Royals promote Dayton Moore to president, J.J. Picollo to GM

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Royals promoted general manager Dayton Moore to president of baseball operations and elevated longtime assistant GM J.J. Picollo to fill his previous role in a front-office shakeup Tuesday that promises a seamless path forward for the rebuilding organization.

Moore, who has been general manager since 2006, will continue to have final say on trades and other roster moves, but Picollo will have a greater voice in the room when it comes to putting together the team.

“I’m not a micromanager. We’re going to allow people to do their jobs,” Moore said. “It’s very collaborative, as it always has been, and I think the uniqueness of this relationship is we’ve all worked together for so long.”

Indeed, the 54-year-old Moore and the 51-year-old Picollo have worked together for 15 years in Kansas City. Before that, the pair spent time in the Atlanta Braves organization during their heyday in the 1990s.

“I would be foolish as a first-time general manager not to lean on someone who has sat in that seat,” Picollo said. “We’re fortunate how we’re set up in the front office. That collaboration has always taken place.”

Moore presided over one of the most remarkable turnarounds in baseball history, leading the long-suffering Royals from a team that regularly lost 100 games upon his 2006 arrival to one that reached consecutive World Series. And in 2015, they beat the New York Mets in five games for their first championship in 30 years.

The Royals have been on another major rebuilding effort after the small-market club was unable to keep some of the big names that ushered in their winning era. But there have been signs that another breakthrough is on the horizon as a wave of talented young pitchers continues to help Kansas City win games down the stretch this season.

Picollo, who has interviewed for several GM jobs, has long been considered Moore’s heir apparent.

“He’s totally prepared. He talks about elevating his role and being more effective and I can’t wait to see that” Royals owner John Sherman said. “J.J. has been an architect of what I would call helping to modernize our baseball operations department over the past few years. He had a lot of help in doing it but when you talk about data science and data capture and all the tools we have for player development, J.J. helped to lead us to that evolution.”

The organizational structure is similar to those embraced by about half of big league teams, and has become necessary in part due to the changing business of baseball. The Royals had just 85 employees when Moore arrived, but they now have 266 on the payroll, including such new departments as performance science and behavior science.

The change should allow Moore to better handle the growing complexity of the organization.

“This structure is best practice in our industry now,” Sherman said. “I really expect to get more executive, high-level thinking out of Dayton when we think about the team, and I know the operation of the ballclub is in good hands.”

Moore, who grew up a Royals fan in Wichita, began his career as a scout with the Braves. He climbed the ranks to director of international scouting and director of player personnel development, and in 2005 he was given the job of assistant general manager.

Then-Royals owner David Glass, who had been pilloried by fans for his inability to turn the Royals around, turned to Moore in June 2006 to finally accomplish the task. Moore decided to invest heavily in Latin America, establishing academies that helped to identify talent, and slowly built the Kansas City farm system into one of the best in the big leagues.

Still, it took until 2013 before Moore saw the fruits of that labor in Kauffman Stadium. That’s when players such as Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas began to get their call-ups, and combined with some nervy moves made by Moore – such as trading away Zack Greinke and acquiring James Shields and Wade Davis – finally put the Royals over the top.

They reached the World Series the following year, losing to the Giants in a dramatic series that came down to the final out of Game 7 in Kansas City. And they returned the following year to finish the job, beating the Mets for the championship.

Picollo had his fingerprints on those teams, too.

The former Braves scout joined the Royals as director of player development in 2006 and, two years later, became the assistant GM in charge of scouting and player development. In that role, Picollo worked closely with the Royals’ entire minor league setup, ushering players from their first steps in pro ball all the way to the majors.

He was promoted to his current role as vice president and assistant GM in charge of player personnel in 2015, and now he will have an opportunity to finish Moore’s latest rebuilding job in Kansas City.

“This structure has been presented a few different times and truthfully, it just wasn’t one that I was personally ready to embrace for a number of reasons,” Moore said. “I began to evaluate our personnel and the different skillsets that are in this front office. We had discussions and laid out the different roles and how we can achieve sustained success as John desires, our fanbase desires and we aspire to, it became very, very clear this was the structure that made the most sense.”

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.