With the baseball season complete, we can now turn our attention to the off-season. With Dayton Moore not at the helm of the Royals for the first time in 17 years, this could be a much different winter than we’re used to seeing. Owner John Sherman has talked about having more roster churn in an effort to improve, and General Manager J.J. Picollo seems to have an unfettered opportunity to mold this team.
Here is what you need to know about this year’s Royals off-season.
Which Royals are free agents?
As of Sunday, 131 players become free agents, including the Royals only free agent, Zack Greinke. The Qualifying Offer is $19.65 million, something the Royals surely won’t offer. Recent reports indicate Greinke wants to pitch again next year, and the Royals have expressed openness to bringing him back. The right-hander just turned 39 but is still a productive pitcher, with a 3.68 ERA and one of the best walk rates in baseball, and he was the second-most valuable Royals pitcher last year, according to fWAR.
Who needs to be added to the 40-man roster?
The Royals currently have 39 players on the 40-man roster, but will need to clear some space for a few prospects that need to be protected. Pitchers Alec Marsh and T.J. Sikkema seem like locks to be protected, particularly in an organization needing pitching so badly. Samad Taylor was acquired from the Blue Jays in the Whit Merrifield trade and missed the second half with injury, so the Royals will need to decide if he’s worth protecting after evaluating him in the Arizona Fall League.
Pitchers Drew Parrish and Anthony Veneziano could also be protected, and the Royals usually have a surprise or two - maybe they protect pitcher Austin Cox or outfielder John Rave, or even slugger Seuly Matias.
Who could be non-tendered by the Royals?
The Royals were projected to have 11 arbitration-eligible players going into this off-season, although they have already lost pitcher Luke Weaver on waivers to the Mariners. That leaves Scott Barlow, Kris Bubic, Taylor Clarke, Amir Garrett, Brad Keller, Nicky Lopez, Adalberto Mondesi, Ryan O’Hearn, Brady Singer, and Josh Staumont as players that would need to be tendered a contract to be retained.
Garret, Keller, Mondesi, and O’Hearn could be candidates to be non-tendered, which would make them free agents free to sign with anyone.
What are the Royals going to do this off-season?
The Royals are expected to make upgrading the pitching staff their top priority this winter, but they have downplayed the role of free agency with General Manager J.J. Picollo saying “we’re young, we’re coming off a tough season, it may not be the right time to invest heavily in this team.” Still, they could bring in a veteran starting pitcher or two on a short-term deal to give them more innings. They should also have a lot of financial flexibility, with their payroll currently projected to be just over $70 million next season.
Owner John Sherman has also talked about having more roster churn and being more transactional, which could lead Picollo to make some interesting trades. The Royals have two young first basemen in Vinnie Pasquantino and Nick Pratto, two catchers in Salvador Perez and MJ Melendez, and multiple options at shortstop, which could lead them to trade a player to fill another need such as pitcher.
Speaking of pitching, the Royals still need a pitching coach. New manager Matt Quatraro will have a say in that hire, and don’t be surprised if the Royals bring in a number of individuals on the pitching development side to overhaul their infrastructure. Quatraro will also have to decide if he wants to retain coaches John Mabry and Larry Carter and bring in others to fill out his staff.
What about long-term contracts?
The Royals have been pretty mum about any long-term deals, but with a roster full of young players with some big league time under their belt, it might make sense to try to get some commitments. Brady Singer and Bobby Witt Jr. would likely be the most likely targets, although MJ Melendez and Vinnie Pasquantino could warrant long-term deals as well.
With John Sherman pushing for a downtown baseball stadium, investing in his talent with long-term contracts could help curry more favor from taxpayers who have yet to see a significant investment in player payroll from the new owner.
What are some dates to know?
November 7 - Finalists for Cy Young, MVP, Rookie of the Year announced
November 8-10 - General Manager meetings
November 10 - Decisions required on contract options, whether to make Qualifying Offers, free agents can negotiate with other clubs
November 14 - Rookie of the Year Award announced
November 15 - Deadline to add players to 40-man roster to protect them from Rule 5 draft
November 16 - Cy Young Award announced
November 17 - MVP Award announced
November 18 - Deadline to tender/non-tender arbitration-eligible players
November 20 - Deadline for players offered Qualifying Offer to accept
December 5 - 8 - Winter Meetings in San Diego, California
December 7 - Rule 5 draft
January 13, 2023 - Deadline to submit arbitration figures
January 15, 2023 - International signing period begins
January 24, 2023 - Hall of Fame class announced
January 30, 2023 - February 17, 2023 - Arbitration hearings
Mid-February, 2023 - Pitchers and catchers report
February 24, 2023 - Royals first spring training game against Texas
March 8 - 21, 2023 - World Baseball Classic
March 30, 2023 - Season opener vs. the Minnesota Twins