Royals finding market inefficiency in low-risk reclamations
SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) The first thing that Dayton Moore does is to deflect credit to the players. Then he tries to pass it off to his scouts, who have dissected every one of those athletes in every way possible.
That's just the way the general manager of the Kansas City Royals operates.
But when you ask those same players and scouts why the World Series champions have been so successful at finding the proverbial diamond in the rough - the low-risk, high-reward reclamation project that has become a staple of their championship teams - their first instinct is to give Moore all the credit.
''You look at Dayton and the way he embraces the players once you get here, it's not like you're just the guy to make up the numbers,'' said pitcher Peter Moylan, who is trying to rebound from his second Tommy John surgery and make Kansas City's stacked bullpen as another powerful arm.
''He really shows you that he wants you here and he's going to give you every chance to prove that you still have something left,'' Moylan said. ''For me, that was a big reason why I came here.''
It's also a big reason why the Royals have gone to back-to-back World Series.
Despite a rapidly rising payroll the past few years, the Royals will always be a small-market franchise strapped for cash. They can't afford to win many bidding wars in free agency. So they instead search for market inefficiencies, niches in the game where they can gain ground on rival clubs.
One area where they've done that is giving players second chances.
The Royals realized the same amount of money that could land them a mediocre utility player on the open market could get them five or six guys trying to make a comeback. If just two of those fliers panned out, and perhaps one had a transcendent season, it would be a much better investment.
Last year was a prime example of it.
The Royals were the only team to offer 36-year-old Chris Young a contract in spring training, and signed reliever Ryan Madson despite having not pitched in the big leagues since 2011. Pitching out of the bullpen and rotation, Young went 11-6 with a 3.06 ERA, while Madson posted a career-best 2.13 ERA in 68 appearances.
Young cost $675,000. Madson cost $850,000.
Compare that to the Washington Nationals, who signed reliever Casey Janssen in free agency. They spent $5 million - more than three times the price of Young and Madson - to get a 4.95 ERA in 48 appearances.
''You go into spring training and you know, from between now and the end of spring training, you'll have one, maybe two nice surprises,'' Royals manager Ned Yost said. ''Last year we had a number of them. We had Joe Blanton, Madson and Young. We had a bunch of guys surprise you.''
Every team takes fliers, of course. What sets the Royals apart is in choosing the right guys on which to gamble. Often they are players with track records of success who have run into some kind of trouble.
Sometimes it's an injury, such as Moylan's elbow. Other times it's a mechanical flaw.
''Ned and the coaching staff embrace the players we bring into the organization,'' Moore explained. ''They trust in the opinions of our scouts, and then the (current) players' attitudes and mindset is everyone is in this together, so they bring guys in. Everybody gets some credit for the turnaround in their careers.''
To be clear, it doesn't always work out. For every Young or Madson there are a half-dozen players that Kansas City jettisons in spring training. But it's a numbers game, and that's evidenced by the number of those same players getting another crack at the roster this season.
Moylan is one of them. So is former Mets starter Dillon Gee, ex-Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang, former Braves starter Mike Minor and veteran big-league pitchers John Lannan, Ross Ohlendorf and David Huff.
There are position players, too. Dressing near the clubhouse door is infielder Clint Barmes, who's spent 13 years in the big leagues, and across the way is former Blue Jays outfielder Travis Snider.
Each of them is hoping to be the next Royal reclamation.
''Why did it work out for me? I think it's a big part the guys in the clubhouse,'' said Young, who appreciated the opportunity afforded him by the Royals so much that he hardly considered the other offers he got this past season. ''It's just a special group of people.''