Royals general manager Dayton Moore gives insight on search for club’s next skipper

Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore characterized the club’s search for a new manager as being in the “middle” of the process this week as opposed to nearing a conclusion.

Moore leads the efforts to find a successor to the franchise’s all-time wins leader, Ned Yost, who took the club to back-to-back World Series and guided them to their first title in 30 years with a championship run in 2015.

The Los Angeles Angels, Chicago Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies have already announced managerial hires, and the San Diego Padres have reportedly also settled on a new manager. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets and Royals are currently without managers.

The Royals franchise remains in a transition period as David Glass’s sale of the Royals to Kansas City business tycoon John Sherman is pending MLB approval at next month’s owner’s meetings.

However, Moore said Sherman has been involved in the process, and the league’s approval of the sale will not determine the timetable for naming Yost’s successor.

“We have been given full autonomy to hire the next manager of the Kansas City Royals when we feel that we are ready and the process is complete,” Moore said. “That could be today, tomorrow or sometime prior to the winter meetings.”

Moore also made it clear that whenever the club announces a new manager, it will be with Sherman’s backing and stamp of approval whether or not he’s officially been confirmed by his soon-to-be fellow owners.

Moore also stressed that the search process involves much more than baseball philosophy. Moore believes that both the Royals’ manager and general manager should be accessible to the community in a “civic-minded way.”

“We’re in the middle of a very thorough process of hiring the next Royals manager,” Moore said. “We’ve interviewed individuals here at Kauffman Stadium. We’ve interviewed individuals remotely, and we’re continuing to do our due diligence on this very important decision that will impact what we do going forward.”

The process

While Moore conducted a managerial search that led to the hire of Trey Hillman after the 2007 season, Yost was appointed from interim manager to full-time manager after the 2010 season without a search process.

Moore asserted that the game has changed a lot since he oversaw his first search, and that has caused him and the organization to seek a “more complete leadership style” from managerial candidates.

The process includes candidates sitting down with or speaking to members of various departments within the organization, including performance science, the medical team, behavioral science, leadership development, analytics, scouting, player development, community relations and business operations.

Moore said the candidates are also going through simulations/scenarios dealing with both strategic and off-field situations as part of the process.

“It takes a lot of time,” Moore said. “It’s not just Dayton sitting down and meeting with the future manager. It’s not just Mr. Sherman sitting down and future manager or the candidates. It’s a lot of different people.”

In-house options

Moore’s stance has always been to look internally first when filling positions in the organization — which has only added credence to the notion of former St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny as a likely choice to succeed Yost as manager.

Matheny’s role as advisor is similar to the role Yost held before he replaced Hillman as manager 35 games into the 2010 season, Hillman’s third year at the helm.

While reports of clubhouse turmoil and rocky relationships with players preceded Matheny’s midseason firing in St. Louis, his tenure there included considerable on-field success. Matheny’s Cardinals teams went 591-474 overall, won three division titles, made four consecutive playoff appearances and captured one National League pennant.

In his role as an advisor for player development with the Royals, Matheny attended spring training, helped out in amateur scouting — including spending a couple of days visiting with eventual No. 2 overall draft pick Bobby Witt Jr. — as and worked primarily with the lower levels of the Royals’ minor-league system. He also spent some time with their full-season affiliates and reviewed video of those teams’ young pitchers.

Other internal candidates included bench coach Dale Sveum, quality control/catching coach Pedro Grifol and bullpen coach Vance Wilson. Each has reportedly interviewed for the Royals job, though Moore declined to confirm those reports.

Longtime New York Post baseball columnist Joel Sherman reported Wilson interviewed last week, and that Matheny turned down a chance to interview with the Mets in order to focus on the Royals’ opening.

Aside from Matheny, Sveum is the only one among that group with previous major-league managerial experience. But reported last week that Sveum is no longer a candidate.

Yost has been supportive of Grifol in the past and said this at the end of the season: “I think Pedro needs to manage somewhere, but I don’t want to get involved in that situation.”

Grifol, who interviewed for the Baltimore Orioles’ managerial opening last offseason, has also recently interviewed with the Giants.

“A lot people think that history is a predictor of future performance, but we want to know what you’ve learned in your leadership journey and where you’ve made your mistakes, what blind spots have been uncovered and how we move forward and what do we do,” Moore said.

A former infielder who spent parts of 12 seasons in the majors, Sveum served as interim manager in Milwaukee after Yost’s firing in 2008. He also managed the Chicago Cubs in the first two seasons after Theo Epstein took over as Cubs president of baseball operations in 2012-13. The rebuilding Cubs were 127-197 under Sveum.

Wilson, a former catcher who spent eight seasons in the majors, has been the club’s bullpen coach since 2018. He’s managed the Royals’ minor-league affiliates in Single-A Kane County (2011), Single-A Wilmington (2012-13) and Double-A Northwest Arkansas (2014-17). The Northwest Arkansas clubs in 2015-16 advanced to the Texas League finals.

He also managed the Peoria Arizona Fall League club in to the AFL finals in 2014.

Grifol, a catcher who spent nine seasons in the minors and reached Triple-A after an All-American collegiate career at Florida State, has been with the Royals organization since 2013. He started that year as a hitting coach at the rookie ball level before being elevated to special assignment coach for the major-league staff in late May and hitting coach in late July. He became catching coach in 2014 and added quality control to his title in 2018.

Grifol also managed three years of winter ball in Venezuela, including one trip to the finals, and one winter in the Dominican Republic. Before joining the Royals, Grifol worked as a scout and then as a minor-league manager (2000-05), minor-league field coordinator (2006-08) and minor-league director of operations (2008-11) in the Seattle Mariners organization. He also managed Single-A High Desert in 2012.

“I’m not concerned about whether it’s somebody who has never managed before in the major leagues,” Moore said. “I do think managerial experience is important at some level. I do believe that. It doesn’t mean that it’s an absolute must. There’s no substitute for experience because experience teaches us so much. We get wisdom from experience.

“… There’s a lot of people who have lived a long time on this earth that don’t have as much wisdom as somebody who has lived a very limited time on this earth. It’s not the whole. Just because somebody hasn’t managed before in the major leagues doesn’t mean they don’t have an opportunity to be very successful.”

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.