Royals, Dayton Moore, have questions to answer in Spring Training

Dayton Moore Spring Training questions

FEBRUARY 2016 – Last year at this time many fans questioned some moves general manager Dayton Moore made to “better” the Kansas City Royals and increase the chances of returning to the playoffs.

Several experts gave us a ‘B to C grade’ after Moore acquired Edinson Volquez, Alex Rios, Chris Young, Kris Medlen, Ryan Madson and Kendrys Morales, while losing James Shields and Billy Butler.

It looked if we were rolling the dice in order to preserve our playoff-caliber team.  As it turned out, we are World Series champs and many should apologize for doubting Moore’s acquisitions.

Winning the hot stove awards doesn’t always equate to winning baseball games. We have seen that before and we will see it again.

Sure we lost rent-a-players Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto, two individuals who played a key part in our 2015 success while costing us some blue-chip prospects. Cueto signed with the San Francisco Giants, while Zobrist signed with the Chicago Cubs, reuniting with his former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon. Those are two of the most formidable clubs in the National League, so the Royals might see one of them in the 2016 World Series. Or am I assuming too much?

Madson is heading west to Oakland while Jeremy Guthrie, Alex Rios, Franklin Morales and Greg Holland, who had elbow surgery in September, are stilling look for a new contract with a probable new team as February began.

We re-signed Alex Gordon for four years; a move that many were torn on, but solidifies a key component of our team. We replaced Cueto with Ian Kennedy, who eats up innings and has provided nice numbers in the past and not-so-nice numbers in other years.  His five-year, $70 million dollar contract raised some eyebrows, but he has an opt out clause after two years. We can only wait and see if he is worth the price tag.

Joakim Soria returns to KC to compliment Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera in a lights-out talented bullpen. Chris Young also re-signed, as we hope he comes close to duplicating last year’s performance.

We took a flyer on Chien-Ming Wang, who won 19 games in back-to-back seasons, 2006-07 with the New York Yankees before injuries took a toll on his arm. He has only 16 games since then.

So where does that leave the Royals and Dayton Moore during the next few months?

We still have a few questions. What about second base? Who will be our starting five?  Are we getting a new right fielder or settling with Jarod Dyson and Paulo Orlando? Do we have enough to return to the postseason?  Should we be making more moves?

We still have Omar Infante at second base.  He is 34 with two years left with more than $7 million owed to him each year. We signed him based on his near .300 average and strong defensive skills.  Last year he struggled at the plate and got hurt, while Zobrist took over the position. It was a bad year for Infante and he has a lot to prove this year.  I don’t expect more than a .260 average, but that would be acceptable long as his defense compliments our strong up the middle presence.  I’m fine with seeing what he does this year, but Christian Colon will also compete for the starting job in spring training.

Right field has been a sore spot for KC.  My favorite free agent outfielder still out there is Jeff Francoeur.  Still only 32, Jeff hit 13 homers in part-time duty for the Phillies.  He averaged 18 bombs in the two years he patrolled right field at Kauffman. He is a great clubhouse guy and has a canon for an arm, but doesn’t run well anymore, which could be a problem in a spacious outfield. He also does not walk much and has a low on-base percentage. I don’t expect the Royals to bring back Francoeur, but he is just one of my favorites.

We took a shot at Rios last year, but he was hurt much of the season, so maybe he returns at a cheaper price. No matter what, I believe that Dyson can play the position well if we do not find someone else, but there are some other options still out there.  Plus, having an insurance policy to Lorenzo Cain and Gordon would be nice.

Our starting five is mostly set, but we have an intriguing situation there. Yordano Ventura, Kennedy, Edinson Volquez, Danny Duffy,  Chris Young and Kris Medlen all provide solid options. That is six for five spots. This will be one thing to watch during spring training.

Ventura, Kennedy and Volquez are the sure rotation choices, but where do you put everyone else? Young comes back just as valuable.   Duffy has talent and Medlen showed he still be a factor after sitting out 2014 after elbow surgery. Duffy is the only left-hander in the bunch, but has been inconsistent. Jason Vargas, another left-hander, will probably miss most of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015.

Add 2014 New York Mets opening day starter Dillon Gee and former first-round pick Kyle Zimmer to the mix and one has to wonder who makes it and who doesn’t. Zimmer, however, will begin the season in the minors barring something unforeseen.

The experts are predicting KC to win the American League Central Division after stating they are pretenders, not contenders, the previous two years.

We were the only American League team to return to the post-season last year and we are in line to make it back three straight years. I’m sure midseason moves will be made again if we are in the hunt.

The Royals have pitching rotation depth – although lacking a true ace unless Ventura steps up — we still cannot afford starters to spend extended time on the disabled list.

My biggest concern is the outfield.  But we did well last year after the Gordon injury.

Tip of the hat to Dayton Moore for the moves he has made to build this team into a World Series champion. Enjoy it while we can the next two seasons because 2018 looks to be a whole new ballgame. We will discuss that later in another story.

Article by James Peuster. “JP” can be reached at jpegsports.com.

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