Does Dayton Moore Have the KC Royals on the Road to Oblivion?

Clark FoslerCorrespondent IJuly 23, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 20:  Miguel Olivo #21 of the Kansas City Royals walks back to the dugout after striking out against the St. Louis Cardinals during the game on June 20, 2009 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

From the Kansas City Star this morning:

Moore points to the club's 18-11 start, prior to the onset of injuries to several key players, as validation of the organization's approach.

"I go back to the same thing all of the time," he said. "If our processes were so poor, how were we able to put together a pretty good team in the off-season? We went through the process, and most people around baseball felt we were vastly improved.

"That's what we have tried to do in repairing some of the injuries that have occurred. That's all I can say."

I originally was going to write about the trade value of David DeJesus this morning, but the quote above and the rest of that story in The Star certainly made me believe that discussing trade values of any of the major players on the Royals' roster might just be a waste of time. 

Sure, Dayton Moore's public comments could just be posturing to make the Royals appear to other teams as less desperate to make moves, but I think that is somewhat unlikely.   Moore and the entire organization are in the bunker now: Their identities as elite 'baseball people' are tied to this team and they simply may not allow themselves to blow up this squad.

This is an organization that has seen its bullpen implode in spectacular fashion and do so while playing the Tampa Bay Rays whose closer is ex-Royal J.P. Howell.  As Howell was saving three straight games against Kansas City, the player received in exchanged for him, Joey Gathright, was on the disabled list...for the Norfolk Tides.

Worse yet, as the Royals front office bemoaned the injuries that have struck this club—and there have been many without a doubt—they were getting swept by the Angels: A team that currently has Vladimir Guerroro and Torii Hunter on the disabled list and has played the better part of the season with three-fifths of its starting rotation out of action.

Sure, the Royals did trade one of their top minor league pitching prospects to Seattle for Yuniseky Betancourt, but that move was the result of last year's rookie phenom, Mike Aviles, going down with injury and likely out until the middle of next season.  That, and the realization, even among those who were his biggest fans, that Tony Pena Jr. was, indeed, historically awful at the plate.  

Such a trade was not a hit to the collective organizational ego so much as a 'look at what we were able to do!' sort of deal.   Nevermind that the numbers say Betancourt's defense is in steep decline and that he may, now that Tony Pena Jr. is not a regular, be the worst offensive regular in the majors.  

Okay, let me step away for a second and say, as a Royals' fan, that I hope this is one case where the baseball minds are correct and that the numbers are not giving a true picture of Yunieksy Betancourt.  

I would LOVE to be wrong and delight in spending the next two and one-half seasons watching Betancourt play stellar defense and hit with some pop.   If I'm writing a column in 2011 about how the Royals must resign Betancourt and move Jeff Bianchi (currently the AA shortstop) to second to get him in the lineup, then life will be good and I will happily admit being wrong back in those dark days of 2009.

Coming back to reality, the Betancourt may be it as far as major moves, if that even qualifies, this summer.  

I fully expect something minor:  a swap of relievers, maybe Carlos Rosa for a AA level position player, or possibly a trade of one of the team's three catchers for, well, something.   Nothing, however, that could even tickle the boundaries of major.

Jose Guillen, with his unique combination of injuries, contract and attitude, is immovable.  With Gil Meche battling injuries, Sidney Ponson being himself and Bruce Chen simply being a back of the rotation starter in AAA, the Royals seem less and less likely to move Brian Bannister.  

Two months ago, a lot of teams might have had interest in pieces of the bullpen, but not even their manager wants them now.   Mike Jacobs?  C'mon, get serious.

That brings us back to the core group of David DeJesus, Mark Teahen, Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and, dare we say it, Alberto Callaspo.   If you are not going to trade starting pitching or Joakim Soria, then there is your talent pool that might net something of worth in return.  

Those guys, at least the first four, are not going anywhere: The Royals' brass has tied their success to those players being good enough to compete.   Simply put, the Royals' like those guys way more than the other 29 teams do.  

The funny thing about that is that, with the exception of Callaspo, none of those are 'Dayton Moore' guys.   They were all inherited from the previous regime, as was Zack Greinke and, in a kind of weird way, Luke Hochevar.

In fact, of the core group that Dayton Moore seems to believe is so close to contending had it not been for injuries, bad luck and an apparent ill-timed misalignment of the planets and stars, only half are 'his' guys.   Yet, I don't believe that Moore's ego will allow himself to recognize that this group probably is not good enough.

Moore has often remarked that you cannot assume that you are somehow smarter than the other 29 general managers in baseball.   It strikes me that, this July, Mr. Moore might be wise to take his own advice.