Kansas City Royals: Six Years After Trading Zack Greinke

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The First Signs Of Future Success

While the Greinke trade was the first VISIBLE sign of Moore turning around the team, it was far from the starting point. In actuality, Moore had patiently rebuilt his team’s scouting staff from day one. He had persuaded owner David Glass to invest real money into both prospects and hiring a strong player personnel team.

The problem was, fans largely were unable to see those successes due to Moore’s string of failures at the big-league level. However, those miscues didn’t hurt in the long term. Moore’s attempt to become respectable while rebuilding the farm system didn’t work. But, he made those moves without compromising his prospect pipeline.

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  • Soon after the Greinke trade, both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus rated the Kansas City Royals farm system no. 1 in major-league baseball. Not only were the Royals minor-league prospects good, they were HISTORICALLY good (at least relative to the existence of those two publications).

    No Longer A Punchline

    To me, it was the first time that I had seen sabermetric writers recognize the KC Royals organization as anything but a joke. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, Salvador Perez, and Kelvin Herrera all debuted in 2011. Alcides Escobar took over at shortstop. Failed prospect Alex Gordon unexpectedly turned into a star in 2011 after wallowing since his debut in 2007. Gordon had promised to “dominate” in 2011, after returning to AAA in 2010 to transition to left-field from third base. Gordon made the move to accomodate the emerging Moustakas.

    To me, Gordon’s pledge sounded like the same false hope that the front office and local sportswriters had been peddling since the mid-90’s. By July of 2011, Gordon was slashing .293/.363/.479 with 9 home runs and 44 RBIs. Moreover, he had become a spectacular defender in left-field. What looked to be a desperation move, proved to be an inspired decision. Gordon went on to post a 7.1 bWAR (Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement) season.

    Gordon’s transformation wasn’t Moore’s only success in 2011. Cheap free-agent acquisitions Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera both posted outstanding years that gave the Royals one of the most productive outfields in MLB. Francoeur and Cabrera were so successful that they kept hot young trade acquisition Lorenzo Cain at AAA for all but six games in 2011.

    Joakim Soria fell off to a 4.03 ERA (with 28 saves) in 2011, but young bullpen gun Greg Holland appeared poised to replace him with a 1.80 ERA in 46 games. And, in August, a Venezuelan rookie unexpectedly filled Kansas City’s long-term hole at catcher.

    Salvador Perez

    It was Perez that truly made me realize that things were changing in Kansas City. The then 21-year-old backstop hit .331/.361/.473 in 39 games and played outstanding defense. Perez transformed my attitude not only because of his performance. It’s that he hadn’t even been mentioned as part of the “greatest farm system since whenever” that winter. If the Royals were developing guys like Perez under the radar, their farm system just might be as spectacular as Baseball America had claimed.

    Yeah, the pitching rotation was still a toxic waste dump. But, prospects like Mike Montgomery, John Lamb, Danny Duffy, Chris Dwyer, and Jake Odorizzi were on the way. 2011 made me think that Dayton Moore’s “Process” might not be a joke.