The offseason is officially upon us and the Kansas City Royals haven’t made many moves yet. Save for a one-year pre-arbitration contract with Taylor Clarke, the first 12 days since the end of the World Series have been rather quiet. Granted, that’s been the case for pretty much every team this winter. Across the league, the only notable transaction has been the Mark Canha trade between the Brewers and Tigers. Whether you believe it or not, many teams have alluded to an unwillingness to spend until there is more clarity on local TV deals.
The league has been pushing Diamond Sports Group — the parent company of Bally’s Sports — to decide on 2024 and beyond. The network provider made the decision to end MLB broadcasts after next season and it remains to be seen whether they will drop broadcasts before then. From a spending perspective, many teams are now hesitant to jump into the free-agent spending frenzy until they know how much revenue will be coming from their local TV deal. On one hand, that bodes well for the Royals. If many clubs are standing pat until they know more, it buys the Royals time to truly decide which route they’d like to go this winter.
On the other hand, is there an organization with more clarity entering the offseason? The Royals have $52 million assigned to their 26-man roster entering 2024. That mark ranks the seventh-lowest in baseball. At the same time, the team lost 106 games last season, second-most only to the Athletics. In other words, the worst team in franchise history has (or should have) some of the most spending power in the league this winter. Regardless of what the television income turns out to be, there’s a built-in cushion that Kansas City should assume they’ll be able to spend.
Getting ahead of the market is rarely something the Royals have done in years past, but it is exactly what they should be doing right now. The concern shouldn’t be mildly overspending — it should be getting the players the team wants now at whatever the cost may be. If the focus is more on trades, make the offers now before competing clubs decide they’d like to outbid you. The prospect capital in the system isn’t going to beat many better offers, meaning time is only against the Royals if they already know who their eyes are set on.
The team has already decided on their key focus this winter: starting pitching and outfield help. The top free agents — Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, and Cody Bellinger — will understandably hold out for the best contract. There’s no reason for them to rush into a free-agent deal and potentially cost themselves millions. Lower-tier free agents, such as Lucas Giolito or Rhys Hoskins, could find themselves on the opposite end of that spectrum. If a team approaches them with a long-term deal now, they could benefit from getting ahead of the market before they potentially find themselves stuck with a shorter-team deal while teams fill their greatest needs elsewhere.
The Royals don’t need to get ahead on the top of the market now. Instead, they need to get ahead on the players they’ve decided upon in those middle tiers and start to fill roster needs now. Entering the winter meetings with a couple of big acquisitions already under his belt should be a relief for General Manager J.J. Picollo. It would allow him to focus on the final touches of the roster, unlike last offseason. Last winter, the team was still putting their coaching staff and front office back together well into December. That delay caused them to get behind the 8-ball. This year, with time more on their side, they need to take advantage of it.