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Should the Royals try asking AI for help?

AI is all the rage right now. Could the new technology help the Royals build a better team?

A detail shot of a Kansas City Royals helmet in the helmet rack in the dugout of the Surprise Saguaros prior to the 2023 Arizona Fall League Championship Game between the Peoria Javelinas and the Surprise Saguaros at Surprise Stadium on Saturday, November 11, 2023 in Surprise, Arizona.
A detail shot of a Kansas City Royals helmet in the helmet rack in the dugout of the Surprise Saguaros prior to the 2023 Arizona Fall League Championship Game between the Peoria Javelinas and the Surprise Saguaros at Surprise Stadium on Saturday, November 11, 2023 in Surprise, Arizona.
Photo by Jason Hanna/MLB Photos via Getty Images

With recent reports that Sports Illustrated has been publishing articles written by Artificial Intelligence (AI), I understandably began to fear for my job. What if SB Nation decided it should replace all of its hard-working bloggers with AI to cut costs??? So I decided to go ahead and test out some AI Large Language Models (LLMs) to see if they could write as good as me. The results were reassuring.

A couple of disclaimers, first I asked all of these questions on the afternoon of Thursday, November 30. Second, I tried asking ChatGPT first but its data only goes up to winter 2022 so it doesn’t know anything about the current Royals’ team. (I also asked it what the Royals should have done differently during the 2021 off-season and it still had no idea, so do with that what you will.) Instead, I ended up asking Google’s Bard all of the following questions.

What should the Royals do to improve their roster this off-season?

The Kansas City Royals had a challenging 2023 season, finishing with a 106-loss record. To improve their roster for the upcoming season, they should focus on addressing their pitching staff, particularly the bullpen, and adding another impact bat to their lineup.

Bolster the Bullpen:

Prioritize Relief Pitching: The Royals’ bullpen struggled in 2023, ranking among the worst in the league in ERA, WHIP, and blown saves. Adding reliable relievers should be a top priority.

Target Experienced Arms: Look for bullpen veterans with proven track records of success. Experienced relievers can provide stability and leadership to a young bullpen.

Consider Internal Options: Explore potential bullpen contributors from within the organization. Young pitchers with promise could be given opportunities to step up.

Enhance Offensive Firepower:

Seek Impact Bat: Identify and acquire a middle-of-the-order hitter who can provide consistent power and protection for the lineup.

Focus on Contact and Power: Target hitters who combine good contact skills with power. This will balance the lineup and create offensive threats throughout the order.

Evaluate Trade Opportunities: Consider exploring trades for established hitters who could make an immediate impact on the offense.

Additional Considerations:

Develop Young Talent: Continue to prioritize the development of young players within the farm system. Investing in homegrown talent is crucial for long-term success.

Strategic Free Agent Signings: Be selective in free agency. Target players who fill specific needs and align with the team’s overall strategy.

Balanced Approach: Strike a balance between addressing immediate needs and building for the future. Don’t sacrifice long-term growth for short-term gains.

By addressing these areas, the Kansas City Royals can significantly improve their roster and increase their chances of success in the upcoming season.

So... yeah. An uninspiring start. It turns out that if you ask a LLM a general question you get a very general answer. The Royals could use some pitching and a good hitter, you say? They should focus on a hitter who can hit the ball often and hard? They should look both inside and outside the organization? Smart! Fine, let’s go ahead and try to ask a more specific question, then.

What one player should the Royals target to improve their roster in 2024?

The Kansas City Royals should focus on acquiring a frontline starting pitcher to improve their team in 2024. The Royals’ rotation was a major weakness in 2023, and they need to add a pitcher who can consistently pitch deep into games and give them a chance to win every night.

One potential target for the Royals is Luis Severino, who is expected to be a free agent after the 2023 season. Severino is a two-time All-Star who has a career ERA of 3.98. He is a hard-throwing right-hander who can miss bats and get strikeouts.

Another option for the Royals is to trade for a young, controllable starting pitcher. There are a number of teams that could be looking to move a pitcher, and the Royals should be aggressive in exploring trade opportunities.

Adding a frontline starting pitcher would be a major upgrade for the Royals’ rotation and would make them a more competitive team in 2024.

OK. Cool. Some specific advice. And, yeah, Luis Severino would have been a great target for the Royals if they could have gotten him for the deal he ended up signing with the Mets. One problem, though. As I noted earlier, I asked this question Thursday afternoon. Severino hadn’t yet officially signed his deal with the Mets at that point, but it was open news on the internet that he was going to.

Now, I don’t necessarily blame Bard for not knowing this. I’m not sure on what schedule its data gets updated. And at least it has information about this year, which is more than I can say about the most famous LLM currently out there. But if it can’t be more up-to-date than it showed here, its utility for the team or even as a sportswriter is going to be incredibly limited. Still, maybe this was a one-off and it’ll offer up some better advice if we keep asking questions.

Who would be the best hitter for the Royals to acquire to improve their roster in 2024?

The Royals could benefit from acquiring a middle-of-the-order hitter who can provide consistent power and protection for the lineup. Here are a few potential targets:

Josh Bell is a left-handed hitting first baseman who has a career slash line of .267/.356/.431 with 142 home runs in 746 games. He is a versatile hitter who can hit for both average and power, and he would be a significant upgrade at first base for the Royals.

Brandon Drury is a right-handed hitting third baseman/designated hitter who has a career slash line of .259/.325/.454 with 83 home runs in 604 games. He is a streaky hitter, but he has the potential to be a dangerous power threat in the middle of the Royals’ lineup.

Trey Mancini is a right-handed hitting first baseman/designated hitter who has a career slash line of .258/.347/.442 with 111 home runs in 695 games. He is a consistent hitter who gets on base and has some power. He would be a solid addition to the Royals’ lineup.

These are just a few of the many hitters who could be available to the Royals this offseason. The Royals should focus on acquiring a hitter who fits their needs and can help them take the next step as a team.

In addition to acquiring a hitter, the Royals should also focus on improving their pitching staff. The Royals’ bullpen was a major weakness in 2023, and they need to add some reliable relievers. They should also look to add a frontline starting pitcher to their rotation.

If the Royals can make some key acquisitions this offseason, they could be a competitive team in 2024.

OK, so this is a bit more useful. Josh Bell, Brandon Drury, and Trey Mancini are all hitters I could see the team being interested in and potential upgrades. Except... none of those slash lines are right. I’m not even sure where it got them from. For example, it says Trey Mancini has a slash line of .258/.347/.442 with 111 home runs in 695 games. But his actual slash line is .263/.328/.448 with 129 home runs in 831 games.

I thought perhaps the data was simply outdated, but unless this was pulled from somewhere in the middle of the 2022 season, it simply doesn’t work, in terms of games played. It also doesn’t coincide with his Orioles stats. If it is working with out-of-date stats, that’s fine, but that makes it useless for the Royals and it would need to admit that (and, again, be closer to up-to-date) in order to be useful as a sports writer.

Still, I wouldn’t hate the Royals getting Brandon Drury, especially if it was because they’d made a very good trade with Maikel Garcia and didn’t pay too much to the Angels for the one-year rental that would be Drury.

Speaking of trades...

What trade should the Royals try to make during the 2023-2024 off-season?

The Kansas City Royals should prioritize acquiring a frontline starting pitcher to bolster their rotation and improve their chances of success in the upcoming season. Here’s a potential trade scenario that could benefit both the Royals and their trading partner:

Trade Proposal:

Royals Receive:

Frontline Starting Pitcher:

Target: Luis Severino (New York Yankees)

Alternative: Pablo López (Miami Marlins)

Trading Partner Receives:

Package of Prospects:

Royals’ Top Prospect: Bobby Witt Jr., Shortstop

Additional Prospects:

MJ Melendez, Catcher

Angel Zerpa, Left-Handed Pitcher

Rationale:

Benefits for the Royals:

Acquiring a Top-Tier Starter: Securing an established and proven frontline starter like Luis Severino or Pablo López would significantly strengthen the Royals’ rotation. These pitchers can consistently go deep into games and provide a reliable foundation for the pitching staff.

Enhancing Playoff Contention: Adding a frontline starter would significantly improve the Royals’ pitching, making them a more competitive team in 2024. With a stronger rotation, the Royals could potentially contend for a playoff spot.

Benefits for the Trading Partner:

Obtaining Young Talent: The package of prospects, centered around Bobby Witt Jr., provides a solid return for the trading partner. Witt Jr. is a highly regarded shortstop prospect with a bright future, while Melendez and Zerpa offer additional depth and upside.

Addressing Specific Needs: The trading partner could potentially use the prospects to address specific needs in their organization, such as bolstering their farm system or filling immediate roster holes.

This trade proposal represents a mutually beneficial scenario that could help both the Royals and their trading partner achieve their respective goals. The Royals would gain a much-needed frontline starter, while the trading partner would acquire a promising prospect package.

And now things have gone completely off the rails. There is no way the Royals are trading Witt, Melendez, and Zerpa for a single starting pitcher. Especially not one of Severino’s recent performance. Also, I feel the need to point out that neither Severino nor López are members of those teams anymore. Heck, López was traded to the Twins prior to the beginning of last season.

Also, I guess now is a good time to talk about the fact that Bard seems to think the Royals could be playoff contenders with just a couple of roster tweaks. I’m no stranger to copium, but that’s some unreal stuff right there.

I asked it a few more questions. It confirmed that it did know that Pablo López was actually a Twin now when pressed on the matter. But it never swayed from its certainty that the five players it’s mentioned so far - Severino, López, Drury, Bell, and Mancini - were the best targets for the Royals and that if they got one or two of them, they’d be real playoff contenders even if they had to give up Bobby Witt Jr. to do it.

So, yeah, I don’t feel particularly threatened by AI as a sportswriter anymore. Even my worst efforts are better than those responses. The Royals front office staff probably feels more secure in their own jobs as well. AI can be a useful tool in a huge variety of scenarios but it doesn’t seem likely to be competent for making unsupervised, meaningful decisions anytime soon.