The Kansas City Royals had a short list of items to accomplish at this year's Winter Meetings. It is likely that the main focus of the meetings for the Royals was to gather information and lay the groundwork for acquisitions yet to come.
The Royals front office would arrive in Orlando with a few clear goals. They were heavily rumored to connections with an elite outfielder with Kansas City ties. They were seemingly in the market for a potential upgrade at second base. They would need to figure out if there was a market if they decided to trade one of the most fan-friendly players on their roster. Finally, they would be looking at options to round out the starting rotation.
With all the rumors settled and the groundwork laid, general manager Dayton Moore leaves Orlando with the following grades for his work.
For the first time in recent memory, the Royals were connected to one of the game's top free agents heading to the Winter Meetings. To make things even more interesting, it was a player that started his career in Kansas City and was possibly looking to sign the final contract of his career.
Carlos Beltran was everything the Royals were looking for. He would add a productive bat to the lineup, solidify the outfield and would serve as a clubhouse leader off the field. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports even notes that the Royals offered a three-year contract valued over $40 million prior to him signing with the Yankees.
Dayton Moore did everything in his power to try and lure the switch-hitting Beltran back to Kansas City. Ultimately, he fell short when he could not compete with the history, competitive nature and financial power of the New York Yankees.
The aggressive pursuit and the willingness to pay a player of Beltran's caliber earns Moore an above average grade on this subject.
"Bringing Home Beltran" Grade: B
One area the Royals could easily upgrade at was second base. While Emilio Bonifacio did an adequate job at the end of the 2013 season, the team could utilize him better in a utility role if they had a legitimate option to take his place.
During the Winter Meetings, it seemed that the Royals increased their pursuit of Omar Infante to take over that role. Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish noted that Infante was nearing a decision and the Royals were quite possibly the favorites to land him. Meanwhile, Jon Morosi of Fox Sports notes that Infante is talking with the Royals and two other clubs. Finally, Joel Sherman of the New York post checks in and says the Yankees offered Infante a three-year contract for $24 million.
Many seem to believe that the Royals are still in the hunt for Infante's services, and the second baseman may yet end up in Kansas City. If so, the groundwork laid at the Winter Meetings goes a long way to ensuring the Royals' success in 2014. If they should fall short, however, it may show that even if the team is willing to spend the money, players do not yet see the Royals as true contenders.
Dayton Moore will have to wait and see how this one plays out before he can accurately be evaluated on this subject.
"Upgrading Second Base" Grade: Incomplete
Speculation has surrounded the Royals when it comes to the payroll decisions the club must face. Buster Onley of ESPN reported early in the offseason that the team would listen to offers on their designated hitter. The idea behind the rumors is that the Royals would free up payroll dollars and a lineup spot for their pursuit of players like Beltran or Nelson Cruz, as noted by ESPN's Jayson Stark.
The first step in possibly trading Billy Butler was to determine what kind of market there would be for the young man. That is the exact situation that the Winter Meetings help propel and Dayton Moore would conceivably utilize the platform to accomplish that exact feat.
The Royals have not been a focal point of rumors during the Winter Meetings, but the Rangers were noted by Jon Morosi of Fox Sports to be interested in Butler early on but moved on after acquiring Prince Fielder. The Blue Jays have surfaced as suitors for Butler at the end of the meetings, according to Jeff Blair of Sportsnet.
It seems that Moore is shopping Butler and trying to generate a bit of a market. The goal here was not necessarily to move Butler but to evaluate if there was enough of a market to justify moving him. Ultimately, it seems that Moore has kept an open mind and might have found something worth exploring.
Moore did the job he set out to do at the Winter Meetings when it comes to the possibility of trading the beloved designated hitter. When it comes to this task, he raised his overall grade.
"Evaluate the Butler Market" Grade: A
The final item on Dayton Moore's list in Orlando was to scour the market for a starting pitcher to round out the rotation. Inspired by the success of Ervin Santana in 2013, the Royals are hoping to discover a buy-low talent looking to reestablish his career.
One such target that has shown up on the Royals' radar is Johan Santana, according to Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York. Marchand notes that Santana has seven potential suitors including the Royals. Santana is coming off of an injury-riddled stretch of three years but flashes signs of brilliance when he is healthy. An incentive-laden, short deal would benefit both Santana and his signing club in 2014. He fits the mold of what the Royals need.
Meanwhile, Fox Sports' Jon Morosi notes that the Royals have checked in on Jason Hammel. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors first reported on the details of a potential Hammel contract, noting that the pitcher would likely prefer a one-year deal over a two-year pact. In addition, Dierkes points out that a three-year contract could bring negotiations to a quick close.
Hammel and Santana are two pitchers that easily fit the mold that the Royals are looking to fill. Moore needed to move quickly to fill this position to avoid getting in a bidding war for a recovering hurler, however.
The Royals would have been better served coming out of the Winter Meetings with a pitcher in tow than they are with a few ideas of who might fit the role. The lack of a player under contract coming out of the meetings hurts Moore's grade here.
"Rounding Out The Rotation" Grade: D
Dayton Moore went to Orlando and showed that the team is ready to spend money and attempt to make a run at the division title in 2014. He found himself head-to-head with the Yankees on not just one, but two free agents. He lost the first battle over Carlos Beltran but the second battle over Omar Infante is still active.
Moore put in time in each of the four categories laid out here but only really excelled at one of them. Evaluating the market for Billy Butler was successful but also the least important task at hand. He did well laying the groundwork for a potential second base upgrade though it remains to be seen what benefit that brings. Finally, he found a few options to round out the pitching rotation but failed to bring one home with him.
Overall, Moore was adequate at the meetings but not quite advanced in his profession. Still, he sent a message to the rest of the league that the Royals are ready to compete and he is willing to spend to drive that point home.
Dayton Moore's Final Grade: C