nearly identical to the higher-priced name brand. Or that might be not buying a gallon of ketchup every week because my pantry is already stocked with the stuff. I know my limitations, so I have to use my resources wisely.

The Royals roster, as currently constructed, is good. I’m sure it sounds like I’m down on this team, but I’m really not. Moore has built a good team. I just don’t think it’s good enough to win the division, and it might not be good enough to win a Wild Card. A higher payroll budget from Glass would help, but the money he has put forth, if spent efficiently, is absolutely enough to build a playoff-caliber roster. Unfortunately, Moore has tied his own hands this winter by spending his budget in a less-than-ideal fashion.

Glass is far from a perfect owner. I would love it if he turned into the kind of team owner that just pours money into the roster and does whatever it takes to finance a winning club. Sadly, we know that David Glass is not that guy. However, Glass’ frugality should not exclude Moore from criticism. When it comes to the Royals’ budget problems, there is plenty of blame to go around.

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Tags: David Glass Dayton Moore Kansas City Royals

  • unclejesse40

    The longer this offseason has gone on the more I go back to a point I made several months back. The Royals are taking a page out of the Carl Peterson how to run a sports franchise book. Bring in a lot of solid average players that if all things go right “could” be a fringe all star and if all things go wrong they still aren’t really all that bad. It gives the appearance of building a winning franchise but with less of the likelihood that you are going to embarrass yourself and be out of contention by the all star break. I think Glass liked having a team that still had people interested in Sept. but he didn’t like it enough to push that into Oct.

  • Chad Woelk

    Good article and speaks the truth. I have no problem with keeping Hoch for 5 million because of what he did last year out of the pen. But to go out so early and sign Vargas was a bad move and many fans were frustrated by this move esp when hours before the signing the KC press was stating that the Royals had a huge announcement to make. It was like opening your big Christmas present only to find out it was an ugly sweater. Signing Aoki and Infante were great moves by Dayton but not adding a legitimate number 2 starter will really hurt this team. If only Dayton could trade Vargas now for nothing in return and go out and sign Santana to a 2-3 year deal fans would be happy. But we all know this would never happen and once again Dayton jumps the gun too early in the offseason. And why they keep Davis makes no sense at all. Makes you wonder if Dayton is really the right GM for the job when he has a limited payroll yet has so much money tied up in his pen and back of the rotation starters. You don’t need Vargas when you already have both Chen and Guthrie. Why not re-sign Chen early and never go after Vargas to begin with and be patient. SMH

  • jimfetterolf

    Given that Santana and Ubaldo are such great talents, surprises me that no smart team has signed them.

    As for the rest of the piece, nice synopsis of everything coming from the “Dayton Moore is the antiChrist” niche of the blogosphere the last several years. Heard similar stuff last year when Santana was traded for, how with his salary and some change from under the cushions on the couch Dayton Moore could have signed Anibal. That was about the same timeframe that we got “Hochevar will fail in the ‘pen ’cause he can’t pitch with runners on” and “Chen should be DFA’ed but Moore isn’t willing to admit his contract was a mistake.”

    • jessanders

      … For about the same money last year we COULD have had Anibal, and Anibal posted 6.2 WAR last season, twice that of Santana, and more than Santana, Chen and Hoch combined.

      So yeah… GMDM is bad.

      • jimfetterolf

        This isn’t fantasy, FAs choose. Some folks just don’t seem to get the element of choice in the real world.

        • unclejesse40

          Which is why the Royals best players are trades, draft, and over pay.

    • unclejesse40

      Jim, honest question with no other motive, I promise. Who do you have more faith in next year being a legit MLB #2 pitcher: Santana, Hoch, Davis, Vargas, or Guthrie?

      • jimfetterolf

        Danny Duffy :) I think Santana was a career year at this stage and Vargas nor Guthrie have the stuff. Neither does Chen. If I couldn’t have Danny I’ld use Ventura to start with, then try Hoch, then Davis, then Zimmer. I like hot arms at the front of a rotation, would have Guthrie and Vargas #3 &4, then big stuff at #5 because that slot faces opposing #1s quite a bit and gives a chance for an ambush.

  • moretrouble

    Not only is David Glass content to have a team payroll in the bottom half, he’s content to have revenue in the bottom half. No one forced him to dissolve the RSTN with it’s potential to pick up Tier 2-3 college games, D2, D3, and NAIA events, NCAA minor sports, the Mavericks, Sporting KC — a regional sports network that had the potential to be a game changer in revenue for the Royals.. He pulled the plug and signed a traditional contract for low dough and the rest is history.