‘It’s time’: Royals players aiming high ahead of '24

February 4th, 2024

KANSAS CITY -- Optimism is generally high around this time of year for any baseball fan, with the hope of a new season and summer weather on the horizon. That was true Saturday, when the Royals held their second-annual Royals Rally at Kauffman Stadium.

Fans met players and coaches throughout the ballpark, participated in activities and discussed their excitement following the Royals’ busy offseason -- all while looking forward to the Kansas City Chiefs playing in next week’s Super Bowl.

The vibes are good in Kansas City. The Royals want to build on that. And when sat down in front of the media in one of the suites at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday, there was absolutely no denying how Royals players are looking at 2024.

“We’re coming,” Pasquantino said. “It’s time. There’s expectations on this team now for the first time in a few years. And that’s exciting for us. It’s exciting for fans. You can’t guarantee anything because that would just be dumb on my part to say anything, but within this team, we’re looking at the division. We want the AL Central. We’re tired of looking at the Twins and Guardians. It’s time to bring playoff baseball back to Kansas City, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Pasquantino, in particular, is raring to go after his season ended in June last year because of right shoulder surgery. Now fully healthy, he’s respectfully demanding that his name be in that first Spring Training game against the Rangers on Feb. 23 in Surprise, Ariz.

“I feel like an animal that’s been in a cage for nine months,” Pasquantino said. “That’s kind of the best way I would describe it. I’m ready to get out of the cage. And that latch just opened a little bit. So I can taste it. One more week, I’ll be out there, ready to get it fired up.”

Does that get you ready for baseball season?

Mindset aside, the Royals have a lot to prove following their 106-loss season last year. CEO/chairman John Sherman and his ownership group committed $109 million to free agents because he didn’t want a repeat of 2023.

“It would be great if we were deeper in our farm system and we felt like we’re ready, but we’ve got to put a better Major League team on the field,” Sherman said. “We don’t want to go through what we went through last year. I understand why it happened. … We keep calling it the season of evaluation, but you’ll never hear me say that again. We knew the holes we needed to fill, and I’m really proud of the way [general manager J.J. [Picollo] executed.”

Picollo and his front office revamped the Royals’ pitching staff, adding Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo to the rotation. New faces pepper the bullpen, including Will Smith, Chris Stratton and Nick Anderson. Their lineup has lengthened with the addition of Hunter Renfroe and added versatility with Garrett Hampson and Adam Frazier.

In the words of starter Brady Singer: “I feel like we got almost a whole new team this offseason.”

“It fired me up,” Bobby Witt Jr. added. “It was awesome. Just seeing the moves, seeing the guys we’re getting, it’s going to be awesome. Even spending just a couple hours with the guys [here], it seems we’re already a great fit. That’s another reason I’m ready to get out to Arizona. Just to meet the guys, be around the guys, learn about them and talk to them and get ready for the season.”

Kansas City had a list of objectives to accomplish this offseason, and it seems like every box has been checked. Of course, the team looks improved on paper, but now the Royals have to put it together on the field.

And while nearly a third of their roster is new, it’s the development and success of the core homegrown players that will be the reason the Royals take a step forward in 2024.

“The core that was on the team last year, for them to continue to improve is really going to dictate how successful this team is going to be,” Picollo said. “Adding one or two players isn’t going to swing the needle to go from 50-some wins to 80-some wins. It needs to be everybody who’s involved, and that core is a big part of it.”


• Lefty Kris Bubic is eyeing a mid-season return from Tommy John surgery and is about two-and-a-half weeks from throwing off a mound. There’s still a ways to go until he’s pitching in Kansas City, but after the excitement of his stuff before he got hurt last year, he’s looking forward to that return.

“I want to pick up where I left off, essentially,” Bubic said.

• Singer and Cole Ragans, both of whom figure to be in the Royals’ Opening Day rotation, spent more time tinkering with their newer pitches this offseason. Ragans dove deeper into the development of his slider, which was a key pitch for him last year, and has played around with a two-seam fastball that could help him with lefties. Singer has focused on his four-seamer and sweeper, which he flashed at times last year.

• Starter Kyle Wright, whom the Royals acquired in a November trade with Atlanta following his right shoulder surgery, has spent the last three weeks in Kansas City beginning his rehab with his new trainers. He’s not throwing yet but is gaining strength and range. He’s expected to return in 2025.

"It’s just a day-by-day thing and trying to push it as much as we can without going too far,” Wright said. “I’ve just got to take it one step at a time and be really smart. Make sure I’m good for this organization hopefully the rest of the time I’m here.”