NASHVILLE -- It was a relatively quiet Winter Meetings for the Royals; while they’ve been involved in several negotiations among free agents and other teams, nothing has yet come to fruition.
The biggest news of the week was the Draft Lottery, which saw Kansas City drop to the No. 6 pick, and the Rule 5 Draft, when the Royals selected Yankees Top 30 prospect right-hander Matt Sauer.
Here’s a rundown of what happened within the walls of the massive Gaylord Opryland Resort & Hotel this week:
The only transaction the Royals made came on the last day, Wednesday, when they traded reliever Dylan Coleman to the Astros for Minor League pitcher Carlos Mateo, who will turn 20 years old on Dec. 16. Kansas City wanted to clear a spot on the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 Draft, and while Coleman does boast upside with his power fastball, he struggled with command in 2023 and saw a slight dip in his velocity.
“We appreciate what Dylan did, and there is upside there,” general manager J.J. Picollo said. “It’s a big, power fastball. When we look at our roster, we have a lot of guys who have good stuff, and a lot of guys who are still trying to learn how to command the strike zone. How many of those guys do you carry on the 40-man roster is the question we asked ourselves.
“You’ve got to give a little bit somewhere. There was interest in Dylan with Houston, so getting to today, we felt like we needed to clear a spot, and we felt like that was our most efficient way to do it.”
RULE 5 DRAFT
Using that open roster spot, the Royals made a selection with the No. 2 pick in the Rule 5 Draft and added New York right-hander Matt Sauer to their bullpen. Sauer, 24, is the Yankees’ 25th-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline, and while he has some injury history, he has the swing-and-miss stuff the Royals are searching for this winter.
A second-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, Sauer missed time with an injury this past season but had an 11.3 K/9 and 3.42 ERA in 68 1/3 innings in Double-A Somerset -- and he held hitters to a .189 batting average with a riding fastball up to 95 mph and a tight slider.
BIGGEST REMAINING NEEDS
It hasn’t changed: Pitching. Kansas City still wants -- and needs -- to acquire two starters and one or two more relievers, although Sauer might help, at least with depth. The main takeaway from the Winter Meetings is that the Royals are searching high and low for any kind of pitching depth. It’s why they cleared space for the Rule 5 Draft. It’s why they’re scouring Minor League deals for non-roster invitees to Spring Training.
It’s why they’re staying in conversations with free-agent pitchers who can help take their rotation to the next level, with Picollo saying the Royals can be “competitive” in or above the range some starters are getting right now, like Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson to the Cardinals and Luis Severino to the Mets in the $11-13 million range. Those are all one-year deals -- with options for Lynn and Gibson -- but the Royals aren’t opposed to multiyear deals, according to sources in conversations with the team.
Beyond pitching, the Royals would like to add an impact bat that can help their lineup produce as well as be a veteran presence for the young hitters. The likeliest fit for this acquisition is the corner outfield.
GM’S BOTTOM LINE
“It’s still developing. We’ve seen some markers in starting pitching, but then there’s a big gap in what could potentially happen at the top of the market and what’s happened so far. A lot of the players we have interest in lie in that gap. That’s what we’re still trying to establish. So the discussions we’re having [are] waiting for that market to develop. It’s just been slow. But I don’t think it’s too abnormal. It just seems like every year, the market is more end-of-December and January. … Floors are getting established, but what are the ceilings? That’s ultimately where guys are going to sign.” -- Picollo, on the free agent market being somewhat slow, but not at a standstill.