What's next for Royals: Important dates, FAs, more

November 2nd, 2023

This story was excerpted from Anne Rogers’ Royals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals’ Spring Training neighbors are World Series champions. The Texas Rangers won their first ring on Wednesday night, and we watched former Royals pitcher Chris Young, now the Rangers’ general manager, and former Royals president of baseball operations Dayton Moore, now a special advisor to Young, celebrate.

Now the offseason begins. The Royals are about to enter a frenetic part of the calendar as they configure the roster and can finally begin to act on the offseason plan they laid out weeks ago.

Here are the dates, names and decision points to know as the Royals dive into the winter:

What are the key dates?

First day after the World Series ends: Teams can trade Major League players, and eligible players become free agents. That starts a “quiet period” in which free agents may negotiate only with the team they just left.

Fifth day after the World Series ends: The “quiet period” ends, and Major League free agents are free to sign with any club as of 4 p.m. CT. Minor League players become free agents, if applicable, at 4 p.m. CT. This is also the deadline for teams and players to make decisions on contract options and for clubs to tender qualifying offers.

Nov. 7-9: GM Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Nov. 14: Teams must add players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. Also, the deadline for players to accept a qualifying offer is 3 p.m. CT on this day.

Nov. 17: Tender deadline. Often referred to as the non-tender deadline, 7 p.m. CT is the deadline by which teams must formally tender (or give) contracts to players on the 40-man roster for 2024, including their pre-arbitration players (players with 0-3 years of service time) and arbitration-eligible players. If a player is non-tendered, he becomes a free agent. Some teams will non-tender arb-eligible players if the salary increase is too large for that player’s value or doesn’t fit in the team’s payroll.

Dec. 4-6: Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., including the MLB Draft lottery on Dec. 5 and the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 6.

Jan. 12, 2024: Eligible players and their teams exchange arbitration figures. Teams and players can still come to terms on a ‘24 contract up until the arbitration hearing, which is usually in February, but this is the date to exchange the desired salary for both sides.

Jan. 15, 2024: Start of the new international signing period.

Feb. 14, 2024: Royals pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training in Surprise, Ariz.

Who are the Royals’ free agents? Do any of them have options? Will they get a qualifying offer?

Right-handers Zack Greinke and Brad Keller, along with infielder Matt Duffy, are the only Royals players departing for free agency this offseason. None of them have options, nor are they expected to get a qualifying offer. This year’s figure is reportedly $20.5 million. It’s the first time the qualifying offer has topped $20 million.

Who is arbitration-eligible?

For the Royals, this is what will be the meat of their early offseason. They have seven arb-eligible players, all due bumps in their salary through the process. The extremely valuable Cot’s Contracts estimates each salary:

LHP Kris Bubic (second year, $2.3 million)
RHP Taylor Clarke (second year, $2 million)
RHP Carlos Hernández (first year, $1.2 million)
RHP Brady Singer (second year, $5.25 million)
OF Edward Olivares (first year, $1.75 million)
RHP Josh Staumont (second year, $1.3 million)
RHP Josh Taylor (third year, $1.2 million)

Are any of those players non-tender candidates?

Kansas City will want to keep Singer, who should return to the rotation, and Bubic, who looked good in a very small sample size before having Tommy John surgery this past April. He could hopefully rejoin the staff midway through the 2024 season. There was some talk surrounding Olivares, who is now out of options, at the Trade Deadline, and he might be a trade option either before the tender deadline or after.

The Royals were hesitant to move on from Hernández, whom they got a ton of calls on, at the Deadline, but then the 26-year-old posted a 7.82 ERA after the All-Star break. Still, it’s likely the Royals will bring him back and see if a lower-leverage role can fix the issues. They also still like Clarke despite his struggles in the ‘pen last season. However, there will be a roster crunch, and that could cost Clarke a spot. 

Staumont (thoracic outlet syndrome surgery) and Taylor (back surgery) were both injured the majority of this past year and have unclear statuses for ‘24, which likely makes them non-tender candidates.

Among pre-arb players who are candidates to be non-tendered would be Jonathan Heasley, Collin Snider, Nate Eaton and Logan Porter.

Who needs to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason?

First, let’s take a look at the roster crunch facing the Royals in the next couple of weeks. Right now, the 40-man roster stands at 36. Free agents coming off will bring it down to 33. There are eight players on the 60-day injured list that will need to be added back on, though, so some moves are coming to parse down the roster. That could be the time some non-tender candidates get traded, put on waivers or released.

On Nov. 14, the Royals will have to protect some Minor Leaguers from the Rule 5 Draft by adding them to the 40-man roster. Generally speaking, players who signed with their current club at age 18 or younger and have five years of experience or signed with their current club at age 19 or older and have four years of experience, and are not protected on 40-man rosters, are eligible to be plucked away in December’s Rule 5 Draft. The catch is that the claiming team must keep the player on its Major League roster for the entirety of the next year.

Here are the notable names eligible this year:

OF Tyler Gentry (No. 8 Royals prospect on MLB Pipeline)
RHP Will Klein (No. 25)
RHP Luinder Avila (No. 28)

Expect a flurry of moves in the next couple of weeks depending on how the Royals decide to address the roster crunch.