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Weekend Rumblings - News for February 10, 2024


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

Dan Szymborski at Fangraphs looks at pre-spring training projections.

The Royals get credit for being active in free agency this offseason, signing veteran starting pitchers Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha, reliever Will Smith, slugger Hunter Renfroe, and utility man Adam Frazier, among other players. That said, those are the types of moves a team makes when it already has a strong core in place and is ready to contend, and, at least as ZiPS sees it, the Royals aren’t quite there yet. That’s not the worst thing in the world, considering they just signed shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. to the longest, most valuable extension in franchise history.

The Athletic writes about the questions facing each team as spring training begins.

The Royals clearly feel like they’re on the right path, that a franchise record-tying 106 losses in 2023 was the nadir, but is it because there’s simply nowhere to go but up, or because they’re actually onto something? Witt, Vinnie Pasquantino and Cole Ragans appear to be the key pieces, but with no crop of intriguing prospects knocking on the door — no pressure, new scouting director! — they tossed money at some second- and third-tier free agents.

Bill Mitchell at Baseball America catches up with Royals’ 2023 first-round pick Blake Mitchell.

Mitchell took great strides with his defense in his first six months as a pro, citing the fact that he was working daily on his catching instead of the less frequent he got in high school. He especially takes pride in how he connects with pitchers, a key component in the development of a young catcher.

“I just tried to get as close to (the pitchers) as possible,” Mitchell said, “try to get a personal relationship with them, and just earn their trust (so) they can throw whatever pitch at any count.”

The Royals believe that Mitchell will be ready for the challenge of breaking camp with Low-A Columbia.

Keith Law ranks the Royals 25th in his farm system rankings, but has some encouraging words.

It might sound odd given the ranking, but I like the Royals’ system. There are a lot of players here who could or should be pretty good — maybe not top 100 prospects, per se, but prospects who project to 2 WAR or so years in the majors. They had a lot of significant prospects get hurt and either miss a lot of time or play through it with worse results, so I’m hopeful that the returning players in the system as a whole will have much better years in 2024 just by virtue of getting over whatever ailed them last year. Given what we saw on the field, though, I can’t boost them any higher than this despite my optimism.

Andy McCullough writes about Clayton Kershaw’s career and how he ended up with the Dodgers.

The Royals had ruled out Kershaw earlier in the spring, unsure if he would throw enough strikes to thrive in the majors.

“As much as I don’t like to admit this, Clayton would not have been a factor for us, picking No. 1 in the country,” scouting director Deric Ladnier recalled. They deliberated between Hochevar and Miller. When the Royals chose Hochevar, a door opened for the Dodgers: The Tigers would have to decide between Miller and Kershaw. And the better bet, the executives knew, was almost always on the college arm.

The Diamondbacks are searching for a right-handed bat.

Former Mets GM Billy Eppler is suspended until after the World Series for fabricating injuries.

The Astros are still hoping to add to their pitching staff.

Former two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber retires.

Should the Cardinals have traded Paul Goldschmidt last summer?

The Padres are interested in Red Sox outfielder Jarren Duran.

New minor league roster limits are making it harder for veterans to land minor league deals.

Who are the best active one-franchise players?

Diamond Sports reaches an agreement to broadcast Rangers, Guardians, and Twins games this year.

Is Eric Bienemy running out of chances to be a head coach?

A friendly featuring Inter-Miami in China is canceled because Lionel Messi has been sitting out.

Instagram will quit recommending political content.

Brick-and-mortar retail stores seem to be thriving since the pandemic.

A man who spent years building a model of the Eiffel Tower with matchsticks may be denied a world record for using the wrong kind of matches.

Your song of the day is Billy Swan with Don’t Be Cruel.