Is Dayton Moore showing his ‘poker face’ as Royals approach the deadline?

For Royals fans hoping to see a big move at the Trade Deadline, things took a bit of an interesting turn today as Royals general manager Dayton Moore addressed the media in a press conference today.

And let’s just say, it doesn’t exactly seem like Moore and the Royals front office are eager to be “sellers” at all as Friday’s deadline looms:

Moore harped a lot on building the Royals either through free agents or from within their own farm system and player development, as evidenced by this statement that 610’s Josh Vernier shared on Twitter, which makes it feel even less likely that the Royals will acquire any prospects from other teams by the end of the week, unfortunately.

At the surface level, it seems like Moore is set on keeping this roster intact down the home stretch of the 2021 season. That isn’t exactly the most promising thing to hear for Royals fans, especially considering this Royals team is 43-55, pretty much out of the playoff hunt, and is one of the older teams in the American League (especially on a batting end).

However, when diving deeper into Moore’s tenure and history as Royals general manager, it’s hard to think that the Royals will stay pat this week. Because while Moore may say that they are “preparing to compete in 2022” with the roster they have, history has shown that Moore has often been quite active around the Trade Deadline in years past, even in rebuilding years.

Hence, Moore may be simply playing a game of MLB “Texas Hold ‘Em” with the Kansas City media right now, and he has a deal in the works that he is simply slow betting until the final card, which will be revealed by Friday afternoon.

Ryan Landreth of Royals Review posted this interesting Tweet in response to Moore’s comments today, which honestly, is kind of how a large swath of Royals fans feel:

That being said, if there is one thing Royals fans should take away from Moore during his tenure as Royals general manager thus far, it is that we should always take things with a grain of salt when it comes to making or “not making” moves.

This off-season, Moore kept things pretty close to the chest all Winter, especially after making early moves for Michael A. Taylor, Mike Minor, and Carlos Santana. For many dreary days in January and February, Moore made it seem to the Kansas City sports media like the Royals were done adding players, especially after a slew of possible free agent fits signed elsewhere.

And yet, almost out of nowhere right before Spring Training began, the Royals traded for Andrew Benintendi, even if he seemed like an odd fit on a “rebuilding” team at the time.

Yes, Moore might be saying now that something “overwhelming” would have to happen for the Royals to make a trade by Friday. But that doesn’t mean the Royals and Moore are done “exploring trades” by any measure.

After all, let’s take a look at all the moves Moore has made around the deadline since 2010, which is over a decade ago. I tried to include any kind of deal that occurred during Mid-July to the end of the month, though I did include “post-deadline” deals, where you can make a trade as long as a player is not claimed on the waiver wire.

  • 2010: Traded Alberto Callaspo, Scott Podsednik, Rick Ankiel, Kyle Farnsworth, and Jose Guillen (though that came after the deadline). Received Sean O’Sullivan, Will Smith, Elisaul Pimental, Lucas May, Gregor Blanco, Jesse Chavez, Tim Collins, and Kevin Pucetas.
  • 2011: Traded Wilson Betemit and Mike Aviles. Received Antonio Cruz, Julio Rodriguez, Kendal Voz, and Yamaico Navarro.
  • 2012: Traded to Jonathan Sanchez and Jonathan Broxton. Received Jeremy Guthrie, Juan Carlos Sulbaran, and Donnie Joseph.
  • 2013: Traded Alex McClure and Kyle Smith. Received Gorkys Hernandez and Justin Maxwell.
  • 2014: Traded Spencer Patton, Danny Valencia, and Jason Adam. Received Jason Frasor, Liam Hendriks, Erik Kratz, and Josh Willingham.
  • 2015: Traded Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, Cody Reed, Aaron Brooks, Sean Manaea. Received Johnny Cueto (!) and Ben Zobrist (!!)
  • 2016: Traded Brett Eibner. Received Billy Burns.
  • 2017: Traded Esteury Ruiz, Matt Strahm, Travis Wood, Andre Davis, and AJ Puckett. Received Ryan Buchter, Trevor Cahill, Brandon Maurer, and Melky Cabrera.
  • 2018: Traded Jacob Condra-Brogdon and Mike Moustakas. Received Brian Goodwin, Brett Phillips, and Jorge Lopez.
  • 2019: Traded Homer Bailey, Martin Maldonado, and Jake Diekman. Received Kevin Merrell, Mike Montgomery, Ismael Aquino and Dairon Blanco.
  • 2020: Traded Brett Phillips and Trevor Rosenthal. Received Lucius Fox, Edward Olivares, and Dylan Coleman.

As one can see from that extensive list, Moore is far from the kind of GM who stands pat around the Trade Deadline. Yes, in some years (2014, 2015, 2017) they were buyers. In some years (2010, 2011, 2018, 2019, 2020), they were more sellers. Some years, they did not really make major moves (2012, 2013, and 2016), but they still did something, even if it was just a trade of organizational pieces at the end of the day.

Maybe the latter is what Moore will do in 2021. Maybe he won’t make the Whit trade as a lot of Royals fans are clamoring him to do. But to think that he’s going to completely stand pat by Friday? That does not seem plausible and would be a MAJOR contrast to what he’s done over his tenure as Royals general manager.

The Royals most likely will make some kind of transaction by the Deadline. Whether it’s a major or minor one is to be determined. But at the end of the day, Moore will do what he thinks will be best to build this club in the right way for not just 2022, but beyond as well, even if he is not mentioning it right now. Maybe he thinks Whit is a long-term asset. But I have to think he’s shopping guys like Jorge Soler and Taylor at the very least, and it wouldn’t be surprising if reliever Scott Barlow is thrown in the mix as well.

If there are assets that Moore likes to traditionally trade in a “selling season”, especially around the deadline, it is bullpen pieces. His trades of Rosenthal, Tim Hill (before start of 2020 season), Diekman, and Kelvin Herrera in 2018 (whom I didn’t include because the deal happened in June) demonstrate that Moore is more than willing to cash in on a reliever when their value is at its highest. Barlow fits this Royals bullpen right now, and has by far been the Royals most dependable reliever in 2021. That being said, I find it hard that Moore isn’t hearing offers on Barlow, and I guarantee you he will be presented one that changes his mind and makes him pull the trigger.

And they will find their adequate bullpen piece internally to replace Barlow in the stretch run of 2021 and for 2022. There’s a lot of things Moore doesn’t do right on the trade market, but cashing in on relievers is one of his strengths.

Of course, that’s just hearsay, and who knows what Moore will do. This could be a tame off-season for the Royals, especially with the roster limitations in the Minor League system due to the Minor League cuts experienced league-wide this season. However, to think that his press conference was confirmation that the Royal aren’t doing anything may be foolish thinking.

Moore most likely is just putting up his “poker face” to the public, playing the game that most MLB GMs play around this time.

And he’ll surprise us with some kind of deal in the coming days…

Royals fans just have to wait, see, and guess for now.

Photo Credit: Ed Zurga/Getty Images

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