MANAGER BUDDYBELL third season with Royals
DAYTON MOORE is aslim, unassuming man with a strong handshake and, it's clear, a persuasivemanner. This winter he convinced Royals owner David Glass, a notoriouslythrifty man, to increase the payroll to roughly $60 million for the upcomingseason. Considering that the amount is a club record, and some $13 million overlast year's limit, it's a remarkable feat. To win over Glass, Moore says, hemade no special presentations, just "a memo or a handout or two, just afeel for what the team would look like."
What Moore, 40,was really selling, of course, was himself. Before the Royals hired him lastMay, he was widely considered one of the top general manager prospects in thegame, having spent 12 years in Atlanta under John Schuerholz. (The Red Soxinterviewed Moore for their vacant G.M. job in 2005, but he withdrew his namefrom consideration after that one meeting.) Moore took the Kansas City positiononly after being assured that he would have full decision-making power. Hisreward: stewardship of a franchise so forlorn that it could lose 100 games lastyear and still call it an improvement. (K.C. lost 106 in '05.)
Moore tookGlass's money and spread it around. He took a risk on projected closer OctavioDotel (one year, $5 million), who missed the majority of the last two seasonswith an elbow injury, to address the team's 31 blown saves. And, as you mighthave heard, he signed free-agent righthander Gil Meche for $55 million overfive years. The reaction? Type in "Gil Meche" and "overpaid" onGoogle, and more than 12,000 results pop up.
True, Meche has alifetime record of 55--44 and went 11--8 with a 4.48 ERA last season, notexactly ace numbers. But Moore makes a passable argument for the contract.First, he points out that, at 28, Meche is in his prime and has the stuff to bea No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher. More important, there weren't many other options forMoore to choose from. "We needed him based on the pitching [we have now]and what the free-agent market was going to bring us the following year,"says Moore. "There will be fewer [good pitchers] next year than there werethis year. We needed to strike."
Because no oneexpects the Royals to be good, Meche does not represent an investment that willmake or break a division title. Also, the fuss about his contract will be lostsoon enough in the buzz about the club's promising young talent, which hasbuoyed the clubhouse. "My first few years [the front office] was trying theyouth movement but didn't really have the players to do it," says thirdbaseman turned rightfielder Mark Teahen, 25. "Now you look around andrespect the guys. Now it really feels like building from the bottom up, withprospects and talent."
As good as thekids are, most notably new third baseman Alex Gordon (page 68), the team'ssuccess this season depends on the performance of four veterans. First, thereis Meche and his ability to fill the role of staff ace. Second, there's thehealth of oft-injured DH Mike Sweeney. With him the Royals have a respectableorder; without, they are a Triple A lineup. Third, they must get much more fromAngel Berroa, who went from Rookie of the Year in 2003 to hitting .234 with a.259 OBP last season. Finally, there is the uncertainty about Zack Greinke, apotential ace who pitched only 6 1/3 innings in the bigs last season afterbattling depression.
But at this timeof the year, even in Kansas City there is a sense of promise. Under Moore, thefranchise has added two teams to the farm system and 13 new employees inbaseball administration, and it has shown it's willing to be a player in freeagency. He believes the team can eventually draw two million fans and support apayroll of perhaps $80 million. "Now," says Moore, "we just need tostart winning some games."
a modest proposal...
Third basemanAlex Gordon is the top prospect in baseball and ready for the majors. TheRoyals, though, have a good third baseman in Mark Teahen and a logjam at all ofthe corners. What to do? They've chosen to move Teahen to rightfield thisspring, squeezing him into an already crowded outfield. A different approachwould be to move Teahen (left), an above-average defensive player, to shortstopin place of Angel Berroa, who's a hacker at the plate (.305 career OBP) and inthe field, prone to baserunning blunders and an overall disaster since hisRookie of the Year season in 2003. Even allowing for the mistakes thatTeahen--who played some shortstop in high school--is sure to make in learningthe new position, he would be a more valuable player than Berroa while makingthe every-day lineup as strong as possible.
[This articlecontains tables. Please see hard copy or pdf.]
PROJECTED ROSTERWITH 2006 STATISTICS
|ALEX GORDON (R)|
Double A Stats
|LH||Jorge De La Rosa||284||5||6||67||1.71||6.49|
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
Double A stats
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 77)
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Percent of savechances converted by the Royals' bullpen last season, a rate that was betterthan only one other major league club's--the Indians'. The good news: Membersof K.C.'s projected '07 relief corps converted 66.7% of their '06 save chances(18 of 27), which would have ranked them higher than the bullpens of 16 otherteams.