Inbox: Matheny frontrunner to be KC skipper?

Beat reporter Jeffrey Flanagan answers questions from fans

October 14th, 2019

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals continue to be deliberate in their process of the managerial search. Pending new owner John Sherman, while in contact regularly with general manager Dayton Moore over day-to-day affairs, budgets, etc., still is waiting for approval at next month’s owners meetings before taking full charge of the franchise’s operations.

With that, let’s get to your questions for this week’s Inbox.

Not to impugn anyone else’s reporting because news developments can evolve quickly in this day and age, but sources close to the situation have called any such reports “pretty farfetched.” There are numerous obstacles to overcome before thoughts of a downtown stadium become legitimate. First of all, the club's lease with Jackson County on Kauffman Stadium doesn’t expire until 2031. While leases certainly can be broken, there still is well over $100 million owed on the bonds that helped finance the renovation of the Truman Sports Complex over a decade ago. That money owed won’t simply disappear.

And Kansas City and Jackson County taxpayers aren’t going to be crazy about footing any more public-financed projects such as a new downtown stadium, especially when the renovation bonds for the Truman Sports Complex are unpaid, as are the financing of the Power and Light District. There also have been rumors of the new downtown stadium being completely privately financed, which would be a fabulous idea to taxpayers, but the previous debt would still have to be rolled into the cost of a new stadium, which estimates have laid out to be anywhere from $500 to $750 million just in construction costs alone.

A couple of other rubs: Sherman, I’m told, hasn’t even been involved extensively in any of these downtown stadium discussions, mainly because he isn’t comfortable about these talks when he’s not officially the owner yet. On the plus side, there are basically three potential downtown sites (East Village being the favored one), and all are intriguing. Acquiring the land is not the issue, although MLB teams do not favor owning the land for tax reasons. But preliminary studies on traffic and parking issues have either not been conducted or have not been presented to Royals officials. Again, we’re quite a ways away from legitimate downtown stadium talks. Yes, I think the Royals would be very much in favor of a downtown stadium someday. But there are a ton of obstacles to overcome first.

If I were a betting man, I still would say Mike Matheny is the odds-on favorite to become the next manager. No, it’s not as certain as it once was. Matheny has drawn interest from other teams with managerial openings, including the Padres, Giants and Mets. But word has it that the Padres are going another direction. Matheny is well respected in the Royals’ front office and he has been a hit with the organization’s scouts and executives. The Royals, I’m told, are still in a very deliberate process of interviewing candidates, which include Pedro Grifol (who has interviewed with the Giants), Dale Sveum and Vance Wilson, as well as other external options. The Royals are aware of the Twitter blowback regarding Matheny, but keep in mind that only about one in five people in this country are on Twitter. It is not an accurate portrayal of public opinion, at least in the Royals’ minds.

I spent some time last week with Bobby Witt Jr., and in talking to him as well as opposing scouts and Royals officials, there is not any concern whatsoever about those numbers. Granted it was just batting practice, but Witt turned a lot of heads when he hit a projected 460-foot homer in BP last Wednesday, as well as an opposite-field homer halfway up the light pole in right-center field. As one rival scout told me, “That kid has everything you can imagine you need to be to be a star in this game. Every team wishes they had a Bobby Witt Jr. in the pipes.”

The Royals have talked a lot about 2021 as the time when they will be contending again. Ned Yost, who retired after this season, startled a lot of us by saying at his last press conference that it might be closer to 2022 or '23 before they contend and that he didn’t simply have time to wait. I still think, based on the emergence of their position players (Hunter Dozier, Adalberto Mondesi, etc.) that it will be closer to 2021, especially if that next wave of pitching prospects can get here within two years.

Sorry to disappoint you, but the Royals don’t operate that way. One of their Fab Five (Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, etc.) would have to blow away the new manager in Surprise, Ariz., next spring to make the team. The Royals would be much more comfortable with a young arm coming up in May or June when there is less pressure to succeed. Simply put, they don’t want a young guy they’ve invested in to get buried mentally at the start of the season.

When I was down in Surprise last week, every Royals official was raving about Daniel Lynch. He has overcome the sore arm issues he had last spring, and he was hitting upper 90s with his heater. But be patient.

Yes, just like the last Royals’ television deal with FOX Sports Kansas City, there will be escalators that will make the annual revenue higher in Year 15 than in Year 1. I am hearing that FSKC has not yet responded to the Royals’ last counter offer and it still may be a few weeks before a deal is settled upon. The Royals still are hoping for something that would average in the low 50s (millions) in terms of annual revenue.