KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The 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.”
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, 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.
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,” Royals owner John 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.”
One matter that will need addressing is the team’s stadium situation. With a decade left on their lease at Kauffman Stadium, the Royals are evaluating their options, including a new downtown ballpark.
The Royals are tied to the 53-year-old stadium, named after founder Ewing Kauffman, until 2031 under terms of a public-private partnership in 2006 that helped to fund $250 million in renovations. The club, however, must make a decision in the next couple of years to press on with more renovations or look elsewhere.
The design and construction for a new stadium typically takes up to five years, and securing the necessary funding can sometimes take just as long.
“I get asked this question all the time about where we’re going to play in the future,” said Sherman, who bought the club from David Glass for $1 billion in November 2019. “… We’ve spent our time listening but we’ve also thought of the future of where we play. We’re in a good spot here in Truman Sports Complex but we need to start thinking about our plans for a stadium.”
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” 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.”
Picollo also had his fingerprints on the Royals’ rise to reaching the World Series in 2014 and then winning it all against the Mets in 2015.
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.”