Royals' GM lays out club's offseason agenda

November 10th, 2022

LAS VEGAS -- While the focus for the Royals right now remains on finalizing manager Matt Quatraro’s staff, discussions about offseason moves remain prominent, especially when talking with other teams at the GM Meetings this week in Las Vegas.

Pitching remains a priority, but the Royals would like to add a bat or two this winter to balance out and add to their core group of hitters -- preferably a right-handed veteran player, general manager J.J. Picollo told on Wednesday.

“We’re going to look to improve any way we can,” Picollo said. “The nice thing is, we have a lot of flexibility with the positional guys. A lot of guys that can play a lot of different positions. It doesn’t pigeonhole us into saying, ‘We need to go get this position.’ I think we’re thinking more right-handed bat more so than left-handed. But we want the ability to match up and have the depth on our bench that allows us to make moves late in games.

“We have the ability to say, ‘What’s the bat we like the most?’ because we don’t have guys fixed on one position, and we can utilize the DH to be a revolving door for us.”

Until the free-agent market opens Thursday, teams and agents can only talk framework such as years, but not dollars or offers for free agents. Typically, the GM Meetings can be where teams lay the groundwork for trade discussions later in the offseason.

The Royals won’t shy away from opportunities to add another young, controllable bat to their core, but logically, it makes sense to add an experienced hitter, either one who can serve as an everyday middle-of-the-order bat or depth off the bench.

“On the surface, yes, somebody that has experience, who can be a voice of reason and lead by experience,” Picollo said. “Someone who can balance our team a little bit because it is so young.”

The Royals do have positional flexibility with where they can add. It’s likely they’ll commit to Bobby Witt Jr. as their shortstop -- they don’t want to bounce the 22-year-old around like they did last season -- and Michael Massey will enter Spring Training as the favorite for second base. Vinnie Pasquantino will be an everyday hitter either at first base or designated hitter.

Adalberto Mondesi and Nicky Lopez can serve as infield utility players or win starting jobs, although Mondesi’s injury history lends him more toward infield depth. Both are due raises in arbitration this year, though, so they could be trade candidates.

“We’re going to have to be careful with Mondesi,” Picollo said. “We’ve got to be aware of him coming off an injury. If he is that guy who’s able to give Bobby a DH day, play third base two or three days in a row, play second base to get Massey off his feet, those types of things would be good for us. The fact that he’s a switch-hitter would lend himself to that role, too. The big hurdle is getting him back on the field, see where he’s at in Spring Training.”

In the outfield, the Royals are ready to let MJ Melendez take over left field while Michael A. Taylor mans center in the final year of his contract. Right field would be the most likely landing spot for an outfield addition, but the Royals have options there, too, including Drew Waters, Kyle Isbel, Edward Olivares, Brent Rooker, Hunter Dozier and Nate Eaton -- the latter two also being able to play third base.

The other question is who will fit into the Royals’ budget this winter, and Picollo emphasized again that the payroll will be similar to this past season. With increases to Salvador Perez’s salary ($20 million), Dozier’s salary ($7 million) and arbitration raises -- including Mondesi and Lopez -- the Royals will have to get creative in how they make room for additions.

Trading from their big league roster to create payroll room and open up playing time for young players remains a likely route.

“We’re operating right now near capacity with what we want to spend, but that’s where we need to be open-minded in how we can manage and free up some money to change the look of the team a little bit,” Picollo said. “[Royals owner] John [Sherman] has told me, ‘Let’s understand where we are as a team right now, and when the time is right for us to add to the payroll, we’ll do that.’ It’s going to ebb and flow a little bit, but with where we’re at as a team right now, adding an extra $20 million isn’t going to put us at the top. There are other things we need to take care of first before we make that push with the payroll.”