Think about this. Over the past two seasons, the Kansas City Royals are 7-5 in World Series games. In the same time frame, they're 22-9 in postseason games. No matter how you look at it, that's domination; and Dayton Moore deserves a lot of credit. After what seemed to be a lackluster off-season, very few analysts picked the Royals to go anywhere in 2015, let alone get even better than 2014. But that's what they did. And it's thanks to Moore's ability to build a team.
The Major League Baseball Draft is still an integral part of building a team. With the yields not be as good as previous generations, selecting a player that will make the majors is becoming an art form. In Moneyball, Michael Lewis goes on at length about how small market teams like the Oakland Athletics need to build their team through the draft. That book is now over a decade old, so the inefficiencies depicted therein are somewhat dated. However, picking out the lower risk players that will remain cost-controlled assets for the next several years is on the agenda of a lot of general managers.
Take Moore's drafting record for instance. His first draft pick ever as a member of the Royals was Luke Hochevar in 2006. One of the tenets of Moneyball is to draft pitchers out of college, and avoid the ones out of high school. The Dodgers had wasted a pick back in 2002 on Hochevar when he decided he would attend college instead of signing a major league contract. Not only do high school pitchers sometimes elect not to sign, but their path to the majors can have a lot more strife. The first high school pitcher drafted in 2006 was Clayton Kershaw so, sometimes erring on the side of caution isn't the best idea. However, the second was Kasey Kiker... [pauses for you to look up who that is]... Exactly.
Moore followed up the 2006 draft by taking a shortstop out of high school the following season: Mike Moustakas. Moustakas' path to the majors wasn't an easy one. However, if you're going to draft a high school position player, shortstop is a good bet. If they lack defensive prowess, their ability to play shortstop usually translates well into a different infield position. Truthfully, Moustakas' bat never developed the way some scouts expected it to until this season. Moustakas learned to routinely beat the defensive shift and it showed with a 124 wRC+.
And how do you follow up Hochevar and Moustakas? Grab your franchise first baseman in the following draft: Eric Hosmer. Since 2011, Hosmer has been the 21st-best first baseman by FanGraphs WAR. That doesn't sound all-that-great, but Lucas Duda has been worth the same amount in the same time frame.
Other notables include Aaron Crow, Wil Myers, and Brandon Finnegan. But more on them later.
The popularity of the international market has been a large focus of the MLB over the past few years. It's the reason Rob Manfred -- and Bud Selig before him -- brought up the idea of an international draft.
Once your team has drafted well and has a seemingly good farm system going, it's time to dip into your free agent budget and use a mere fraction of it to sign international players. The Royals did just that when they signed 16-year old Venezuelan catcher, Salvador Perez nine years ago. Back then, the Royals were able to sign Perez for $65,000. There is almost no risk at all when signing a player for that type of money. Perez played Rookie-ball for the Royals for the next four seasons. And, except for his first season -- when he was 17 -- he performed extremely well.
Moore dipped back into the international market in 2008 when he signed Yordano Ventura to an international contract that included a $28,000 signing bonus. Scouts have fawned over Ventura's fastball for a long time and, in his first full season in 2014, it turned out to be just as major-league-ready as they had hoped.
I can't over-state how little risk there was to signing international free agents for major league baseball teams. It was a massive market inefficiency and -- despite altered rules and growing price tags -- still is. It's only a matter of time before Manfred comes up with a more permanent solution to a fairly troubling problem. Kudos to Moore though, for capitalizing when the gettin' was good.
This is where the aforementioned Crow, Myers, and Finnegan come in. Once your team has the necessary cost-effective pieces, it's time to take stock of what you have, what you need, and hit the phones. That includes adding pieces when you think you have a chance, but also letting some players go when you're not as close as you want.
In the off-season of 2010, Moore was allegedly asked for a trade from Zack Greinke's camp. Trading away a talent like Greinke could never be easy, but Moore's hand was forced and he traded Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt away for Jake Odorizzi, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, and Jeremy Jeffress. Looking back at this trade, it's truly a cornerstone of the Royals' rebuild with direct impact on the 2014 and 2015 campaigns.
By December of 2012, the Royals were in a good enough spot to start making meaningful additions. Moore traded away top prospect Wil Myers, along with Odorizzi for James Shields and Wade Davis. Shields went on to play a huge role in the 2014 American League Championship campaign and Davis had to step in as closer for the 2015 World Series campaign. At the time of the trade, fans ridiculed Moore for trading away such a highly-touted prospect as Myers. Looking back however, it's exceptionally clear that Moore made the correct move.
Throw in a trade deadline deal for Johnny Cueto that included Finnegan, and you've got yourself a World Series-winning roster.
Where does Dayton Moore's statue go?
The 2014 and 2015 campaigns will be in the memories of Royals' fans for decades to come. Ending the longest playoff drought and following up by winning the World Series is amazing. The general manager that was ridiculed for his inactivity this past off-season now has a World Series ring. Free agency is turning into an ineffective way to add big pieces to a roster it seems. However, it's also difficult to imagine a scenario where the Royals are as successful without Kendrys Morales and Edinson Volquez. Perhaps adding second-tier talent from free agency is the new market inefficiency. We'll have to ask Moore.