Say what now? The scapegoat has become the stallion? After breaking down every player that has performed well in the first month of the season, I realized one communal factor: Dayton Moore. I think it is time to give some credit where it is due.
What does the title “General Manager” mean exactly? From various places amongst this great wide internet, I was able to put a list of duties together:
The baseball general manager is responsible for:
-making final decisions when it comes to trading, signing, and drafting baseball players
-managing, reviewing and negotiating contracts of the baseball players
-hiring and firing of the coaching staffs for all levels of the organization
-planning and attaining budgets of the baseball team
-arranging travels plans for the players and coaches
-addressing questions and complaints in relation to the baseball team
-reporting daily operations of the baseball team to its superiors
I will be honest. I have no idea how good of a travel agent Dayton Moore is. I will assume he has hired someone very capable to do that for him. As far as addressing questions and complaints, he does not often issue statements or appear in the media. But when he does, he has a generally honest demeanor to him. I would say he is doing an adequate job in that regard.
He should be receiving praise for his work with the budget of the team. I do not know how he handles the general organizational budget. I’m sure I could scour Google for a while and find out, but I will focus on his work with the major league squad. He has shown a good handle on communication with the Glass family by pushing our payroll to new heights. Using this budget in mostly a wise fashion (I am certainly not excusing him for Bonafacio), he has assembled the closest thing we’ve had to a true major league capable roster in over a decade.
Another proof of his ability to massage a constrictive budget is the sly move made in the first round of the 2013 Amateur draft. By selecting a solid, but not flashy, prospect like Hunter Dozier above his projected slot, he was able to create a surplus of allocation funds to go after Sean Manea. Both are currently listed in the top 10 organizational prospect list by MLB.com and have shown signs of being very good ball players.
Also consider what he didn’t do. He did not spend ridiculous amounts of money to resign Ervin Santana. He did not spend ridiculous amounts of money to lure Carlos Beltran. He made solid and respectable offers to both, but did not overpay. He did not overpay for a hit-or-miss commodity like Nelson Cruz. Instead, he has taken that money and used it to sign key free agents as described later, as well as provide a slush fund for all the players who reached or advanced in arbitration this year.
Let’s get down to brass tacks, the most notable and public of GM duties: trading, signing and drafting baseball players. This is where the bulk of this award comes from.
Omar “Iron Jaw” Infante is second in all of MLB at his position in RBIs, while making defense look routine and easy at second base.
Jason Vargas has been a stud so far this season. Amongst all MLB pitchers, he ranks in the top 10 in WAR (1.3), IP (41.1), Adj. Pitching Wins (.9), and Adj. Pitching Runs (9). In more traditional stats, both he and James Shields appear in the top 30 in WHIP, top 30 in BB/9, and top 25 in ERA, with Shields also 11th in Strikeouts and 27th in K/9.
Yordano Ventura looks to be the first breakout starting pitcher developed by this regime. Yes, Moore does get negative points for that in some regards (I will explain why I somewhat pass the blame on this point later). The young fire baller is currently 9th in all MLB in ERA and 16th in K/9, not to mention lighting up everyone’s newsfeed with raving articles about his 102+ MPH fastball. If he continues at this pace and if not for the technicalities in place that allow Tanaka and Jose Abreu to be classified as “rookies”, Ventura would surely walk away with Rookie of the Year honors.
Aoki plays solid defense in right and has proven to be a major league capable leadoff hitter, allowing Gordon to move down in the lineup with the theory that he’ll be able to drive in more runs. Though this hasn’t quite worked out as planned yet, it is certainly still plausible.
Salvador Perez, whereas underachieving from an offensive standpoint so far this season (like pretty much all our offense), is signed to what could go down as the greatest team-friendly contract in MLB history.
Alcides Escobar, now solidified in the proper batting spot for a player of his talents, is looking a lot more like 2012 Escobar (.293/.331/.390) than 2013 Escobar (.234/.259/.300), while playing web gem level defense. Note that he is also signed to a pretty crazy team-friendly long term contract.
What about Hosmer? Moustakas? The complete and laughable lack of power on this team? The fact that Ventura is the first starting pitcher drafted or internationally signed to even sniff the idea of being called a star?
Moore is certainly somewhere in the hierarchy of blame for all of those. But I will also argue that nowhere in any job description I could find for a general manager was there any verbiage like “develop players into stars”.
He has consistently provided his organization the material to make superstars (Colon and Starling withstanding). Eric Hosmer has all the raw talent to be a star. Mike Moustakas has the raw talent to be … okay, probably not a star, but certainly a good player. Billy and Gordo (while not drafted by Moore, but have been resigned by him) have shown they are capable of putting up star-like numbers. Duffy has the raw talent to be a star. I am not personally familiar with the actual talent level of the prospects in the minors currently, but names like Zimmer, Manea, Bonifacio, Dozier, Mondesi, Almonte, etc seem to be buzzed around as though there is star potential at many levels.
And yes, he is responsible for hiring the people that are supposed to mold that raw material into masterpieces. But that’s kind of like getting really angry at Bill Gates because you hate the layout of Windows 8. If you want to be mad at Moore for anything, let it be that he has allowed noticeable inconsistency within our organization philosophies, especially when it comes to batting. There is seemingly no consistent offensive approach. This directly leads to the length of time it is taking players like Hosmer and Moustakas to “figure it out” at the big league level.
Dayton Moore has not been perfect. He has made his misses in the draft. He has supposedly let his players dictate the coaching staff and philosophy (if you believe the rumors about the Seitzer firing). Perhaps he has even booked someone an aisle seat when they specifically asked for a window.
However, he has also proven that he is capable of making wise decisions when it comes to drafting raw talent. He has proven he is more than capable of making wise decisions when trading players and signing free agents. He has shown the ability to massage and manipulate a small market budget. The recent trades and free agent signings he has made are the only thing keeping this team with such an anemic offense at .500.
For all of that, he is our early season Most Valuable Performer.