First off, I just want to say that I am not a Dayton Moore “hater” by any means. Do I think he’s the best general manager in the game? Of course not. However, the man did help bring the Royals two pennants and a World Series during his tenure, he has done a lot with the Kansas City community, and it seems like he’s going back to his roots as a general manager by focusing on the farm system and acquiring “value” talent in free agency (i.e. inexpensive players) rather than spending money frivolously, which he was prone to do in the wake of the World Series championship.
Yet, while I think there are some positive signs for the Royals when it comes to what Moore is doing currently, not everything he has done from 2016-2019 has been a slam dunk. In fact, there were a lot of moves that were “questionable” to say it nicely, or “awful” to put it pessimistically. Thus, I wanted to take a deeper dive into Moore’s “acquisitions” during this time span, and analyze more deeply which ones were truly awful from a “value” standpoint.
After taking a look at the Royals’ Cot’s Contracts page, and examining their payrolls from 2016-2019, I identified five deals that were truly bad when it came to Moore and the Royals maximizing their dollar. Not all these players were total busts, but when it comes to on field production and what they were paid, these five players didn’t quite live up to expectations.
I created this spreadsheet that analyzed these five players’ value and that value in relation to their respective contracts. I will also embed it so people can also look at it here and be able to scroll through, though I know Google Spreadsheets can be weird when embedding on WordPress.
Here are a few terms that I used to evaluate players, and why they were bad acquisitions by Moore.
- WAR: Wins Above Replacement. Most common way to evaluate players overall.
- WAR Total in Dollars: Fangraphs converts WAR to dollars based on the dollar amount per WAR for that season. This number essentially says how much a team “should” have paid a player for their on-field production that year or over a given time span.
- Value per Years as Royal: Basically I took the WAR Total in Dollars and divided by the number of years they played in Kansas City. I didn’t really do it exactly, and used whole numbers for simplicity sake.
- Gross Difference from Contracted Years w/ Royals: Basically, this is how much they have been paid contractually from the Royals subtracted from the WAR Total in Dollars (i.e. Contract Gross – WAR Total). The whole point of this is to see if the player provided MORE value than their contract or LESS.
- Value Difference per year: This is the Gross Difference divided by their number of years as a Royal. Hence, how much value or loss did these players provide on the field for the Royals?
As a disclaimer, with certain players who were either traded or released, it is hard to determine how much the Royals were on the hook for that player. I will go into more details below, but there are a lot to professional sports contracts, and it can be difficult to discern how much a team actually has to pay a player after they are traded or released. So some of the numbers aren’t 100 percent accurate, but are general ballpark figures to help Royals fans understand why these Moore deals probably should have been avoided.
So here is the list of Moore deals that I’m sure Royals fans wished he could have done a double-take on.
Ian Kennedy (5-year, $70-million; signed in 2016)
The Royals were looking to defend their World Series title in 2016, and added inning-eater Kennedy from the Padres with a 5-year deal to pretty much make him the ace of the staff. Kennedy was coming off a mediocre year with the Padres in 2015, as he went 9-15 with a 4.21 ERA in a 168 innings, which was nearly 40 innings less than the previous season in San Diego. However, the Royals felt that a better defense, and a team in contention would help Kennedy rebound and be the 200-plus innings pitcher he was three times previously in his career.
Kennedy actually had his best overall season in 2016, which was actually the cheapest year of his deal (his first year was only $7.5 million). Kennedy pitched 195 innings and posted a 3.68 ERA and 2.0 WAR as the Royals’ ace. However, things went south for Kennedy after his first year in Kansas City, as he posted a 5.38 ERA and -0.1 WAR in 2017 and a 4.66 ERA and 1.1 WAR in 2018, though he only pitched 119 innings that year, his lowest total since 2009. To the Royals’ benefit, they transitioned him to the closer role in 2019, and he seemed to embrace it, as he posted a 3.41 ERA, 1.5 WAR, and accumulated 30 saves in his first year in the role.
While it is nice that the Royals are getting value again from Kennedy, his overall tenure has not been a good one in Kansas City. His gross difference is minus-$18.20 million, and essentially he’s been costing the Royals about $4.55 million per year over his tenure. That is not necessarily Kennedy’s fault completely, but his “lost” year of 2017 hurt his tenure overall, as his deal was essentially worth $46 million from 2017-2019. That’s a whole lot of money, and for a small market club like Kansas City, it is damaging payroll wise if that player doesn’t live up to that amount, which has been the case with Kennedy.
Kennedy most likely will have another solid year as the Royals closer, and his contract thankfully will come off the books after this season. Unfortunately, while his tenure as closer has been a nice surprise, it’s hard to say Moore made a good decision giving Kennedy such a big contract prior to the 2016 season.
Brandon Moss, DH/OF (2-year, $12-million in 2017)
Moss was acquired in the off-season prior to 2017 from St. Louis, so it wasn’t a big move for Moss to come across the state of Missouri westward to play for Kansas City. However, the Moss deal was a little head-scratching. Yes, the Royals were in need of a DH with Kendrys Morales becoming a free agent after the 2016 season. However, Moss was only “okay” with the Cardinals in 2016, and he didn’t offer much upside beyond his bat, which had shown signs of decline since his 2014 with the A’s, where he hit a home run in the Wild Card game against the Royals.
Moss struggled to do anything with the Royals over his tenure, as he only lasted a season in Kansas City, and was eventually traded for Jesse Hahn and Heath Fillmyer in the Winter following the conclusion of the 2017 season. While he did hit 22 home runs over a 118 games, Moss posted a minus-0.5 WAR and .707 OPS, not great numbers from a primary DH. While the Royals were able to get out of another year of Moss, it doesn’t seem like the Royals were completely free of him, as the Royals were still on the hook for $3.25 million of his deal after the trade to Oakland, according to their payroll data from Cot’s Contracts.
While the Royals did save about half the amount of his second year in the deal, they basically gave away that $3.25 million to Oakland, a sunk cost considering that the Royals didn’t get any contribution from Moss the following season (because you know…he’s playing for another team). Moss ended up costing the Royals $3.9 million in his lone year in Kansas City, and added with that $3.25, he essentially cost the Royal almost $11 million overall and $5.45 million per year over the 2017 and 2018 season.
Yeah, that’s not chump change, and 22 home runs is not going to make up for that kind of lost value to the Royals organization. Moore would have been better of just going with an internal option in the Royals system at DH in 2017 instead of acquiring Moss.
Brandon Maurer, RHP (1-year, $1.9 million in 2017 from Padres; 1-year, $2.95 million in 2018 with Royals)
To be honest, this is probably the worst deal in Moore’s tenure from 2016-2019. Maurer was acquired to boost the Royals bullpen in 2017 in order to make one last run with their core before many of them entered free agency. Thinking that one last playoff run could perhaps keep Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain, Moore traded for Maurer from San Diego, hoping that the reliever could solidify the Royals bullpen down the stretch.
Unfortunately, Maurer was nothing but bad as a Royal. After saving 20 games with the Padres in 2017 before being traded, Maurer only saved 2 games and posted a 8.10 ERA in 20 innings of work in Kansas City. The following season wasn’t much better, as he posted a 7.76 ERA in 31.1 innings of work with the Royals before eventually getting designated for assignment, and out-righted to Omaha. Control was Maurer’s biggest issue, he posted K/BB ratios of 1.91 an 1.24 in his one-and-a-half year tenure in Kansas City.
Maurer accumulated a minus-0.9 WAR in his Royals tenure, which essentially cost the Royals $6.60 million. The gross difference for Maurer cost the Royals $11.45 million, or roughly $5.73 million per year during his complete Royals stint. Moore and the Royals have done a good job identifying good bullpen arms, either in their system or in other organizations. However, Maurer was definitely one Moore and the Royals whiffed on in 2017.
Lucas Duda, 1B/DH (1-year, $3.5 million in 2018; 1-year, $1.25 million in 2019)
Duda is somewhat a Royals World Series hero, as while a member of the Mets, he was known for overthrowing home plate to allow Eric Hosmer to tie Game 5, which the Royals eventually won to clinch the Royals’ first World Series since 1985. Here is a video of it below:
Moore acquired Duda to help with their first base and DH position in the wake of Eric Hosmer leaving after the 2017 season. While Duda’s glove and defense was pretty poor, the Royals felt that he had the kind of power that could boost the Royals lineup with Hosmer no longer in the lineup. Unfortunately, Duda failed to do much in 2018 with the Royals, only hitting 13 home runs, posting a .723 OPS, and accumulating a WAR of minus-0.1 before he was traded to the Braves mid-season.
Even though Duda’s 2018 was a dud for the Royals by most standards, Moore inexplicably brought back Duda again the following Spring, albeit on a cheaper $1.25 million deal. And unsurprisingly, Duda was a year older and a year worse, as he posted a .576 OPS and minus 1.0 WAR before he was eventually released by the Royals after 39 games and 105 plate appearances.
Over his rocky tenure, cost the Royals $7.80 million in relation to his WAR, and the gross difference from his contract cost the club $12.55 million overall, or roughly $6.28 million per year.
Duda’s Royals tenure was definitely “Bad Dudas” indeed.
Billy Hamilton, OF (1-year, $4.25 million in 2019, with $1 million option)
The former Cincinnati Reds top prospect who was known primarily for his speed was acquired by Moore prior to 2019 to continue to add a jolt of speed and athleticism to the Royals lineup that they had a reputation for from 2013-2017. Furthermore, Hamilton offered an above-average glove, another characteristic of solid Royals outfielders of the recent past. However, Hamilton’s bat was a major question, though some felt the more spacious confines of Kauffman would suit him better than the bandbox that is Great American Ballpark in Cincy.
Unfortunately, Hamilton was a tremendous flop, posting a .544 OPS in 275 plate appearances before eventually getting designated for assignment and traded to the Braves toward the end of the season. Hamilton did provide some solid defense and base-stealing (18 stolen bases), but his offense was so poor that the Royals couldn’t afford to play him in the lineup every day, making his status on the roster a luxury they couldn’t afford, especially on a 100-plus loss team.
What only amplified Hamilton’s poor tenure was the Royals let Brian Goodwin go on the roster in Spring Training to make room for Hamilton. Goodwin posted a .796 OPS and 1.9 WAR with the Angels a season ago in 136 plate appearances. Not only would Goodwin have been over a win-and-a-half better than Hamilton, but he would have come a lot cheaper and had more years of club control to boot.
In his one season in Kansas City, Hamilton posted a 0.3 WAR, which would have been worth $2.70 million according to Fangraphs. While he did offer some positive value (unlike others on the list), when subtracted from his contract, he actually cost the Royals $1.55 million in 2019. Hence, the Royals would have been better off playing Brett Phillips or even Bubba Starling full time last year, as they would have produced similar production, but would have been at least significantly cheaper options in center field.