One year ago, the Royals fired longtime executive Dayton Moore and handed the reins to general manager J.J. Picollo. This week, Picollo talked to Josh Vernier of 610 Sports about the direction of the franchise in a discussion that also included Royals owner John Sherman.
Sherman stated that the “season of evaluation is over”, admitting that the season was more painful than expected, but that the team is “looking forward right now.” Picollo said the win-loss record was not what was expected, but that the organization was on the right track.
“We need to get better. The results our fans care about the most are wins and losses and we recognize that. But when you look behind the curtain, you look at what Q is doing, what Brian Sweeney and the pitching team is doing, what Alec Zumwalt is doing, the processes are in place.”
Picollo mentioned the team was evaluating their scouting processes, and who was involved in scouting. The Royals officially announced the hiring of former Braves executive Brian Bridges as director of scouting in a number of front office moves today. Picollo also emphasized the team needed to do a better job with the minor league system and in building up the farm system.
“There was a lot of things accomplished behind the curtain that will lead to success in the future on the field in terms of wins and losses.”
When asked about the off-season priorities, Picollo turned to the pitching staff.
“Clearly our pitching is something that will need to be addressed. We have some positive things happening as far as our starting pitchers is concerned. Unfortunately we have a couple guys that didn’t get off the ground this year that we’d like to think will rebound, but we’re at a point where we’re not going to count on that. We need to recognize that for us to win more games we need to get people that can pitch right now and pitch at a higher level than we are at as a pitching staff.”
Starting pitchers Kris Bubic and Daniel Lynch each missed significant time with injuries. Sherman indicated the team was willing to spend to improve the pitching staff, but Picollo seemed to emphasize making trades as an avenue to improve the team.
“We have to look at what assets we have within our organization. If we can then turn assets in to a Major League player, that’s an avenue we absolutely need to look down.”
Picollo also mentioned the bullpen as an area that could be upgraded, saying that the team currently had some bullpen candidates for next year, but that they would work hard to add to the pen.
As far as the lineup, Picollo praised the team’s positional flexibility, saying it would allow them more freedom in pursuing players, since they could move guys around.
“There’s clearly a core of guys. We have flexibility, we have a lot of guys that can play multiple positions....We have enough speed, we’re going to be a threat on the bases. We need to drive balls more, we need to slug a bit more.”
Vernier asked about Bobby Witt Jr., who is enjoying a breakout season as one of the most valuable players in baseball in his second year. Picollo said the team would love to have him long term and has had some “initial small discussions” but that negotiations over a long-term deal would be “something that should happen in the off-season.” Sherman called Witt a “special player”, acknowledging that the Royals would have to have to do more than just convince Bobby with money.
“He’s going to have believe certain things about the organization, he’s going to have confidence in us, and we’re going to make sure he does.”
Sherman acknowledged that baseball is a “performance-based business” and that all the community work and work towards a new ballpark depended on winning baseball games, saying “winning games is really what lifts the rest of it up, that’s the primary focus.”
While Sherman and Picollo seemed to lament the poor performance on the field, they did seem confident they had made the changes in the past year to put the organization on the right path. But it is safe to say they face a very skeptical fanbase that is tired of 100-loss seasons and talk of a new ballpark. They’re ready for winning baseball again.