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Royals Rumblings - News for December 22, 2023

Only 4 shopping days left until CobraCy’s Christmas post will be late (please tell me he’s writing one)

2015 World Series Game Four: Kansas City Royals v. New York Mets
Sorry, Santa. I hope you put coal in Noah Syndergaard’s stocking

As talked about yesterday in other outlets, The Star’s Pete Grathoff explores the possibility of Royals games being on Amazon Prime in the future:

According to the Wall Street Journal’s Lauren Thomas and Joe Flint, Amazon is in negotiations with Diamond Sports Group “about a strategic investment and a multiyear streaming partnership.”

That story said if the sides reach a deal, Amazon Prime eventually would become the streaming home for Diamond’s games, which would include the Royals. For cable users, Bally Sports Kansas City would continue airing Royals games. Depending on how quickly a deal is reached, those Royals games could be streamed on Amazon as soon as the 2024 season.

The Athletic’s Evan Drellich noted that Bally Sports’ regional networks air the games of 11 Major League Baseball teams, but that the company has the digital rights to only five of them: the Royals, Tigers, Brewers, Rays and Marlins. Those five have the best chance of having games stream on Amazon.

Blair Kerkhoff made a list of KC’s top sports stories of 2023. Witt’s 30/30 season and the stadium situation made the list for the Royals.

Bobby Witt Jr.’s 30/30 season (Sept. 29)

Bobby Witt Jr. had locked up the stolen-bases end of the 30/30 club with nearly two months left in the season. He needed nearly the entire year to get his 30th home run. It came on the final weekend, when Witt belted a two-run blast against the New York Yankees to become the first Royals player to reach the statistical milestone.

In his second major-league season, Witt was superb with an .815 OPS and finished seventh in MVP balloting. He became the first player in MLB history with at least 30 home runs, 10 triples (he led the AL with 11) and 45 stolen bases (finishing with 49).

Sidebar: Is a contract extension in Witt’s future? He’s not eligible for free agency until 2028 but Royals general manager J.J. Picollo said the organization wants to keep Witt in Kansas City. “He is a special player,” Picollo said. “We want to keep special players in our uniform.”

Speaking of Kerkhoff and Witt, he had a story about Patrick Mahomes saying “I think they have as good a chance as any to win the division”. Oh, and he dropped in this nugget:

“The veterans will not only impact the team but will influence the young core, how you do things the right way” Mahomes said. “I want to see The K packed.”

Mahomes is excited about the club’s future.

“I’m an owner,” he said, “so I can’t really say anything ...”

But ...

“Hopefully we have Bobby Witt here for a long time.”

Royals GM J.J. Picollo was on the interwebs with Scott Braun, A.J. Pierzynski, Todd Frazier & Erik Kratz. If you want to go straight to JJ’s part, go here. They asked some pretty pointed questions about a Witt extension, the stadium, and trading Salvy - he mostly dodged and they didn’t follow up, but they did a good job asking. He was also asked if they offered Shohei and bluntly said “No” and they went on to talk about Ohtani’s contract. It was a fairly entertaining segment (btw, a number of Jersey guys on the internet so some NSFW language).

Speaking of the Twitter:

Onto blogs!

David Lesky and Craig Brown already wrote about the Royals offseaon, both using the term “big spenders” in the title, allowing me to make more jokes about them being the same writer using different pen names. However, Max and Minda already linked to those articles.

Since Kevin O’Brein, the Royals Reporter, is going to be on vacation over parts of the holidays, he got an early start on his AL Central Predictions:

Way Too Early AL Central Predictions (Volume 1)

I am leaving for California to spend Christmas time with my family. Thus, I won’t be as active on the blog or on X until the 26th or so.

Thus, I wanted to get a quick post before I began my long journey west.

In this post, based on the offseason moves thus far, I am going to make my quick AL Central predictions. I will probably write another one at the end of January and another at the end of February right before Spring Training begins.

1. Minnesota Twins (85-77)

I think it’s the Twins division to lose again, but I think this club will be slightly worse from a season ago unless something dramatic happens over the next two months.

Already, the Twins have lost Sonny Gray (to the Cardinals) and Kenta Maeda (to the Tigers) which is a bit of a blow to a Twins rotation that ranked 2nd in ERA a season ago. The Twins do return Pablo Lopez, who’s a legitimate AL Cy Young candidate, but Joe Ryan posted a 4.51 ERA and looked pretty mortal down the stretch. Bailey Ober returned from injury looking solid (3.43 ERA in 26 starts) but he’s had injury issues in the past, and I’m curious to see if he can put together back-to-back solid seasons, especially in a more elevated role.

Minnesota is hoping that they can internally develop the back end of their rotation, but that could be more challenging with pitching more in demand and more expensive than ever before, as Twins Daily wrote about recently.

Traditionally, teams have valued back-end starters who can consistently eat innings. As the league changes the way it deploys pitching staffs, though, that breed is dying.

How has this trend impacted the #MNTwins?@nodaktwinsfan explains it below:⬇️ — Twins Daily (@twinsdaily) December 13, 2023

Offensively, Royce Lewis will be the heart and soul of this lineup, as long as he is healthy. They also had nice breakout performances from guys like Edouard Julien and Matt Wallner, which makes their lineup more dangerous than most in the AL Central. Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton have name power, but I wonder about their health as well as what their outlook for 2024 will be coming off down seasons offensively.

It’s hard to pick anyone but the Twins to win this division in 2024. However, the AL Central has had three different division winners over the past three years (White Sox in ’21; Guardians in ’22; and Twins in ’23).

It wouldn’t be surprising to see that trend continue in the AL Central in ’24.

2. Detroit Tigers (81-81)

Other than the Royals, the Tigers have been one of the more active clubs not just in the Central, but in all of baseball.

They added Mark Canha this offseason to not just man a corner outfield position, but also help a lineup that ranked 28th in OPS in 2023. The rest of the lineup should be the same, which can be good or bad depending on one’s viewpoint.

Spencer Torkelson finally lived up to his once-massive prospect hype last year as he hit 31 home runs. However, he’s a low batting-average kind of guy (.233), so much of his value rests on his power. Riley Greene showed flashes in 2023, as he hit .288 with 11 home runs, but he was dogged by injuries and limited to only 416 plate appearances.

The Tigers have a lot of internal system position players who fill out the lineup and range from intriguing (Kerry Carpenter) to underwhelming (Parker Meadows and Zach McKinstry). They also will need to give Javy Baez at-bats, as he opted into his deal this offseason and has failed to do much at the plate in his time in Detroit.

The pitching staff was a strength of the Tigers last year, especially the rotation which ranked 16th in ERA and 6th in WHIP.

Tarik Skubal will continue to be the “ace” of this rotation, but Detroit has remarkable depth which could help them reach the .500 mark for the first time since 2016. In addition to Maeda, the Tigers also signed Jack Flaherty to a one-year deal, and it sounds like Detroit is confident that they can help him adjust and find success again after a lackluster finish in Baltimore in 2023.

#Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris on Jack Flaherty: “We were direct with Jack throughout the recruitment process about how talented he is and some of the adjustments we think he can make to recapture some of the performance he had earlier in his career.” — Evan Petzold (@EvanPetzold) December 20, 2023

Detroit is flush with young promising arms like Matt Manning, Reese Olson, Wilmer Flores, Sawyer Gipson-Long, and Casey Mize, who missed all of 2023 due to injury. So the depth will be there for the Tigers, even if Maeda and Flaherty struggle to return to form.

Additionally, this bullpen will look to be solid again next year (17th in ERA) though I do wonder if some of the “career years” we saw from some guys will transition to 2024 (i.e. Alex Lange, etc.). I feel like regression could be due for this relief group in 2024, which will make it hard for them to surpass 81 wins.

3. Kansas City Royals (75-87)

I am going to be a homer and put the Royals in third place based on the offseason they have had.

That said, I think the Royals will be a year away from serious contention in the division, though a 19-win improvement from their win total in 2023 will be something to celebrate and a step in the right direction for a franchise that hasn’t had a winning season since 2015.

Since this is a Royals blog, I am not going to go in-depth into this as a lot of my posts have already contributed to this initial prediction. The pitching has seemed to improve, both in the rotation and bullpen and I think we will see some bounce back in offensive productivity, especially if Vinnie Pasquantino is fully healthy...

...A lot of chips will fall in the right direction for the Royals this year but not enough to be a .500 team…yet.

I’m not familiar with Baseball Musings or David Pinto, but he writes about the Royals and Pirates taking parallel paths:

The Royals and Pirates lead the way here. For example, the Royals signed Hunter Renfroe while the Pirates brought in Rowdy Tellez. Neither cost a lot of money, but both fill the role of a hitter who can smash the ball. The Royals signed Michael Wacha, while the Pirates used the Braves clearing house to obtain Marco Gonzales. Neither blows batters away, both have a bit of an injury history, but both keep free passes to batters low. The Royals also appear to be going the Tampa Bay route of grabbing up relievers to build a better bullpen.

Over at the Baltimore* Orioles SBNation site, they are doing some alternate history:

Inspired by Taylor Swift re-releasing her own songs as (Taylor’s version), Camden Chat writers will be spending the rest of 2023 re-releasing some Orioles game recaps and giving them better endings. Fresh off a heroic ALDS win over the Detroit Tigers, the Orioles needed to set the tone against a pesky Kansas City Royals in the ALCS. It didn’t work out, quite, but here let’s imagine another way that the events of October 10, 2014 could have gone...

*My fingers always try to type it “Blatimore”, which is unfair as I think Baltimore has some charms and is anything but a “blah” city

Blog Roundup:

Finishing us off today is Patrick Glancy at Powder Blue Nostalgia, who starts with talking about Dayton Moore’s tenure with the Royals and uses it to segue into the Braves rotation of the 90s.

Time to look around the league.

A couple of minor changes coming to MLB for 2024:

The joint Competition Committee voted Thursday to approve a widening of the runner’s lane to include the dirt between the foul line and the infield grass. The committee also voted to reduce the pitch clock allotment by two seconds with runners on base and reduce mound visits by one, amid other minor changes aimed at further improving pace of play. The pace of play modifications approved by the committee are aimed at getting back some of the seven minutes of average nine-inning game time that were lost by September 2023, compared to the average April game length.

Matt Snyder disagrees with some of them.

We’ll count listicles among MLB articles today.

Bobby Nightengale of the Minneapolis Star Tribune says “American League Central teams scurrying to catch up to Twins”:


In: RHP Michael Wacha, RHP Seth Lugo, OF Hunter Renfroe, LHP Will Smith, RHP Chris Stratton, UTL Garrett Hampson, RHP Nick Anderson and RHP Kyle Wright.

Out: RHP Zack Greinke, RHP Brad Keller, OF Edward Olivares (Pirates), RHP Taylor Clarke (Brewers), RHP Dylan Coleman, RHP Jackson Kowar (Mariners), INF Matt Duffy and LHP Tucker Davidson.

The Royals lost 106 games this year, but they think Bobby Witt Jr. and Vinnie Pasquantino in the middle of their lineup can speed up their rebuild. Wacha and Lugo were added to the rotation, Renfroe will hit in the middle of the lineup while Smith, Stratton and Anderson will anchor the bullpen.

“We started off this offseason saying starting pitching was our goal,” Picollo said. “I think we’ve achieved that in the last two signings, from the starting pitching standpoint. The bullpen has been addressed. So that’s mission accomplished in that respect.

“We’re at a place in our timeline where we felt like if we added the right people, we can make a significant jump.”

Brian Murphy at MLB asked where the 12 highest career bWAR free agents will play next year. Three former Royals were on the list including Carlos Santana and Johnny Cueto:

Zack Greinke, RHP (72.4) Only 19 pitchers in MLB history have reached 3,000 strikeouts. Greinke, with 2,979 K’s, should become the 20th member of that revered group early next season. Greinke has spent nearly half of his life in the Majors and is planning to come back for his 21st year — his age-40 season — in 2024. Nine of those years have come in a Royals uniform, but is there still room for Greinke in Kansas City? The club’s rotation looks pretty full following the additions of Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha. However, any club that needs a pitcher who can eat innings and be a role model for a young staff should have some measure of interest in Greinke, one of the greatest hurlers of his generation.

Also at MLB, Anthony Castrovince lists “the best players in 2023 without any awards”:

Shortstop: Bobby Witt Jr., Royals

It was an agonizing choice between Witt and the Mariners’ J.P. Crawford, who fully absolved the Mariners of their decision to abstain from the high-end shortstop market in free agency by having the best offensive season of his career. But I left Witt off my All-Debut Team in 2022 and still haven’t heard the end of it from Royals people. So consider this my mea culpa to Kansas City. Were there a Super Sophomore Award, Witt would be worthy. He drastically improved all of his rate stats while banging out 30 homers, 28 doubles and a Major League-leading 11 triples to go with 49 stolen bases. He was also one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball.

Look, I ran out of OT stuff a week early. Confession: two weeks early: I wouldn’t expect a lot next week, either, in this space. But I knew that this week and, spoilers, next week are going to be a bit sparse. Hey, don’t get upset with me. You’re not doing any work today, either.

Last week we had all sorts of news, but I also really wanted to conclude the Asia Baseball series for the year. I do 9 of those entries a year - 3x per year for each of the 3 leagues - and didn’t want it to slip into 2024. I have a number of fun topics for the new year, but they need to finish marinating before we cook with them. And, c’mon, you got 2700 words of baseball before you even got here so we’re good, capisce?

Actually, you know what? I have an OT question that I keep rolling around in my mind as I have a kid that’s approaching the grey area age. What was the deal with Santa in your family growing up and/or now that you have kids or grandkids of your own? How’d it work and how did you treat the transition, if you had one?

Let’s return to Elite Beat Agents for their Christmas-themed level. I apologize in advance (spoilers here, as I mentioned this level 5 years ago). Keep in mind, it’s a rhythm game about three cool dancing secret agents or three cheerleaders doing goofy good deeds like helping a slumping baseball player, changing the weather to help a meteorologist have a picnic with her kid, or time traveling to help Leonardo da Vinci paint the Mona Lisa... before they eventually save the world with music. That’s what this game is for the other 14 levels. This level totally isn’t fair and there’s a reason it’s the most memorable in the game.