The Royals fired president of baseball operations Dayton Moore, according to a report from Andy McCullough and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Royals chairman and CEO John Sherman then confirmed the move in a press conference and announced that general manager J.J. Picollo is now in charge of baseball operations, per Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star.
“Dayton’s 16 years of leadership here will always mark the transformation into a World Series championship club,” Sherman says in a press release announcing the move. “Our fans, our region, and our community will never forget the excitement we shared in back-to-back pennants and the World Series Championship in 2015. He always put the Kansas City Royals first, and we’re stronger today because of it.”
Moving on to Picollo, Sherman says:
“J.J.’s experience in baseball has prepared him for the challenges ahead. He has played a key role in evaluating and developing many of our franchise’s most talented players, including the core that won the 2015 World Series and the young core on the major league team today. He will brings a new lens and approach to leading our baseball operations. I look forward to working with J.J. as we continue to build and develop our team to compete at a high level.”
Moore, 55, was hired by the Braves as a scout in 1994, eventually working his way up to assistant general manager. The Royals hired him to be their general manager in 2006. As mentioned, Moore eventually led the Royals to a title in 2015, but it wasn’t a smooth ride. The Royals were one of the worst teams in baseball for an extended stretch that started before Moore joined the club, posting a losing record in nine straight seasons from 2004 to 2012.
However, the upside of all that losing was that the club was able to stockpile young talent through drafting and trading, eventually slingshotting itself to success. The Royals used the second overall pick of the 2005 draft to grab Alex Gordon, the second overall pick of the 2007 draft to grab Mike Moustakas and the third overall pick in the 2008 draft on Eric Hosmer. Moore traded Zack Greinke in 2010, then one of the best pitchers in baseball, for a four-player return that included Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar. That trade also netted Jake Odorizzi, who was later part of a trade that netted the Royals James Shields and Wade Davis from the Rays. Those players, along with international signees like Salvador Perez and Yordano Ventura, formed a core that allowed the club to return to contention. The Royals got above the .500 mark in 2013, then won the AL Pennant in 2014 and won the World Series in 2015.
It’s been a rough tumble from those heights, though, with the club posting an even 81-81 record in 2016 and falling below it in each season since. The franchise was hoping to use the same playbook of building a strong stable of young players around which to build a winning ball club, but it’s yet to be as successful this time around. Some of the club’s most recent first-round draft picks have reached the majors, including Brady Singer, Bobby Witt Jr., Jackson Kowar and Daniel Lynch. The team was hoping that 2022 would be a season where it returned to contention, but the Royals are currently sporting a record of 59-89, better than just five other clubs around the league and guaranteed a sixth-straight losing campaign.
Moore can’t entirely be blamed for the team’s recent failures, of course, just as he can’t claim all of the credit for its previous successes. The Royals, like all MLB teams, employ dozens of analysts, scouts and other executives to make their baseball decisions. The organization decided that it was time for change and set its sights on the person at the top of the pyramid.
The new face of the front office will now be Picollo, who isn’t a new name for fans of the club. The 51-year-old was also a Braves scout but was brought along by Moore to be the Royals’ director of player development. He will now step into the spotlight and try to steer the franchise forward. Despite the club’s recent struggles, there are reasons to think he might be well-positioned to correct course in short order. The poor results in recent seasons have led to a pile of young talent on the team, though the Royals will have to find better ways of maximizing their skills. Financially, the club has limited commitments, with Salvador Perez and Hunter Dozier the only two players on the books beyond 2023. Of course, the Royals have never been a high-spending club, meaning that they will likely want to see improvements from their player development operations before they decide to start writing big checks. The franchise is clearly looking for change, but Picollo might start by looking inside the house before he looks outside.