KC Royals: Big change unlikely with Dayton Moore move

Dayton Moore’s interesting 15-year run as general manager of the KC Royals, one marked by both high praise and heavy criticism, has ended.

With his second season as principal owner of the Royals concluding in less than three weeks, and his club just a few hours away from beginning its next-to-last homestand of 2021, John Sherman announced this afternoon two major front office changes impacting Moore’s duties.

Moore is out as General Manager, but is becoming President of Baseball Operations; J.J. Picollo, an Assistant GM since 2008, is the new GM. The promotions are effective immediately.

Dayton Moore’s GM tenure will be remembered for its extreme highs and lows.

Rebuilding the franchise on the field and bringing a World Series title to Kansas City are Moore’s two greatest achievements as GM. He inherited an awful major league team when the Royals lured him away from the Braves and former KC General Manager John Schuerholz just before the 2006 amateur draft; put bluntly, the once-proud club couldn’t even claim status as a shell of its former self.

The Royals hadn’t made the playoffs since winning the Series in 1985, couldn’t claim but five winning seasons since then, had lost at least 100 games in two of their last three campaigns (including a club record 106 in 2005), and were on their way to losing 100 when Moore arrived.

Proving Schuerholz’s influence on him, Moore immediately set about improving a dilapidated farm system, an effort that eventually led to stocking the team’s 2014 and 2015 American League pennant winners with homegrown stars like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Danny Duffy.

Moore’s methodical plan to return the KC Royals to relevance—the “process,” as he so often called it—turned out to take far more time than fans wanted. The club didn’t win until 2013, but everything paid off with an American League pennant and trip to the World Series in 2014, and another pennant, and a World’s championship, in 2015.

That success took too long for some, however, and longtime Royals’ fans can easily recall cries for Moore’s firing arising well before those magical two seasons. Deserved or not, they were there, and resumed when the team, much of its championship core still intact, finished a disappointing 81-81 in 2016 and surprising 80-82 in 2017.

And it was that 2017 season, the last go-round for free-agents-to-be Hosmer, Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Alcides Escobar, that laid the groundwork for more criticism of Moore. The Royals approached the July trade deadline as contenders, compelling him to keep those four when he could have dealt them for a bundle of prospects.

His temptation to take one last run with what remained of the 2014-2015 club nucleus resulted in the infamous late July trade that sent three players, including pitching prospect Matt Strahm, to the Padres for pitchers Brandon Maurer, Ryan Buchter, and Trevor Cahill, a deal so ill-advised and unsuccessful that it warrants mention among the worst trades ever made by Kansas City.

And it added to the series of unfortunate mistakes the franchise made in 2017.

The unsuccessful 2017 campaign fanned the anti-Moore flames; losing 100-plus games the next two seasons intensified them, and bashing Moore became a favorite social media pastime for many KC fans.

The GM made a good recent move though, with the forward-looking and well-deserved contract extension the Royals gave Salvador Perez earlier this year; it’s a deal that should guarantee Perez finishes his career in Kansas City. But he’s had limited success with other high cost extensions, such as Danny Duffy’s and Alex Gordon’s, and the $25 million extension the club gave Hunter Dozier over the winter isn’t looking good.

In the end, Moore will be criticized for guiding the KC Royals to only three winning records in his 15 full seasons as GM. But he also deserves much praise for a pair of memorable World Series trips and a championship.

Will J.J. Picollo effect a sea change in the KC Royals’ approach to players?

Currently a Kansas City Vice President and Assistant General Manager for Player Personnel, Picollo is well-known and respected in the baseball industry and is often the voice of the front office when it comes to players, especially those in the club’s vastly improved minor league system for which he has considerable responsibility.

Whether Picollo, who’s interviewed for other GM jobs in the past, will effect significant change remains to be seen, but chances are good his promotion won’t shake up the way the Royals approach things on the baseball side of the business. After all, Moore, the guiding force of KC Royals personnel decisions for well over a decade, will still be Picollo’s boss, and Moore’s own promotion is to a position of significant responsibility where he’ll oversee all things baseball.

So, don’t expect big changes, big trades, or big free agent signings. Those may be, and probably are, things fans desperately want. But with Moore still running the baseball end of the franchise, they’re not coming any time soon.

The General Manager’s torch has been passed for the KC Royals. But it hasn’t moved very far.