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Lesky’s Notes: The 40-man roster is actually down to 40

It took getting rid of one guy you wanted gone, one guy you forgot was there and one guy you never knew was, but they did it! Now, who else can go?

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Boston Red Sox Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Teams start to clear out their 40-man roster this time of year in moves that are generally not noticed by the general public. As you know because you’re avid readers of Royals Review, the Royals lost both Tyler Zuber and Luke Weaver to waivers with the Diamondbacks claiming Zuber and the Mariners claiming Weaver. The Zuber one stings for me because I really thought he could be an effective reliever, but he just couldn’t throw strikes at the big league level and then missed the entire 2022 season. The Weaver one is kind of funny for me. At the time of that trade, I said that the deal to trade Emmanuel Rivera would be one we look back on and only vaguely remember either played for the Royals, but it was still such a silly deal. I thought maybe they acquired Weaver to be the cheap replacement for Brad Keller in the 2023 rotation, but that didn’t work out. They also did not lose Ryan Weiss, who you may not have ever even realized was on the 40-man roster. He cleared waivers. They’re now down to 40 total, including Jake Brentz, Adalberto Mondesi and Angel Zerpa who all need to be activated from the 60-day IL soon and returned to the roster. But I’ll get to more 40-man thoughts in a minute.

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More 40-man talk

Soren Petro and I have a lot of fun with this when I’m on with him talking about the 40-man roster “crunch” the Royals have so often fallen back on as why they simply can’t make a move here or a move there. So with that in mind, I’m going to tell you right now how they can clear five spots very easily. Goodbye Brad Keller, you’re too expensive now. Thanks for coming, Collin Snider, you showed out pretty well for your first few weeks, but then you fizzled out. Sorry, Adalberto Mondesi, you’ve had enough time to prove you deserve a 40-man spot. Ryan? Ryan O’Hearn? Bye. Brent Rooker, it was fun when you went 2 for 3 in your first game with the Royals. But your services are no longer needed. Snider and Rooker don’t have to go right now necessarily because they don’t have to worry about arbitration with them, but those five can easily be cleared to make room for any additions. I do get the argument to keep Mondesi. I just don’t agree with it. I could also be interested in moving on from Brentz, Wyatt Mills, Gabe Speier and yeah, Hunter Dozier, though it seems unlikely, if they needed even more space.

I think the nice thing right now is that the Royals roster used to have even more of those guys who you have no probem cutting bait on. But they have put together a nice little core that just has very little support at this point. Of course, there was a time when cutting O’Hearn after his 2018 season seemed sacrilegious and Keller was a candidate for a long-term deal. So just because someone like Max Castillo is a pitcher you want to see more of today doesn’t mean he won’t be a pitcher you can’t say goodbye to fast enough tomorrow. He may be a bad example, but he’s just an example. The point here is that if and when the Royals go out and get the pitching they’ve publicly said they’re going to get, there are plenty of roster spots available to move on from. They don’t have a ton of decisions for who to protect on the 40-man before the Rule 5 draft this year because so many came up already, but they do still have a couple there as well.

World Series thoughts

There isn’t a lot in the Royals world to discuss, but there is a World Series finally starting tonight. First of all, I really think there has to be a way to move the start date around if both League Championship Series end as early as these two did. I know it’s difficult for ticket-holders, so maybe there’s a logjam there, but your ticket is for Game 1, Game 2, etc., not for a certain date. To sit and wait for four full days without baseball just seemed silly to me. Anyway, to the actual series, I think it’s quite an interesting one for a couple of reasons. First, the first two games feature some of the best pitching matchups anyone could ask for. The Phillies are going with Aaron Nola in game one, so he’ll face off against Justin Verlander, who is the presumptive AL Cy Young winner. That’s an amazing matchup. Then in the second game, it’s Framber Valdez against Zach Wheeler, which is just a bonkers matchup. Valdez, to me, might be the most underrated pitcher in baseball. That bowling ball sinker is going to be fun to watch against a team that features a lot of lefties looking to lift. I think where the Astros find their edge is in the third and fourth starters, but it wouldn’t surprise me too much if the Phillies found a way to get the first two to make it a series.

I said this on the radio a couple of times, but I think if the Phillies don’t have three wins by game five, they won’t win the series. And that’s just because I think that while they have two great starters, they just aren’t as good as the Astros. Baseball is a funny game, though, and one area that’s interesting is the Astros lack of lefty relievers. I think Will Smith is going to be on the roster for this series, but he hasn’t pitched since October 4. Don’t get me wrong, the Astros can get lefties out too, but it would sure be nice to have a lefty killer in a late innings situation when they’ve got the top of the Phillies order with Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper staring at them down by one or something like that. Ultimately, the Astros are just really good, so I think they take the series, but that’s a spot where the Phillies can find an edge and maybe turn a loss into a win. I think they have to do that at least once in order to have a shot in this series.

How the coaching staff will look

One thing I continue to hear is that the Royals may not be strictly looking to fill a pitching coach position at the big league level. I’ve heard a lot of talk about Brian Bannister as something like the organizational pitching director with him having input with the new manager about who the pitching coach might be. I think I wrote about that a few weeks back and wondered if that structure was limited to if Bannister came to the team or if they were willing to do that with other candidates. I can happily report that I still don’t know the answer to that question, which is super fun. But either way, I think that would be a way some teams have now gone about their business when it comes to the pitching side of things. One thing I think is true is that they won’t take too terribly long to get moving on the pitching side of things once they have a manager hired. All these interviews they’ve had with their six known candidates (and who knows who else?) have included conversations about how they’d like to handle that aspect of their coaching staff.

With regards to the rest of the staff, we know that Damon Hollins is staying. And we know that Alec Zumwalt, Mike Tosar and Keoni DeRenne are staying. One thing that wouldn’t surprise me too much, assuming they don’t hire an internal candidate, is if one of the internal candidates serves as the new manager’s bench coach. Anyone they would hire at this point (again, unless they’ve interviewed a manager with experience and it hasn’t gotten out) is someone who will be in their first job. That can always be tough. And there are two things teams like to do with new managers that can help. They like to put experience next to them. That experience doesn’t always have to mean someone who has managed before or anything like that even though it does sometimes. It can mean someone who has experience with this particular team and organization. I think it’s very possible, maybe even likely, that if Matt Quatraro or Clayton McCullough get hired, their bench coach is one of Pedro Grifol or Vance Wilson. I would lean toward Wilson because I’m not sure Grifol comes back to the same job he’s had after interviewing for so many managerial posts, but I’m also not sure he wouldn’t. Either way, the coaching staff will probably be complete with relative quickness after all the manager shenanigans are settled.

Thanks for everything

I wrote earlier this month that this would be my last month on Royals Review and, as this is the last Friday of October, this is my swan song. So thanks again for reading and commenting and just generally caring. There is so much amazing Royals writing (and me, don’t forget me) around the internet for a team that generally hasn’t deserved it. RR has been one of the flagships of Royals writing beyond the beats and it’s been an honor to write for the site, for Max and for all of you great readers. I’ll keep writing some version of these Notes on Inside the Crown. Heck, I started this in 2011 on Pine Tar Press and I don’t think I’ve missed a week even though they’ve now appeared on four sites, soon to be a fifth. And, hey, maybe soon enough I can write and you can read about an actually good baseball team!