As Royals fans, we're well aware of a disappointing history of not being able to retain star players as they approach free agency. Names like Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, and Carlos Beltran will make most Kansas City faithful cringe, grind their teeth, or throw something at the wall.
All three of those players have been to multiple All-Star Games. Two of them -- Damon and Dye -- have helped teams win a World Series title, with Dye being the Most Valuable Player of the Chicago White Sox's 2005 championship. And, with the free agent signing of ace pitcher Johan Santana early this month, Beltran might soon be wearing a world championship ring, as well.
What's sad, and all true Royals fans know this, is that all three of those players used to roam the outfield grass at Kauffman Stadium -- at the same time -- and all three were traded before they became too expensive for the Royals to afford. It's sickening to think of the possibilities.
Damon led the American League in 2000 with 136 runs scored and 46 stolen bases, while finishing among the top 10 for batting average (.327), hits (218), doubles (42) and triples (10), but was traded to Oakland on January 9, 2001.
Dye also wound up in Oakland, with the Royals receiving Colorado shortstop Neifi Perez in a three-team deal on July 25, 2001. At the time, Dye was batting .272 with 13 home runs and 47 runs batted in. Neifi Perez is Neifi Perez.
And the last piece of that trio, Beltran, was traded to the Astros in another three-team deal on June 24, 2004. In return, the Royals received Mark Teahen and pitcher Mike Wood from Oakland, as well as catcher John Buck from the Astros. In the 2004 playoffs with the Astros, Beltran established a new playoff record with home runs in five consecutive games, and also tied Barry Bonds' postseason record with eight round-trippers overall. (And, no, if you clicked on that link for Bonds, I'm not insinuating anything about Beltran)
In late May 2006, the Royals' sinking ship was salvaged with the firing of general manager Allard Baird. It was Baird who traded Damon, Dye, and Beltran, and you'd have to search far and wide to find a Royals fan who feels Kansas City got fair value in return. It was also Baird who signed free agents like Juan Gonzalez and Chuck Knoblauch.
To be fair, Baird did also sign free agents like fan-favorite Raul Ibanez and Mark Grudzielanek, who earned a Gold Glove in 2006 and remains the starting second baseman to this day. He also drafted Zack Greinke, Billy Butler, and Alex Gordon, which is impressive.
But Kansas City suffered through a dismal stretch under Baird's guidance, with three 100-loss seasons and a win-loss record of 381-576. And it might be argued that the Jermaine Dye for Neifi Perez trade was reason enough for him to be fired.
So, back to the sinking ship. Out goes Baird, and in comes new GM Dayton Moore. I would argue that June 8, 2006 -- Moore's first day on the job -- is one of the brightest days the Royals organization has had in the past 15 years. Finally, someone to fix the leaks, and bail out the water.
If we stick with the ship analogy, Moore had been cruising on one of the most successful vessels on the sea (a.k.a. the Atlanta Braves) for the previous 12 years. He had learned the role of GM while working in several capacities for former Royals' GM John Schuerholz.
In Atlanta, Moore had gained a reputation as one of the brightest young minds in professional baseball. He was named by Baseball America in 2005 as one of the Top 10 Up-and-Coming Power Brokers in Major League Baseball, and in 2004, the same publication projected Moore as the top general manager prospect.
As such, in November 2005, Moore was interviewed for the vacant GM position with the Boston Red Sox. Moore going to Boston was an exciting possibility for Red Sox Nation, but he withdrew his name from consideration, reportedly because he was not assured that he would have complete control over baseball operations.
You have to give Royals' owner David Glass some credit, as he must have been paying attention to the news of what happened in Boston. Because, despite hedging on whether or not to fire Baird for weeks on end, Glass agreed to hand over control of Kansas City's personnel decisions to Moore, and things have been on an upward trend ever since.
Over the past two offseasons, Moore has aggressively attacked the free agent market. His diligent work has lured Gil Meche, Octavio Dotel, Jose Guillen, Yasuhiko Yabuta, Ron Mahay, Brett Tomko, John Bale, and Miguel Olivo to the Royals' roster.
It has also been widely reported that Kansas City offered a $70 million contract to free agent CF Torii Hunter, who signed with the Angels, and made competitive -- if not better -- offers to Andruw Jones and Hiroki Kuroda, who both signed with the Dodgers.
In addition, his trades have been, for the most part, very sound. Brian Bannister, Ross Gload, Joey Gathright, Ryan Shealy, Tony Pena, Jr., Alberto Callaspo, Jorge De La Rosa, Daniel Cortes, Kyle Davies, and Julio Pimentel have all been acquired via Moore's dealings.
So, what's my point here? Succinctly, Dayton Moore is good at what he does. He's good for the Royals. And, going back to my original point, he needs to be signed to a contract extension at some point during this season. I suppose Glass can decide to wait and see if the team is winning games this year, but the team sure seems like it's ready to move in a new direction, and Moore is the one who pointed the Royals in that direction to begin with.
This morning, I was reading about Arizona GM Josh Byrnes, and how he was given an eight-year contract extension through 2015. Byrnes was hired by the Diamondbacks in October 2005, and has done essentially what Moore is in the process of doing in Kansas City -- rebuilding an organization, with a restricted payroll, and leading it to success.
Sure, Arizona won the N.L. West and advanced to the National League Championship Series last year, which is more than the Royals have done. But I would argue that Moore's task is a far greater challenge, yet the Royals are making progress, and fans are more excited about Kansas City baseball than we have been in years.
According to Cot's Baseball Contracts -- which is an interesting web site, by the way -- Moore has a five-year deal in place for about $1 million per year. Assuming that's accurate, this is the middle year of that contract. He's instilling faith and pride back into this once-proud organization, and he deserves a long-term commitment, just like Josh Byrnes.
David Glass needs to recognize the direction that Dayton Moore is taking the Royals, and reward him before he gets away just like Damon, Dye, and Beltran. Otherwise, as Kansas City has more and more success, and the end of Moore's contract in 2010 nears, baseball owners are going to be licking their chops, just waiting to steal him away.