First off, in a vacuum, yes, signing Feliz was a mistake if he logs meaningful at-bats. But to view any front office transaction in a vacuum, irrespective of any other forces at work, would be a mistake, a pattern of reaction of which we are all guilty. None of us can sit where we sit and expect to know all of the inner workings of a front office, Further, we need to be mindful that the Feliz signing was merely a minor league signing, which minimizes the impact Feliz could have on the Royals this season.
For Feliz to make the team, he would have to battle Mike Aviles and Wilson Betemit for a spot on the roster. Is the position winnable for Feliz? Sure, anything is possible. But while Aviles and Betemit are somewhat unremarkable overall, either one project as a worthy incumbent before prospect Mike Moustakas eventually takes over. This is where the Feliz signing might just manifest a stroke of shrewdness.
We have to consider the possibility that, by signing a player with Feliz’s history of defensive excellence simply means Moore wants Feliz to teach Moustakas a thing or two with the glove. Although Feliz’s UZR declined greatly last year, he was still among the eras best defensive thirrd baseman, and he may be able to bestow his knowledge upon younger players regarding positioning, technique, and footwork. Basically, Feliz may behave as a qualified coach, and on a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, the cost of having a tutor for one of the organization’s top prospects may be a move which has some legitimate value. Additionally, a young player such as Moustakas, as well as Aviles and Betemit, might absorb the teachings of a current player with more appreciation than one might from a crusty old coach who remains in the organization merely out of team loyalty.
Of course there is no way to know right now if this was Moore’s intent, but I would be less inclined to believe Moore signed Feliz because he thought he has more to offer as an everyday ballplayer than several of the alternatives already in house. Despite what we all think about Moore – to whom I don’t hold any ties – we need to give him, at least in this case, some benefit of the doubt. Moore was part of building a dynasty in Atlanta, and has shown the ability to build a strong farm system with the Royals. Further, with the necessary talent, perhaps Moore is adept at preparing young players for major league success. We will see over the next couple of years whether Moore has assembled a foundation of future success not simply because he and his staff have drafted talented players but also building an environment in which those young players can thrive. Moore might still have things to learn about being a General Manager, but we should not assume he is simply ignorant.
Even In lieu of his less than stellar record and recent player acquisitions, I am going to go on record and say I don’t believe Dayton Moore thinks Pedro Feliz will be his starting third baseman on opening day, or, possibly, at any point of the season. Certainly, Moore realizes that his team isn’t mature enough or talented enough to win it all this year, but the signing of Feliz has potential to help the organization if Moustakas can pick something up from being around Feliz, even for just a month.
Given that there is essentially no opportunity cost to having Feliz hanging around spring training in March, this move very well could end up benefiting the organization without Feliz ever getting a single regular season at-bat for the Royals. If he ends up getting 500 plate appearances and burying better players in the minors, then we will certainly criticize the decision making process in Kansas City. Until that actually happens, though, perhaps we’re better off giving Moore the benefit of the doubt on signings like this.