Moore focused on rotation, retooling for title run
Royals general manager said team's priority is adding a solid starting pitcher
KANSAS CITY -- There's no doubt about general manager Dayton Moore's top priority when it comes to retooling his World Series Royals for the 2015 season.
"A starting pitcher is crucial for us to add to that rotation," Moore said.
Moore made that point during a session with Kansas City media on Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium. He also made it clear that said pitcher is not likely to be James Shields or any of the other top-echelon free agents.
"We'll do our best, but it's going to be awful, awful difficult for us to win the negotiations for top free-agent pitchers, just in terms of length [of contract] as much as anything," Moore said.
But Moore indicated the Royals will be aggressive for lower-tier free agents, and their new stature as a World Series team could be beneficial.
"Players want to be a part of winning," Moore said.
Although promotions from within the organization are preferred, no prospects seem to be big league ready as starters. However, left-hander Brandon Finnegan's jump from college to a World Series team in a matter of three months earned him a close look in Spring Training.
"We're still getting to know Finney," Moore said. "He was obviously very good for us out of the bullpen. We still believe he can be a very good Major League starter."
Finnegan will be among 10 or 12 pitchers considered for the rotation. Not among them will be right-hander Kyle Zimmer, who recently underwent shoulder surgery and won't be ready to pitch until close to June.
"A year ago, we felt [Zimmer] was ahead of [Yordano] Ventura, but he just hasn't been able to stay healthy," Moore said.
The Royals' other free agents include designated hitter Billy Butler and right fielder Nori Aoki.
"Both of those guys battle good pitching, they can go deep in the count. We've got to stay open-minded there and make sure we have that balance," Moore said. "We didn't have any one superstar last year, nobody put up necessarily MVP-type numbers, but we had a balance one through nine."
When it comes to the trade market, don't look for the Royals to be dealing away any of their everyday players, including third baseman Mike Moustakas, who had a low average in the regular season.
"We feel Moose has a chance to potentially win an MVP, that's how we feel about his ability. In the postseason, I think you saw him embrace the moment with a lot of big hits," Moore said. "He's going to just keep getting better and better. It'd be very difficult to find a better alternative for us than Mike Moustakas at third base -- not that we'd be looking, he's definitely our third baseman going forward."
Nor are the Royals likely to be dealing off any of their three backend bullpen beauties, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, who'll be a rather expensive trio to retain.
"I think if we didn't have Ventura and [Danny] Duffy where they are with their years of service and their contract status, it'd be a little more challenging to do in our market, but we're not in a hurry to break those guys up. We'll just have to wait and see how the offseason comes together," Moore said.
In other words, money saved on Ventura and Duffy can be used for bullpen salaries, at least for now.
Although Moore didn't cite a payroll goal or limit after being at an all-time high $93 million this year, he said that owner David Glass has been flexible when necessary. The team's success also should increase season-ticket sales and attendance next season, helping foot the bill.
"Obviously if we have a winning team and players that connect with the community, especially here in Kansas City, the fans are going to respond and come out," Moore said. "So, of course, our attendance is important if we're going to have the type of payroll necessary to keep a lot of our young players, sign free agents or make trades that are impactful."
Moore also reflected on the Royals' unanticipated leap into the World Series, ignited by their amazing and emotional Wild Card Game victory over the Athletics.
"Just the fight and the grit and the toughness and the no-quit attitude was a remarkable accomplishment. A great baseball game," Moore said.
The series sweeps over the Angels and the Orioles followed.
"You get to the World Series and you want to win that. And to come up short, it hurts, it stung a great deal," Moore said. "But it's a motivator going forward and a realization of how fragile this is."