On the day after the defending World Series champion Royals closed out the regular season with an 81-81 mark, failing to make the postseason for the first time since 2013, Royals general manager Dayton Moore met with reporters at Kauffman Stadium.
In a press conference that touched on a wide-ranging list of issues, Moore discussed the top priorities heading into the offseason — including the bullpen and offense — the pending decision on possible free agent Kendrys Morales, the future of the team’s core, and the club’s payroll limitations in 2017. Here is a transcript of the press conference.
Dayton, can you sum up the season in your view and what needs jump out at you going forward?
Dayton Moore: Sure. How much time do I have? Obviously, we didn’t finish the way we wanted to, the way we entered spring training (and) left spring training. We expected to perform much better, and it just didn’t happen. But I think we learned a lot. We learned a lot about our players. We learned about our depth. Again, it was disappointing that it ended the way it did — it’s sad it ended the way it did. We obviously wish that we were still playing. But we’ve got work to do, just as every offseason demands, and we’ll go to work starting tomorrow in Arizona with meetings, trying to do the best we can to put a championship team on the field for 2017.
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Any areas of need jump out at you? We’ve talked before about the bullpen.
Dayton Moore: We’ve got to do better there, of course. It’s an area where we definitely have to focus on. I feel pretty good about our starting rotation. I think we’re going to have some depth there. I think we’re going to have some proven pitchers in that area. And Yordano Ventura, we’re really pleased with the way he performed the second half and continued to show promise. Of course, we’re going to get (Mike Moustakas) back and (Lorenzo) Cain back, and that’s going to be a big boost for our lineup. Obviously, the bullpen is an area we definitely need to fix.
You guys signed some major contracts last offseason, starting with Joakim Soria. How do you feel like a year in, some of those acquisitions are — how would you grade the way the players have performed so far?
Dayton Moore: It’s not just one player. It just isn’t. That’s not how you evaluate teams. And there’s enough blame to go around with an unsuccessful season. I start with myself, first and foremost. I look in the mirror, and I’m accountable for, ultimately, the product we put on the field. I do think Joakim Soria is going to come back and have a very good year. There was times this year where he was very good and other times he wasn’t. And you can say that with our entire 25-man roster at times.
That’s the way baseball works. Going back and looking at our processes — our processes were good. And we need to make sure we continue to make the pen strong. But we felt at the time, we were doing that, and we feel Joakim is going to come back and have a good year. At times, he performed very well.
And Ian Kennedy and Alex Gordon, how do you feel those guys performed?
Dayton Moore: Ian was exceptional for us, really. He did everything that we expected him to do. He gave us innings; he gave us a chance to win most times out, especially the second half. I thought he was really good. Any time you get that much swing-and-miss with your fastball, and he puts the game in rhythm, allows our defense to work. He’s on the attack and that’s the type of pitcher we like. His change-up is a quality pitch for him. That bodes well in any ballpark, especially this ballpark. With Alex, obviously, he didn’t have the type of season we all expected. But we feel like he’ll come back and be strong as well.
And Danny Duffy, how pleased were you with him?
Dayton Moore: Danny was great. Danny has one of the best arms in all of baseball. The fact that he’s left-handed, that makes him more special and separates himself even more. He’s becoming the type of pitcher that we all envisioned.
You had the injuries, fatigue, there’s been a lot of talk about that. But do you feel you don’t need to do a lot this offseason? Or do you look at it like, ‘We need to more this offseason that maybe the last couple of years?’
Dayton Moore: Well, it’s interesting, because last year, we pretty much stood pat. We didn’t make a lot of changes to our team. And that didn’t work too well for us. The fact that we had injuries, that’s part of what every team deals with, you can’t make excuses for that.
It actually is a blessing in disguise, because we had players come up and perform well and we learned more about them and the depth of our organization. We have to continue to evaluate other opportunities out there to improve our team for 2017 and beyond. We’ve got to look to be creative. It’s very early, obviously, with the offseason, and there will be opportunities that are available to us that we’re not even aware of yet.
Once we begin to unpack what other teams are looking to do, we’ll have a better idea of how we can mix and match and line up with trades and hopefully make some quality acquisitions.
It sounds like you’ve decided you’re going to be aggressive this offseason.
Dayton Moore: We’ll be as aggressive as we can. You can only take advantage of players that are available to you. We’ve got a great foundation with which to start. We have a lot of All-Star caliber players that we think can get back to their accustomed level.
We’ll count on that. But we also recognize the need to maybe mix it up a little bit. But again, that’s always going to be predicated on what’s available. I can’t make another team trade with us if we don’t match up. But we always look internally first, then we’ll look to the trade market. Free agency is a flawed way to build your team consistently. It’s certainly an avenue in which you have to acquire talent. But we’ve got to look internally and then the trade market next.
Kendrys Morales has a mutual option in his contract. Would you guys like to have Kendrys back, and if you don’t, would you consider designated hitter by committee?
Dayton Moore: We’re right now in the early processes, just trying to figure out (those decisions). I’m not prepared to discuss that at this point in time. We do have a little bit of time going forward in the offseason, to make that decision now, it’s just not appropriate for what we want to do timeline-wise.
We’ll just keep all of our options open. But he’s a player that we’re very proud of. He’s a big part of our success. We would love to have him back. I just don’t know if it will work at this point in time.
If you don’t bring Morales back, would it be DH by committee or would you look to fill that with a true DH?
Dayton Moore: In the offseason (after 2014), I made the statement that we’d really like to use the DH in a way that we could give guys opportunity to rest a little bit. As you recall, we tried to sign Torii Hunter. We came up short; he ended up going to Minnesota. And Kendrys was the next available impact bat that we felt fit into our clubhouse, fit into what we were trying to do. We liked the switch-hit (ability). We loved his makeup. And we felt he was prime for a comeback.
So we settled on a DH, so to speak. You’re always looking for versatility. You want to give Ned (Yost) and the coaching staff as much opportunity to match up and be creative. Obviously, if you’re locked into the DH, that hinders that. So it’s obviously something we have to consider. As the offseason unfolds, we’ll just look to sign the bat, or acquire the bat that makes the most sense for us. And if it ends up being Kendrys back for a DH, so be it. Our players are still young enough where I think they can handle playing every single day.
You’ll obviously have Moose back and Cain will be healthy, but do you feel you need to upgrade the production of the offense, whether it’s DH or another spot. Will that be a priority?
Dayton Moore: You’re always trying to improve. Again, it’s supply and demand. I feel that all of our players are capable of having better years. (Eric Hosmer) had a really good year, but I think he’s just scratching the surface, truthfully. I think he can be a .300 hitter with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. He’s capable of putting up that type of production. Gordo is going to have a better year. I think when Cain was in the lineup, we had a (better winning percentage) … and he misses a lot of games, obviously. So I think once we get those guys back together, our offense will certainly lengthen out. But we’ll always look to acquire more offense, if we can.
Along those lines, do you feel like, internally, you have the pieces to have the kind of bullpen you want to have?
Dayton Moore: We’ve got enough arms. I’m not going to sit here and tell you they’re gonna be able to make the pitches consistently. Are they going to hold up the way Greg Holland and some of these guys have in the past? That’s yet to be seen. I don’t want to mislead anybody. But I do think that we have talent. We’ve got guys with power arms from the right side and the left side. They just haven’t pitched in the major leagues yet. We’ll bring them into spring training and give them a hard look and continue to develop them.
How do you view this situation — if you think it’s unique — the 2017 season, knowing that so much of your core is going into its final season. How do you look at the offseason while still trying to stay mindful of 2018?
Dayton Moore: It’s a good question. And it’s something that we’ve discussed constantly. We’ve been having those discussions for three years now. And like we’ve always tried to do, sign as many of our young guys as we can to long-term contracts. We won’t be able to sign them all, as you know. But that’s a tough question. And it’s something we’ll have to figure out. And I’m accountable for figuring that out. But I want to make it very clear, from the first day I took this job, we’ve always tried to put the best team we can on the field, each and every night, and we focus on a year at a time.
Yeah, we have to have a long-range goal and projections — we all do that. But this game is so unpredictable and it changes minute to minute. And we’re going to focus on putting the best team we can in 2017, and get back to playing in October, something we all want to see happen. That’s what we’re going to focus on.
Maybe this is unfair, but fans understand the number of players that are free agents after 2017. What should fans expect in terms of payroll in 2018 and moving forward. Is this the norm moving forward?
Dayton Moore: I thought I was going to get out of here without payroll questions. (He smiles) (Owner David) Glass has always been extremely generous with our payroll. And we’ve always just tried to put the best team we can on the field, as I said. And Mr. Glass has figured out a way to cover it as long as our great fans have supported this team, and have came out and I can’t say enough of what they’ve done and the support. And that’s allowed us to do what we’ve done payroll-wise.
We’re living above our means. This payroll was put together with going deep in the postseason (in mind). That didn’t happen. Again, I’m accountable for that. It’s not going to look very good on the spreadsheet when the bill comes due. Again, it was built to go deep in the postseason. Last year’s payroll, it was built to go deep in the postseason; that worked out. This year, it didn’t. So we’ll have to re-evaluate that, probably reorganize, take some steps back. And again, Mr. Glass has said from day one, he’s not expecting to make money, but he doesn’t want to lose a bunch of money. And he has subsidized this club in the past, and I suspect he’ll have to do it in the future, from time to time.
What we will do is come up with a plan, that this is the best team that we can put together for 2017, and once I present that to Mr. Glass, we’ll see where his comfort level is payroll-wise. Right now, I don’t expect a significant different. But we are going to have to regress a little bit, probably.
Part of that, of course, would be Eric Hosmer. I know you guys control him through next year. What’s your timetable on that?
Dayton Moore: It’s interesting. We’ll see as the winter unfolds. We’ll certainly have discussions. Historically, once you get to this point in a player’s career, free agency is usually a part of what will ultimately happen. But we’ll see. I don’t think we’ve signed many guys going into their final year since I’ve been here. But again, we’ll always work hard to keep our good players here as long as we can.