Yes, the Royals have denied the Braves permission to interview Dayton Moore about their general manager job, but that doesn’t mean the door is closed on any chance of Moore returning to run baseball operations in the city where he began his front-office career.
A person familiar with the situation confirmed a report by ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick that the Braves were denied permission to interview Moore, who signed a Royals contract extension of undisclosed length in February 2016 and has to have permission before he can interview with another team.
But there is a belief among some observers that the Royals might be positioning themselves for possible concessions from the Braves to allow Moore to interview and/or leave. And it’s possible that Moore might also be waiting for some assurances about the Braves situation and his potential role if he were to join them.
Neither the Royals nor the Braves have confirmed that permission was asked for or denied.
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The Braves' front office has been in a state of limbo and high anxiety for nearly a month because of an ongoing Major League Baseball investigation into a variety of serious alleged rules infractions by the team under general manager John Coppolella, who was forced to resign Oct. 2, as was Gordon Blakeley, the team’s international scouting supervisor.
It's expected that lawsuits will be filed by Coppolella or Blakeley or possibly both, presumably because of how the Braves handled the investigation. I didn't say "how the Braves threw them under the bus" or sacrificed Coppolella and Blakeley in an effort to lessen the punishment that's coming to the organization, but I've heard others categorize it as such and, well, I'll leave it at that.
Results of that investigation are expected to be announced soon after the World Series, with the Braves expected to face potential fines, likely major restrictions in future international free-agent dealings and quite possibly the loss of multiple young prospects who could be made free agents if MLB determines the Braves broke rules to sign them.
It’s with this dark cloud hanging overhead that the Braves have been tasked with trying to fill out the hierarchy of their baseball operations before free agency begins and with the GM meetings only a couple of weeks away. And the man currently running the show, president of baseball operations John Hart, has had to meet with MLB investigators regarding his possible involvement or at least awareness of infractions by Coppolella, Blakeley and possibly others.
Did we mention the high anxiety that permeates the Braves these past few weeks? And not just their front office and coaches – who still await official announcement of next year’s staff – but also the team’s fan base, which has been on pins and needles, seeking information each day about the investigation and watching as other teams hire and fire managers and pitching coaches while the Braves wait for MLB’s hammer to fall before moving forward.
Moore is the man that many inside and outside the organization believe is the perfect candidate to ride in on the figurative white horse and restore both the Braves’ once-sterling reputation off the field and guide the final stages of a rebuild that’s been painful for three years -- a rebuild that was embarked upon with a goal of returning the Braves to perennial-contender status after more than a decade of mediocrity. He did it in Kansas City. He knows the Braves culture as it once was, and has the respect of current players who talk to former players and hear nothing but glowing reports about Moore.
Getting the perfect candidate never was going to be easy, as Moore would understandably not be expected to come to the Braves unless he was running the entire show; a move from his current position to Braves GM would be a step down if they retain Hart as president of baseball operations. There was no president of baseball operations in Kansas City; Moore has those responsibilities.
But if Hart were to step down, change titles or be forced out after MLB announces its findings, well, then the road might suddenly be cleared for Moore, the Braves might suddenly be willing to meet whatever potential compensation the Royals demand, and Moore could be given the power to either run the show as president of baseball operations and GM, or just be prez of baseball ops and hire a GM to take care of much of the daily grind that goes with that job.
Moore, 50, started as a Braves scout and worked his way up to assistant GM under former Braves GM John Schuerholz before leaving for Kansas City in 2006. He rebuilt a Royals organization that went nearly three decades without a postseason appearance until winning the American League pennant in 2014 and the World Series in 2015.
The Royals have several high-profile free agents and are facing another rebuilding situation now, after Moore used many of their prospects to acquire key pieces in the team’s highly successful postseason runs.
Meanwhile, the next GM of the Braves will step into a talent-rich farm system that has been rated as the best and deepest in baseball. It will remain at or near the top of those rankings even if the Braves lose a prospect or three because of rules infractions.
Whoever steps into the GM role will be in position to finish off a rebuild that should yield playoff contenders for multiple seasons once the Braves’ rotation is stocked with many of the elite arms that Coppolella and Hart acquired and the lineup built around Freddie Freeman is infused with the best of the Braves’ position-player prospects, led by Ronald Acuna, and complemented by some key pieces acquired via trades or possibly free agency (but most likely trades).
Will ownership give the new GM a budge that allows for the acquisition of a couple of truly impactful players? If so, the agonizing rebuild could be over sooner rather than later. Even if Liberty Media’s middle-market budget prevents the Braves from making a big splash by bringing in outside talent, they should have enough talent stockpiled now in the system for Moore or whomever to use some of those prospects to bring in key pieces and get the Braves out of the doldrums and emerge from a rebuild that has tested the patience of a baseball market that just wasn’t used to losing the way other recent rebuilding franchises were. Braves fans didn’t suffer for more than quarter-century like Royals fans, not to mention for most of a century as Cubs fans did.
And Braves officials knew better than to go through a stretch of 100-loss seasons the way the Astros did when they piled up top draft picks; hell, just look how angry Braves fans got over three consecutive 90-loss seasons (although it could be argued, how much worse would things have been at the ballpark each night if they had lost 105 instead of 90-something games, but that’s another story altogether).
The Braves are at a defining moment in many ways. They wish that MLB would hurry up and hand down its judgment, bend the franchise over and give it the whipping it’s going to receive, so they can move forward and presumably get back to being a respected franchise. And a winning one.