Sorry to say, 2023 sucked as a Royals fan. I checked out before the season even began after they signed Chapman, but I watched the standings for a bit. At first it was to see how far under .500 they would fall, then I stopped caring sometime in April or May when BWJ was struggling. No now, no future, just listless 90+ loss season after 90+ loss season. To quote my wife when I first told her I was a Royals fan well over a decade ago, "I don't know if I can fit that much failure into my schedule."
Checked out though I was, I was still reading some of the content on RR. I was a writer for a brief time, and I know how difficult it is to pull stories out of nowhere during the offseason, or during a 5-17 stretch. Just how many different ways can you describe losing or quantify the train wreck that was the Royals 2023 season (especially the first half - they were 7-22 at the end of April, remember that?)?
But sometime around the end of June Bobby Witt Jr started hitting. From June 29th to July 9th in 10 games BWJ raised his batting line from .241/.286/.415 to .257/.300/.442. That's an OBP (on base+slugging) increase of 41 points in 10 games.
His second half stat line was MVP level, .301/.343/.563, a 141 OPS+ (a stat whereby 100 is average, so 41% better than an average hitter). A 141 OPS+ would make him the 10th best hitter, if he could stretch it over a full season. Couple that with elite defense and you have a player to build around.
The problem is, you don't have a lot else. You have one apparent front-end starter in Ragans, but can he do that over a full season? Probably not, I'd expect him to regress at least a little. Vinnie will be back next season, and if healthy him and BWJ could become a very feared 2-3 or 3-4 hitter par in baseball, but every other player on the Royals appears to be filler/role player types with a bit of upside sprinkled in, nothing to build a competitive team around.
The Royals have long said they'd spend money on free agents at the right time. Unfortunately, this is not the right time. Our needs are too many and the good free agents are too few. This offseason is NOT the time to spend money, or at least not the time to spend a lot or go all-in.
Next offseason might be.
Ragans as worth 2.4 fWAR in 12 starts (wow!), Singer was 1.9 fWAR in 29 starts. There are no other starters that started more than 10 games that will still be on the Royals roster in 2024.
How good is the free agent class of 2024? There are 38 free agent starters (including some with club/player options or opt outs), some incredibly good:
But starting pitchers aren't the only position flush with free agents. There are 41 relievers and a number of big name position players (Juan Soto, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Willy Adames to name a few). The sheer amount of players available and demanding 9 figure guarantees means a team like the Royals is positioned to make some deals.
They won't sign Soto or Wheeler, but they don't need to. They have BWJ and (hopefully) Cole Ragans. But a couple of mid-tier starting pitchers, a late inning reliever or two and maybe a bat?
We will know a lot more about the Royals and their needs after this next season, and it lines up nicely with a stacked free agent class. Can the new regime take what they have now and build it up enough through trades/rule 5/development so a big addition or two from this class will make a difference? I don't have my hopes up, but if they do then there is a chance for 2025 to be fun.
I just don't count on 2024 being much fun at all.