Smith likely the first of many additions to KC pitching staff

December 12th, 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 made their biggest move of the winter over the weekend when they signed lefty reliever  to a one-year deal worth $5 million

And while that might not seem like it moves the needle considerably, it’s become very clear that the Royals aren’t planning on this signing being the biggest move of their offseason.

“We’re going to keep pushing,” general manager J.J. Picollo said Monday. “The deeper we can get, the better.”

As has been reported here all offseason, the Royals remain interested in bringing in one or two starters who can slot in at the top of their rotation with lefty Cole Ragans and righty Brady Singer. Free agents who have reportedly been linked to Kansas City include Seth Lugo, Lucas Giolito, Marcus Stroman, Jack Flaherty and Michael Wacha.

The market has started to move a little more now that the biggest free agent this offseason in Shohei Ohtani agreed to a massive, unprecedented contract with the Dodgers. Even though only a few teams were in on Ohtani, it seemed like the market was waiting for his decision.

“Now that domino has fallen, I do think it’s going to speed up, and we’re going to see a lot of action this week and next week,” Picollo said. “I think a lot of things will be settled before Christmas. That’s what we’re anticipating.”

The Winter Meetings were slow for a lot of teams, but even Picollo mentioned in Nashville, Tenn., that baseball’s annual gathering seems to lay the groundwork for deals done shortly after everyone goes home. Teams meet with agents and talk with other clubs there, then follow up in the days and weeks after.

While the focus remains on starting pitching, Kansas City’s bullpen work is not done, either. Even after signing Smith, acquiring Nick Anderson from the Braves and selecting Matt Sauer in the Rule 5 Draft, the Royals want to add more relievers to help their young core. A veteran arm is preferred as Kansas City searches for stability in its bullpen. Strike-throwing is key.

If the Royals can take pressure off young arms like James McArthur, Carlos Hernández, Steven Cruz and others whom they see potential in, they believe those relievers will develop quicker and more efficiently than in last season. Night after night, young relievers were thrown into situations they had never experienced, and while some of that needs to happen for development, Kansas City wants to put pieces in the bullpen who can take the ball in those moments.

“We’re going to keep looking,” Picollo said. “I don’t know how it’s going to resolve itself or where we’ll be in a couple of weeks, but we’re going to keep looking. There’s a lot of quality pitchers out there on the market right now. We’ve talked before, it’s not necessarily just through the free-agent market, but any potential trades, if we see a fit, we’re going to pursue it.”

The Royals have a lot of work to do to turn a 106-loss team around -- not into division winners, but into a more competitive group throughout the season. The Smith signing is one piece of that, but he can’t and won’t be the only addition.