Quiet, but busy Winter Meetings for Royals
Club continues search for second baseman, impact bat and starting pitcher
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Nothing doing at Disney World. Not for the Royals anyway.
The Royals concluded their business at the annual Winter Meetings on Thursday without making a trade or signing a free agent. But neither general manager Dayton Moore nor manager Ned Yost was seen sneaking off to Space Mountain during their stay.
Nope, the Royals' staff was constantly busy during the four days at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort just outside of Orlando.
They arrived after signing pitcher Jason Vargas and trading for right fielder Norichika Aoki. Possible targets were a second baseman and an impact bat -- maybe even a combination of the two -- and a starting pitcher.
Free-agent second baseman Omar Infante sparked some interest, and the Royals were linked to a few pitchers, but nothing was concluded here.
Even in the Rule 5 Draft, which concluded the meetings on Thursday, the Royals made no selections and lost just one player, right-handed pitcher Tyler Sample, to Pittsburgh in the Triple-A portion.
Doing little or nothing within the tight time span of the Winter Meetings is nothing new for the Royals. This is the third straight year of such seeming inertia. That's deceiving, however.
"Oftentimes, it's a precursor to another deal or an opportunity to make a deal," Moore said. "I think more than anything else, you're able to dissect your team in a lot of different ways and also get a really good feel and evaluation of the other 29 teams. The more information you have the more able you are to perhaps make a deal in the future."
Take last year. The Royals left Nashville's Opryland Hotel empty-handed but three days later swung the whopper deal that brought pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis from Tampa Bay and sent four prospects, including 2013 Rookie of the Year Wil Myers, to the Rays.
Or take 2010, when the meetings also were at Disney World. The Royals did sign two free agents, outfielders Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera, but 10 days later swung the big trade that sent pitcher Zack Greinke to Milwaukee. From the Brewers came two players that now are Royals regulars, shortstop Alcides Escobar and center fielder Lorenzo Cain, as well as pitcher Jake Odorizzi, who went to the Rays as part of the Shields deal.
Of course, it can go the other way as well. In 2011 at Dallas, the Royals did virtually nothing at the Meetings and not much afterward either.
Still, as Moore noted: "You're certainly in a better position going forward. It's always good to get your entire baseball operations group together for an extended period of time and discuss your team and all aspects of your organization. So it's a very healthy time for the organization and an important time to perhaps lay the groundwork for future deals."
This was Moore's eighth Winter Meetings as the Royals' GM.
The first came in 2006, when he signed Gil Meche, traded for another starter in Brian Bannister and signed closer Octavio Dotel. His Rule 5 Draft choice that year, Joakim Soria, replaced Dotel the next season and became one of the biggest Rule 5 success stories.
After that came a succession of free-agent signings: in 2007, outfielder Jose Guillen; in 2008, relievers Kyle Farnsworth and Doug Waechter and starter Horacio Ramirez; in 2009, catcher Jason Kendall, and in 2010, Francoeur and Cabrera.
Not many trades, though, for Moore at these annual gatherings.
"It's very difficult at times to do deals because there's a lot of interference -- a lot of teams, a lot of communication, a lot of ideas, and you have to determine very quickly the ones that perhaps make sense," he said. "The ones that make sense often don't have any legs to them. The ones that make sense to us oftentimes don't match up with what other teams want to do."
Deals done: None.
Rule 5 activity: The Royals made no selections and lost just one player, Sample, in the Minor League phase.
Goals accomplished: Moore's suite always seemed to be filled with his baseball operations staff that continually analyzed the Royals' roster and filtered through players on the 29 other teams that might be available. And when they weren't settled in the suite, the scouts were out in the lobby under the huge silver Christmas tree, schmoozing with their counterparts from other clubs. It was a very busy, noisy lobby.
Unfinished business: Further talks with Infante are probably in the future, but the addition of an impact bat beyond that seems to be a diminishing prospect. Moving Alex Gordon from the leadoff spot to accommodate Aoki might be the ultimate solution, however. The search for another starting pitcher will be an ongoing project. Remember: Opening Day isn't until March 31.
Team's bottom line: "We're trying to be very strategic on who we add, and we're trying to build more from the top down and trying to find that one player or pitcher that really solidifies us and helps us." -- Moore