Dayton Moore and Ned Yost emerged from a side door on Thursday morning in lockstep and in unison, the two core pieces of the Royals’ brain trust stepping onto a patch of gravel adjacent to a clubhouse entrance.
Nearly six years ago Moore, the Royals’ general manager, hired Yost to manage a rebuilding project that was treading water and losing public approval. In the seasons since, the two have shared the same shadow, forging a symbiotic relationship that has served as a backbone for two World Series appearances and the franchise’s first world championship in three decades.
Thursday morning, Moore and Yost shared the same space again. As pitchers and catchers reported to spring training, the club announced contract extensions for both that could keep them together with the Royals for the next three seasons. Yost, whose contract was set to expire after this season, agreed to an extension through 2018. Moore also agreed to an extension, though the club did not reveal length of the deal.
The timing was not coincidental. When Yost signed a one-year contract extension in January 2015, he stated that he did not want to be signed on for longer than Moore, whose contract ran through 2016. When Yost embarked on contract negotiations this offseason, he came to Moore with one request:
“I just told Dayton: ‘Look, when you get your deal done, come talk to me about mine,’ ” Yost said. “ ‘But you need to get yours taken care of first.’ We were in no hurry to do it. We knew we were both in a place that we really, really enjoy.”
At 60 years old and entering his seventh season with the Royals, Yost is already the longest-tenured manager in franchise history. His latest extension would take him through the 2018 season, to the end of what could be considered the prime window for this group of players. A large collection of the Royals’ championship core — including first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, shortstop Alcides Escobar, closer Wade Davis and center fielder Lorenzo Cain — are signed through the 2017 season. Left fielder Alex Gordon and catcher Salvador Perez are under club control through 2019. Right-hander Yordano Ventura is under club control until 2021.
“I didn’t want to push past (2018),” Yost said. “I’ll have to get to the point in ’18 and evaluate whether I want to continue doing it or not. But if we stay on the trend that we’re on now — you work so hard to develop a winner, it’s hard to leave when you’ve got the opportunity to win. And we feel like we’ve got that opportunity for the next three years.”
Yost, who was hired May 13, 2010, has compiled a 468-469 record while managing part of one season and all of the next five in Kansas City. He became the club’s all-time leader in managerial victories last season, surpassing Whitey Herzog’s 410. He can reach 1,000 career major-league victories this season, checking off another personal milestone.
His personal trajectory has mirrored his team’s. In the months after the 2012 season, Yost was coming off consecutive 90-loss seasons and his future appeared in peril. Skeptics questioned his methods. His name became synonymous with questionable-decision making. Three years later, the Royals are coming off three straight winning seasons, two World Series appearances and one title. Yost’s place in franchise lore is permanent.
“Ned is a terrific competitor,” Moore said. “He’s an unbelievable leader.”
As he stood before the media on Thursday, Moore sought to deflect attention, putting the focus on his players, his scouts and his staff. He would not disclose how long he might stay in Kansas City.
At age 49, Moore is entering his 10th full season as Royals general manager. As the architect of one of baseball’s great turnaround stories, he has taken his place as one of the game’s most respected executives.
“You can’t find an individual with a stronger work ethic or dedication to his craft than Dayton Moore,” Royals president Dan Glass said in a release.
When Moore took over during the 2006 season, the Royals were poised to lose 100 games for the fourth time in five seasons. The farm system was thin and limited to a few high-ceiling talents. The club’s international scouting department was essentially non-existent.
“They built this team,” left-hander Danny Duffy said, “and (they) deserve to see it through as long as they want to.”
Moore, though, did reflect on what his contract extension represented for his organization.
“Early on, when we first came here, I was perhaps overwhelmed at times with the challenge,” Moore said. “So we just committed to build a great culture, and make this a great place to work, where scouts want to work, and coaches and managers and instructors want to work, and players want to play.”
For the moment, Moore said, the next phase of his regime will be focused on reinforcing that culture. In the weeks before spring training, the contracts for both Yost and Moore were close to being completed. But Moore said he wished to complete his offseason check-list — which included completing contracts for the club’s unsigned players — before making the extensions official.
“We’re in a really peak period in Kansas City,” Yost said. “We’ve got an outstanding organization, with a great leader in Dayton and Mr. Glass. And we’ve got great players. They’re fun to be around. It’s something I like looked at and wanted to be a part of for a couple more years.”