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A comprehensive guide to the Royals free agent acquisitions

Everything you need to know about the free agents the Royals’ signed prior to the 2024 season

San Diego Padres starting pitcher Michael Wacha (52) delivers a pitch during a Major League Baseball game between the San Diego Padres and the Chicago White Sox on September 30, 2023 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, IL.
San Diego Padres starting pitcher Michael Wacha (52) delivers a pitch during a Major League Baseball game between the San Diego Padres and the Chicago White Sox on September 30, 2023 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, IL.
Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Royals made significantly more moves in free agency this year than we’re used to. As Spring Training approaches, now seems like a good time to sum everything up and answer a few questions you may have.

Who did the Royals sign?

The Royals signed starting pitcher Michael Wacha, starting pitcher Seth Lugo, utility player Garrett Hampson, reliever Chris Stratton, reliever Will Smith, and outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

How much did the Royals spend in free agency?

The Royals committed between $62 million and $105 million to free agents this off-season, depending on which player options are selected and which are not. The Royals added $47 million to their 2024 salary. They have signed the third-most free agents. Their $105 million promised amounts to six percent of the total free agent spending completed so far this off-season.

Overall, free agent spending appears to be down across baseball as the $1,746,675,000 spent so far is less than half of what was spent the previous off-season. And almost half of that was committed to one player when the Dodgers added Shohei Ohtani.

Did the Royals overpay for their free agents?

No. The deals for similar pitchers around baseball have been around the same rates the Royals paid for Lugo, Wacha, Stratton, and Smith. If anything, the Royals might have gotten good deals. Renfroe and Hampson appear to have been bargains compared to other outfielders and utility players signed so far this off-season.

Will the Royals be good in 2024?

That seems unlikely. While the free-agent additions should significantly improve the team, they were so bad last year that this probably only gets them to mediocre levels of competitiveness, barring breakouts from returning players.

Will the Royals win the American League Central division in 2024?

This actually seems within the realm of possibility. You still probably shouldn’t go out and bet on it, but considering how weak the AL Central has been for years and how other teams in the division seem to be getting even worse while the Royals improve, it almost seems like the other teams prefer to lose the division.

Will the Royals make the playoffs in 2024?

Again, unlikely, but possible. The Royals almost certainly won’t make it as a Wild Card team out of the AL Central, so they’d have to win the division outright. Last year the Twins took that crown with 87 wins. No other team in the division won more than 78. With the decline of the Guardians, White Sox, and Twins rosters, if the Royals can play close to .500 baseball, they should be in the thick of the race for most of the year.

Who is the Royals’ closer in 2024?

Your guess is as good as anyone else’s. In September, the Royals had James McArthur closing games. Candidates for this year include McArthur, John McMillon, and Will Smith. Last he said anything on the matter, Manager Matt Quatraro indicated he had not chosen a closer for the team and it likely won’t be determined until the end of Spring Training or possibly even later.

Who is the best player on the Royals in 2024?

Some might say catcher Salvador Perez, but he had a down year in 2023 while shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. broke out in a big way. Bobby Witt Jr. had the Royals first ever 30-30 season, hitting at least 30 home runs and stealing at least 30 bases. He actually had their first 30-40 season as he finished with 30 home runs and 49 stolen bases. He was also caught stealing five times in his final 10 games while he attempted to reach 50 stolen bases.

Who is the best pitcher on the Royals in 2024?

There’s still a lot of uncertainty in the group, but the most likely candidate for this honor is Cole Ragans. Ragans was acquired in a mid-season trade with the Texas Rangers and pitched like an ace for the Royals during the second half of the season. In 12 starts for the Royals, he pitched to a 2.64 ERA and a 2.49 FIP. The left-handed fireballer regularly touched triple-digits with his fastball but also fooled hitters badly with nasty breaking stuff, including a slider he added only after being acquired by Kansas City.

Ragans is still only 26 years old and under team control until 2029. Assuming last year was no fluke, he should be headlining Royals rotations for years to come.