Royals hunt for arms at Winter Meetings
GM Moore to search for middle-tier pitchers in Orlando
KANSAS CITY -- General manager Dayton Moore is going into his first Winter Meetings for the Royals, and he'd probably like to make a splash.
Last year, at Dallas, the Royals made hardly more than a couple of ripples. Then-GM Allard Baird traded for pitcher Mark Redman, swapped for infielder Esteban German and signed reliever Elmer Dessens. That was about it, although groundwork was laid for later free agent signings.
Moore will be roaming the hotel lobbies and halls at Disney World near Orlando, Fla., in a hunt for pitching.
Two things already have been established. There aren't a lot of high-quality pitchers available on the free-agent market. And, regardless of quality, the prices are likely to be inflated.
"The money is getting up there," Moore said.
If the Royals do take a flier on a free agent starting pitcher, it won't be in the upper reaches of, say, Barry Zito or Tom Glavine. It will be in the "middle tier" of Gil Meche or Miguel Batista, for example.
Moore also will be inclined to explore the old-fashioned method of securing talent: the trade.
Moore looks at a rotation that includes left-handers Odalis Perez and Jorge De La Rosa and right-handers Luke Hudson and Runelvys Hernandez and wants more -- hopefully someone who can be a staff leader. Scott Elarton will be back, but not until around June 1. Top winner Redman has opted for free agency.
Moore can offer some outfielders in the marketplace because that's where the Royals are deepest. They have Emil Brown and Reggie Sanders, not great sluggers but guys with pop. Brown would seem more appealing because he's younger, at 31, and has had back-to-back good seasons. Sanders, 39, is coming off knee surgery.
And they have a younger group including Shane Costa, Joey Gathright, Mitch Maier, Justin Huber and Chris Lubanski. They wouldn't deal David DeJesus. It's possible that Mark Teahen will move from third base to left field if Alex Gordon shows he's ready to open the season at third. And Billy Butler, the club's best Minor League hitter, is probably just a summer away, if that.
So it's a crowded venue that gives Moore some dealing power.
"That's one of our strengths, but we're not stimulated to move any of these guys, either," Moore said. "I like our core of positions. I like all of our position players."
After trading away Mike MacDougal and having Ambiorix Burgos falter, the GM wants an experienced closer. Joe Nelson filled the gap late in the season, but he's unproven over the long haul. Zack Greinke has been mentioned as a possibility, but he's more likely to be in the rotation. So that hunt is on.
This is the time of year when fans start suggesting the Royals send designated hitter Mike Sweeney and his $11 million salary on their merry way. As a trade commodity, though, Sweeney's appeal is very limited because of his recurring back problems. He'll have to prove he's sound in Spring Training before the Royals or anyone else gets excited.
"He'll be there in Spring Training," Moore said "He means so much to our organization. We're a different club when he's hitting in the four-hole."
In this year's Rule 5 Draft, the Royals will have the second choice. Their current roster is at a full 40 players, so someone would have to be dropped to make a draft selection.
Manager Buddy Bell will be at the Winter Meetings after missing the last 10 games of the season to have throat surgery.
"He's doing great," Moore said. "I talked to him the other day and he's getting bored."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.