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Royals Rumblings - News for December 21, 2023

Happy solstice!

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Anne Rogers rounds up Kansas City’s moves in free agency:

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the Royals are looking around the American League Central and asking themselves, “Why not us?” The Twins are the team to beat, but they’re cutting back on payroll, as are the Guardians, according to reports. The Tigers are trying to make a revival but still have question marks. The White Sox changed leadership and have no untouchables in the trade market.

The Royals haven’t had a winning season since 2015. Sherman wants to change that.

“All the divisions are tough, but I feel like our division right now is a little bit jumbled,” Picollo said. “Minnesota clearly had a great year last year, and they’re going to be the team to beat, but there’s other things going on, transitions. We’re at a place in our timeline where we felt like if we added the right people, we can make a significant jump. Guys are getting into their second, third, fourth years as Major League players. That’s sort of getting into your prime years.

“So it was the right time for us to add to this club, and the big part was adding the right people talent-wise and also just their makeup and experience.”

Jaylon Thompson at the Star writes that the team is much deeper now:

With this move, the Royals have largely completed their objectives this offseason. They addressed their starting rotation with the additions of Lugo and Wacha. The bullpen was fortified by Smith, Stratton and reliever Nick Anderson.

Renfroe solidified the need for an impact bat. Now, Picollo is excited to see how the pieces fit together in spring training.

“It’s a much deeper team,” Picollo said. “It’s a more experienced team. It’s a more mature team. And we still have 56 days until pitchers and catchers report to try to keep working on tweaking this thing along the way. So we’re in a really healthy spot right now. I know our fans are excited about it.”

David Lesky at Inside the Crown reflects on the impact of all these additions:

The depth in the rotation is no longer figuring out which reliever works best as an opener and trying to get three or four from a bulk guy. It’s Daniel Lynch IV, who has 252 innings of experience. It’s Angel Zerpa, who doesn’t have that much experience, but has pitched in the big leagues in three different seasons. It’s Alec Marsh, who flashed at times that he could be a good starting pitcher in the big leagues. In the past, at least a couple of those guys would have entered spring training in the rotation and would have had to pitch themselves out of it. Now they’ll head in having to pitch their way onto the team.

Will it get them a division title? If I could tell you that with any certainty, I would be retired to some island because I’d have won so much money betting on sports that I could do that. But I do appreciate what they’re doing here. And, if it all fails, there’s a heck of a fallback plan. Other than Lugo, every single one of these signings either will or can become a free agent following the 2024 season. The player option, which I don’t love, can put a bit of a wrench in that, but they could all be moved at the deadline to help bring in more young talent to start fresh with heading into the 2025 offseason.

Ben Clemens at FanGraphs does the same:

That sounds kind of weird – why would the Royals, who finished with 106 losses in 2023, replicate a pitching depth strategy that seems designed to raise the floor for a contender with durability issues? Well conveniently enough for us, FanGraphs published the answer to this question last Friday in an interview with GM J.J. Picollo:

“We didn’t have a fallback as far as having more veteran players around our young guys. So it fell on all of our young guys, and that made it difficult for them. Looking at how we can improve next year, having guys with experience around them will help the infrastructure of the team. That’s what I think we miss right now.”

That’s pretty clear. The Royals aren’t necessarily looking to win the AL Central this year, but they are looking for more of a veteran core around their young options. “More” implies that simply replacing Zack Greinke wouldn’t be enough; naturally, that means at least two veteran pitchers. And if you’re looking for veteran leadership and respectable production, Wacha is just what the doctor ordered.

It’s time for your weekly Royals winter-ball roundup! Let’s start in LIDOM:

  • Dairon Blanco played five games this week, all in left field. He hit safely in each one, going 8-23 with three doubles, a triple, and two stolen bases. In 112 plate appearances for Estrellas, Blanco has hit .300/.355/.370.
  • Gigantes may have finally seen enough of the struggling Diego Hernández as he did not appear in a game this week. He will no longer be included here if he does not appear again soon.
  • Daniel Lynch IV, despite pitching quite well in his five starts for Leones, has not pitched since December 1 and will no longer be included here.

Moving over to the Venezuelan Winter League (LVBP):

  • Max Castillo had his first rough patch of the winter this week. In addition to surrendering eight earned runs in ten innings to bring his winter ERA up to 2.50, he was also DFA’d, so this may be the last time he appears here. In 39.2 innings, he has struck out 30 and walked 10 while allowing just one homer.
  • Maikel García has been a very tough out, going 11-27 this week with two doubles and eight walks. In 99 plate appearances for Tiburones, García has hit .438/.535/.600.
  • Freddy Fermin, last year’s LVBP MVP, is back at it this winter with Leones del Caracas. In 37 plate appearances, he has hit .281/.378/.375.

Going across the Caribbean to the Puerto Rican Winter League (LBPRC):

  • Nelson Velázquez went 7-19 this week with a couple doubles and four walks. In 61 plate appearances, he has hit .291/.361/.418.

Finally, to the Australian Baseball League (ABL):

  • Jack Pineda played four games at shortstop, going 2-15 with a walk. He has hit .232/.295/.321 in 62 plate appearances.
  • Milo Rushford played three games in center field and one in left this week. He went 2-14 with two walks. In 82 plate appearances, he has hit .186/.305/.214.
  • Hyungchan Um made three starts behind the plate and went 3-12. He is hitting .208/.250/.340 in 56 plate appearances.
  • Wesley Scott has been removed from Brisbane Bandits roster.

Catcher/outfielder Eric Haase is signing a one-year deal with Milwaukee.

Milwaukee is trading right-handed pitcher Adrian Houser and outfielder Tyrone Taylor to the Mets.

Ben Verlander from the top rope with a characteristically awful take:

Elise Berger is looking to join the very small group of women playing collegiate baseball.

New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers will not return this season. I’m shocked.

Hot take: There Aren’t Too Many Endings in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.’

The next evolution of internet/social media culture is hyper-local memes.

Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and, according to some, the beginning of winter. For those of us that subscribe to meteorological seasons, however, winter had already begun. I prefer this model because if somebody tries to tell me June 15 isn’t summer because solstice hasn’t happened yet, I’d tell them to kick rocks.

Your song of the day is Destination Calabria by Alex Gaudino and Crystal Waters.