First, a retraction. One of the things I criticized the Royals for last week was the cancellation of FanFest in order to hold the Royals Rally. In doing so, I mistakenly conflated the FanFest with the Royals Caravans which have not happened in some time. With that new (to me) and clearer understanding, I withdraw that criticism.
During an interview with MLB Network earlier this week, General Manager J.J. Picollo admitted what many of us had already assumed - the Royals are not going to make a serious effort to compete in 2023. According to Picollo, they are looking forward to 2024 or 2025. Given this new information, I think it’s important to ask ourselves how the Royals' off-season moves look in that light.
How do the Royals' moves benefit the 2024 and 2025 rosters?
The Royals have signed only one player beyond the 2023 season - Jordan Lyles. Ryan Yarbrough and Aroldis Chapman will not be Royals in 2024. For either of them to bring back anything in a trade during the 2023 deadline that might benefit those teams would take nothing less than Angels in the Front Office.
That isn’t to say that a player can’t benefit the 2024 and 2025 rosters without being on them. It’s been mentioned extensively that the Royals need to allow their young pitchers opportunities to fail without making it catastrophic. One way they can do that is by having veterans available to eat innings so that young pitchers having a bad night don’t have to “wear it.” This would also allow them to be demoted to Omaha to work on things with a lesser spotlight. However, neither Yarbrough or Chapman bring innings-eating to the table.
Fortunately, their other signing, Jordan Lyles, does bring that to the table. And he will still be around in 2024!
Lyles doesn’t pitch well. If he still has a major role in 2024 it will be a sign that the team is unlikely to be competitive. They’ll still be paying for him, though. There is always a chance that the Royals aren’t done signing people but past a certain point signing more pitchers would seem counter-productive. You don’t want to get to the point where the young guys can’t pitch at all because the veterans are eating too many innings.
As for the trades, those make a little more sense. Neither Adalberto Mondesí nor Michael A. Taylor were going to be on future rosters. The return for Taylor includes a pair of relievers who might be able to contribute while Mondesí’s return, Josh Taylor, will technically still be under contract to the Royals it’s unclear if that will be of benefit to them. A 30-year-old with back issues who can only get lefties out doesn’t seem likely to age well.
While many are frustrated with the Mondesí trade, it seems to get worse. The Red Sox immediately signed a new left-handed reliever, Skylar Arias, after dealing Taylor. Arias is a bit old for his level as he primarily pitched at A+ ball as a 25-year-old last season, but he’s got huge strikeout potential if he can learn better control. Given a choice between trading Mondesí and a PTBNL for a 30-year-old who didn’t even pitch in 2022 and a guy with filthy stuff but is still only age 25 and keeping the potential of Mondesí around, I’d have chosen the latter. Either the Royals failed to notice Arias was an option or they‘re continuing their old tradition of assuming age will never catch up to a player until two or three years too late.
And, of course, the Royals’ transactions are far from the only frustrating thing to come out of the club during this off-season.
Royals’ claims about renovating Kauffman demand more scrutiny
Listen, we already knew the Royals have - knowingly or not - misled fans about the cost of renovations but now more information has come to light and it doesn’t look any better. In case you need a recap, the Royals claimed that it would cost the same amount of money to renovate Kauffman stadium as to build a new one and followed up with the assertion that they might as well build a new one. However, what they left out of that statement was that the comparison was between building a new stadium and renovating Kauffman for the next 50 years. If you think that the new stadium will be allowed to stand for 50 years - or that it won’t require additional funding to renovate during that time if it somehow is - I’ve got some oceanfront property in Wichita you might be interested in.
However, the Kansas City Star published a report on Thursday that suggests things may not even be as dire as the Royals claim, anyway. It turns out that Jackson County does yearly inspections to ensure the Royals are caring for the stadium to the agreed-upon degree as the primary tenants. The most recent iteration of the report notes that the stadium is in “satisfactory” condition and makes no note of the alleged “concrete cancer” that the firm the Royals paid to evaluate the stadium for renovations alleges exists and leads to the exorbitant renovation fees.
The Royals’ response was that the two reports have two very different purposes. They claim that Jackson County is only evaluating whether the stadium is currently in good condition while their report is more about the future of the stadium. Of course, that’s true, so far as it goes. But it doesn’t explain why Jackson County inspectors noted various issues but none on the scale in the Royals’ firm’s report. It’s almost like there’s another difference between the two reports.
Also of note in the Star’s article is the fact that Dodgers Stadium, a few years older than Kauffman, needed only $100 million in renovations a couple of years ago to justify its position as All-Star Game host in 2022. Are the Dodgers just taking that much better care of their stadium than the Royals? If the Royals have really proven to be as poor stewards of their stadium as they are claiming, should they really be trusted with a brand-new stadium?
The bad news just keeps rolling in for Royals fans. At this point, I think some of us are looking forward to Spring Training just so we can go back to searching for silver linings on the field. Heaven knows the off-the-field happenings just aren’t offering us much to work with.