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JJ Picollo’s transactional Royals

So far Picollo has been more transactional in at least two ways than Moore was.

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Kansas City Royals spring training John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

If I were to make a Royals’ word of the year for 2022, or maybe even the last several years, that word would be transactional. There have been many discussions on the Royals needing to be more transactional, and looking at Picollo’s first year and a bit as GM, it looks like he may indeed be moving the organization in that direction.

When I think of a GM being transactional, the main three areas I tend to focus on are trades, free agent signings, and extensions. International and draft signings are a bit different. So far, Picollo has not really made any extensions, so we will have to wait and see how frequently and in what style he does that sort of transaction. Hopefully, the first will be soon to avoid arbitration with Brady Singer. Until then, I have gone back to the beginning of the Dayton Moore era to see how transactional the Royals have been in 2022 and the early part of 2023 relatively.

Here you can see how many trades they made that were player-for-player. I did it this way to cut out organizational depth trades of minor or fringe major leaguers for cash considerations. And 2022 was the most active trading year in recent memory, along with a couple of trades already this year. Amir Garrett and Drew Waters were probably the two biggest trades to acquire specific talent. The rest are mostly selling off pieces to stock the farm system like Andrew Benintendi and Whit Merrifield, or more recently clearing roster space for the young guys by moving Adalberto Mondesi and Michael A. Taylor. Overall, Picollo has really made a lot of moves in the trade market relative to his predecessor.

Trading in and of itself is neither good nor bad, but the inclination to trade was something that Moore lacked. He consistently held onto players too long, so it is nice to see the Royals moving players like Taylor, who are not the future, to make sure the playing time is available for those who might be. We will have to wait several years to see what he does when all these younger players are approaching free agency to really evaluate his willingness to trade, but the early signs are that he will be more willing to make deals.

On free agency he has actually been fairly active as well.

The Royals often sit free agency out almost entirely, just picking up a couple of pieces off the scrap heap for a million here or there. This year they have spent $20 million in total contract dollars, but with the reported Greinke deal coming, it will likely be $30 million or so. That makes the only years where they have been more active 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2021. Four of those five years were when the team was contending, so if Picollo can set a higher baseline in a year where the team is probably not going to be a playoff team, that is a good sign. What they spent the money on is a little less positive, Yarbrough and Greinke I have no problem with, but the Lyles contract makes no sense to me. Hopefully, the new pitching staff can prove me wrong.

For all the people that have been looking for the Royals to be more transactional, I would say that the new regime has so far delivered. One year is not enough however, and I am going to be very disappointed if we don’t see some extensions going to some of the young players by this time next year. We also need to see the trades work out, though the Waters trade at the very least already seems like a pretty good one. This year is going to be a pivotal one for the future of the franchise, so hopefully we will see some more positive moves over the coming months.