The Winter Meetings take place this week at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, and with the event in person for the first time in two years, we could see a crazy week of transactions around baseball. For the Royals, it will be the first time they go into the meetings with J.J. Picollo at the helm, and it is unclear what kind of approach he will take. Owner John Sherman talked about a “willingness to change players” when he fired Dayton Moore, so this week presents an opportunity for Picollo to show whether or not he will be a more transactional leader than his predecessor.
Here’s a preview of what could happen at the Winter Meetings this week.
The Royals have downplayed free agency this off-season, saying it may not be the right time to invest in payroll, but there are reports they would like to add two starting pitchers. This looks like a pretty deep starting pitcher free agent market, but the early signings indicate the prices could be very inflated. The Royals are open to bringing back 39-year-old right-hander Zack Greinke, who was second on the pitching staff with 1.9 fWAR, but according to a recent report, he may be expecting to get at least the $13 million he received last year.
The team is also reportedly seeking a late-inning reliever to take pressure off Scott Barlow, or perhaps allow them to trade their closer. Picollo has also talked about adding a veteran right-handed bat and the club is said to be looking for a veteran backup catcher. There was report the Royals might be interested in first baseman/outfielder Dominic Smith, who the Mets non-tendered last month. The team has some financial flexibility with a projected payroll of just over $70 million next season, but they are not expected to be players for the top free agents.
If the Royals are committed to this youth movement, they could look to trade some veterans to open up playing time. The most likely player to be traded is centerfielder Michael A. Taylor, who continues to be one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, but has produced below-average offense. The Royals would probably like to trade Hunter Dozier, who has hit just .226/.289/.391 over the last two seasons and does not have a home defensively, but his long-term contract and poor performance make it nearly impossible to trade him. Scott Barlow and Josh Staumont could also be trade assets if the Royals are looking to be transactional, but if they have bullpen concerns they are likely to hold onto their best relievers.
If the Royals are really aggressive on the trade front, they could look to trade some young players to fill other needs. The team has some redundancies at certain positions, namely catcher, middle infield, and first base. Ken Rosenthal wrote that the Royals are “drawing interest” in catcher MJ Melendez, who has had to move to the outfield with Salvador Perez entrenched behind the plate, but that the Royals “probably are not inclined to move him.” Nick Pratto could be another candidate to be traded with the emergence of Vinnie Pasquantino this year, and middle infielders like Nicky Lopez and Adalberto Mondesi could be dealt if the Royals are sticking with Bobby Witt Jr. at shortstop.
The Hot Stove
With the pandemic and labor deal in the rear window, teams are expected to spend some money this off-season. The Texas Rangers stunned the baseball world by signing pitcher Jacob deGrom to a five-year, $185 million deal, an early indication of how bananas contracts will get this winter. The defending National League champion Phillies are rumored to be set on landing one of the top shortstop free agents - Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Dansby Swanson, or Xander Bogaerts. But the big prize is Aaron Judge, fresh off an MVP performance this year. It is hard to imagine the Yankees letting a top slugger get away, but Judge has already met with the Giants, and the Dodgers could make a push as well as the slugger seeks a nine-year deal.
On the trade front, Pirates All-Star outfielder Bryan Reynolds has requested a trade out of Pittsburgh. The Marlins are said to be open to trading any pitcher other than Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara if they can get a bat in return. The Cardinals, Rays, Guardians, and Red Sox are all seeking a catcher, with A’s Gold Glover Sean Murphy rumored to be close to being traded and the Blue Jays seeking to trade one of their promising young catchers. Teams have been asking the Brewers about All-Star pitchers Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff, but it is not clear Milwaukee is interested in dealing them.
With the new labor deal, baseball will be implementing a draft lottery, designed to discourage tanking. The first-ever MLB draft lottery will take place on Tuesday at 7:30 CT to determine the order of the first six picks. The worst three teams will get an equal shot to land the first pick, and only non-playoff teams have a shot at the top pick. The Royals, who finished with the fifth-worst record, will have a ten percent chance at landing the #1 overall pick in the 2023 draft.
MLB announced today that the MLB Draft Lottery will take place on December 6th at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.— Baseball Authority (@BsblAuthority) November 7, 2022
It will be televised on MLB Network. pic.twitter.com/2B8ax6S5pI
After the first six picks in the draft are determined by lottery, the rest of the draft order is determined by reverse order of this year’s standings.
Rule 5 draft
The Rule draft will take place on the last day of the Winter Meetings, on Wednesday at 4 p.m. CT. This is an opportunity to poach talent from other organizations, and the Royals have taken advantage of this in the past to grab players like Joakim Soria and Brad Keller. Many of the top players available are hitters, such as former Mizzou star Kameron Misner, but there are some intriguing pitchers available such as Antoine Kelly of Texas, Erik Miller of the Phillies, and Victor Vodnik of the Braves.
The Royals currently have a full 40-man roster, so in order to make a selection on Wednesday, they’ll need to drop someone this week. They also risk losing a player in the Rule 5 draft - left-handed pitcher T.J. Sikkema is among the most likely Royals players to be selected. Any player selected will have to remain on the active MLB roster for a full season or be offered back to their original team.
Will the Royals make a significant transaction this week?
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