SAN DIEGO -- Right before he made his debut at the Winter Meetings manager media availability, Matt Quatraro had a request for a reporter.
“Just don’t ask me about Kansas City barbeque,” he said.
Since his late-October hire as the Royals’ new skipper, Quatraro has not yet had time to delve deeply into the BBQ scene. Instead, he’s been spending quality time getting to know the players on his roster more deeply through phone conversations.
“It's been really enjoyable, to be honest,” Quatraro said. “The energy level, the excitement, the positivity that I've heard from everybody has been off the charts, which has been really refreshing to me and kind of energized me about getting going.”
Quatraro estimated he is about “90 percent” of the way through connecting with the players on the Royals’ 40-man roster. Salvador Perez and Bobby Witt Jr. were right at the top of his list.
“I've had two brief conversations with Salvy, he's been traveling a lot,” Quatraro said. “It's been tough to nail down a bit. But I've been super impressed with the accountability and the ability to articulate what he thinks is important.
“The same with Bobby. Kind of mature beyond his experience level. Really professional. Really thoughtful in what he says. And you can tell through the conversations with other guys that they feel the same way about him.”
Quatraro has also been in the process of finalizing his coaching staff. Pitching improvement has been the emphasis.
“I think that's where we're going to look to make our biggest strides, on the pitching side,” he said. “I think it's exciting because the guys that are going to make those strides are the guys that are already here, for the most part. So that's pretty cool to know that they've gotten those reps under their belt. Some of them have taken some lumps. Some are really aware of why they have and what they need to improve on."
Quatraro said the common thread in the coaching hires he has made is finding good communicators.
“I think that's a big part of this is trying to get to where we're helping the players get better; we're not dictating what they're going to do,” he said. “We're partnering with them to make them as good as they can be through every avenue we can, whether it's mechanics, sports science, nutrition, all those -- every department is going to have a say, but they ultimately have to lead the way.”
Quatraro also had a conversation with free agent Zack Greinke, as the Royals attempt to bring the veteran right-hander back for 2023.
“It was early in the offseason, I think he was still about to go on vacation,” Quatraro said. “So, I think we just had more of an introductory conversation and just talked about some baseball stuff and his career and seeing him from the other side of the field, stuff like that.”
Don’t worry, he’ll get to the barbeque eventually.
Royals, Mondesi avoid arbitration
Kansas City on Tuesday agreed to a one-year deal with infielder Adalberto Mondesi to avoid arbitration. Mondesi will make $3.045 million.
Various injuries have limited Mondesi to just 50 games over the past two seasons. And with Witt expected to serve as the shortstop in 2023, Mondesi’s role is uncertain. Yet as the switch-hitting Mondesi enters his age-27 season, his skillset, including power, defense and some of the fleetest feet in the game, remains tantalizing.
Executive vice president and general manager J.J. Picollo said at the Winter Meetings that he has seen video of Mondesi’s offseason workouts, which have included hitting, running and fielding ground balls.
“Physically, he looks great,” Picollo said. “He looks like an NFL wide receiver.”
Royals fall in Draft Lottery
The first MLB Draft Lottery was not kind to the Royals. Though they finished 2022 with the fifth-worst record -- standing that traditionally would have landed them the fifth overall pick in the '23 MLB Draft – the club wound up falling three spots to No. 8.
“This year, it didn't work out,” Picollo said. “I would hope over the coming years -- first, you hope to not be in that -- it goes the other way.
“It’s disappointing right now. But I'm kind of indifferent, because it's totally out of our control.”
The Royals had a 10% chance of securing the No. 1 overall pick, which went to the Pirates. The drop from No. 5 to No. 8 will affect Kansas City’s bonus pool allocation. Last year, the difference in bonus pool money between the fifth team and the eighth was roughly $1 million.
Ballpark proposal talks on tap
The Royals are seeking public input about their proposal for a new ballpark district in downtown Kansas City.
A public community meeting will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at Plexpod Westport Commons, located at 300 E. 39th Street. Speakers will include Royals chairman and CEO John Sherman, chief operating officer Brooks Sherman, architectural firm representatives and economic development consultants.
The public is asked to RSVP for the event at this link.