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A way-too-early look at next season’s roster

The evaluation is almost finished. What have we learned?

Bobby Witt Jr. #7 of the Kansas City Royals dives into second for a steal in the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Kauffman Stadium on September 03, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. Bobby Witt Jr. #7 of the Kansas City Royals dives into second for a steal in the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Kauffman Stadium on September 03, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Royals will have played at least 148 games by the time you read this. The season of evaluation is blessedly almost done. All that’s left is to compile the results and decide on what to do next. I’ve got a little time to kill, so let’s get a jump start on it. Time to predict the 2024 opening day roster!

Locking in leaders

Here is the complete and entire list of players who will definitely be on the Royals at the start of the 2024 season!

  • Bobby Witt Jr,
  • Cole Ragans

That’s it. That’s the list. Barring disastrous injury, those two guys will definitely be on the roster next season. Everyone else has at least a little doubt

Probably present

It wouldn’t be a massive surprise if any of these guys were traded, but I probably won’t be released. And I wouldn’t even predict that they get traded, necessarily.

  • Brady Singer
  • Jordan Lyles
  • Daniel Lynch
  • Taylor Clarke
  • Carlos Hernández
  • Kyle Isbel
  • Nick Pratto
  • MJ Melendez
  • Vinnie Pasquantino
  • Michael Massey
  • Drew Waters
  • Nick Loftin
  • Freddy Fermin
  • Nelson Velázquez
  • Alec Marsh
  • James McArthur
  • Steven Cruz
  • John McMillon
  • Maikel Garcia
  • Bubba Thompson

As one might assume, despite almost certainly losing 110 or more games and thereby setting a new franchise record for losses in a single season, most of the players fall in the category of likely remaining.

I predicted at the trade deadline that Singer and Hernández would both be traded this off-season. Their performance down the stretch has made that exceptionally unlikely, now.

Bubba Thompson is the most surprising guy on this list. The Royals snatched him up after the Rangers DFA’d him - which gave the Royals three transactions involving the Rangers this season, the same year Dayton Moore got a spot there. No one is talking about him, but he regained his power stroke in Omaha and if he has a reasonably good Spring Training I think there’s a very good chance he breaks camp with the big league club.

Initially injured

These guys will be under contract to the Royals, but they won’t be able to start the year on the roster due to injuries.

  • Kris Bubic
  • Jake Brentz
  • Austin Cox
  • Josh Staumont

Bubic and Brentz will still be recovering from Tommy John surgery. Staumont will be recovering from thoracic outlet surgery. Austin Cox will be recovering from a torn ACL.

Minding the Minors

  • Logan Porter
  • Jonathan Bowlan
  • Max Castillo
  • Dylan Coleman
  • Diego Hernandez
  • Samad Taylor

These six guys have all shown enough or have enough physical talent and are on pre-arbitration deals, so I would expect them to stick around. Any of them might be roster casualties in a pinch, though.

Definite departures

As a corollary to the guys who will definitely still be here, there are some guys who will definitely not be back. This list is slightly longer.

  • Zack Greinke
  • Matt Duffy
  • Brad Keller

Those three will be unrestricted free agents and there is no reason to bring them back. So the Royals will not. I have willed it, so it is.

Likely leaving

  • Josh Taylor
  • Edward Olivares
  • Tucker Davidson
  • Taylor Hearn
  • Jonathan Heasley
  • Matt Beaty

I would be very surprised to see any of these guys back. They’re all arbitration-eligible and/or have been very bad. Also, only Heasley was someone the team drafted, which makes it easier to move on from guys. Edward Olivares seems more likely to be traded than cut, but there’s almost no way he’ll be back in Kansas City next summer.

Your guess is as good as mine

  • Salvador Perez
  • Dairon Blanco
  • Jackson Kowar
  • Collin Snider
  • Nate Eaton

Salvador Perez still seems like a guy the Royals could trade this off-season. Whether it’s for salary relief or actual prospects is anyone’s guess at this point, but I’d still be a little surprised to see him suit up for Kansas City next season.

Blanco has been effective for Kansas City, but he’ll also be 31 next season and between Isbel, Waters, Velázquez, Melendez, and Thompson, they already have a lot of outfielders. They might try to trade him or he might end up as a roster casualty. He will probably catch on somewhere else.

Kowar has been consistently bad ever since his amazing start in AAA in 2021. He’s still pre-arb, though, so they might keep him. Snider is in a similar situation.

Nate Eaton started the year on the big league roster after making a small splash as a surprise call-up in 2022. He didn’t play terribly, but he has truly horrendous luck and he’s a guy who needs to have very good luck in order to be worth keeping around. Still, he’s pre-arb and has an excellent glove, arm, and speed. They might find a spot for him.

By my count, there are only 22 guys currently under contract who seem likely to start the year with the big league club. That leaves four holes to fill from the guys in the less likely groups or through outside acquisitions. And that’s before you consider depth for injuries. If the Royals want to, ya know, actually improve next year, they’re probably going to have to bring in a heaping handful of new faces. Whether or not they actually do so - and whose faces those are - should tell us a lot about how serious they are about fielding a competitive team versus just collecting paychecks while they wait for the new stadium to be built.