Royals open to more free-agent deals

January 9th, 2021

The Royals were baseball’s busiest team early in the Hot Stove season. Weeks later, they still own one of the most productive offseasons in the game. They might not be done.

With Spring Training scheduled to begin in just more than a month, general manager Dayton Moore said the team is open to another free-agent signing or two to help reinforce the roster, whether with a left-handed hitter for the lineup – an area Moore cited a few weeks ago -- or another arm for the pitching staff.

“I think a left-handed bat would be very helpful,” Moore said Friday on a video conference with reporters. “Certainly as much as we possibly can [have] in the bullpen is always a pressing need for almost all Major League Baseball teams.

“It is a very healthy market in terms of numbers and players available at this point in time. [Assistant GMs] Scott Sharp and Jin Wong remain diligent with the different agents out there and monitoring what could be available and what perhaps we can acquire based on where we are financially.”

If the Royals add a player, it would most likely be through free agency. Moore said Kansas City has exhausted its trade options and doesn't have “a whole lot going on right now” with other teams in talks.

While Moore said the team is determined to give a chance to win a role in the outfield, the GM added that he still sees a few spots available for position players on a 26-man roster that could include more left-handed hitting. and are internal options, but the Royals could add a left-handed hitter to their outfield mix or as a multi-position player. The team reportedly has shown interest in versatile free agent Jurickson Profar.

The Royals “continue to lean” toward using corner infielder/outfielder primarily at third base, Moore said, but could shift him to another spot if Kelvin Gutierrez or Emmanuel Rivera -- both right-handed hitters -- crack the roster.

“Hunter can play multiple positions. He’s very good at a lot of them,” Moore said. “Bless it, he’s willing to do whatever is best for the team. But ... if we have a left-handed hitter, it’s probably going to be somebody that is going to have to probably work a lot in the outfield.”

The pitching depth, including the Minor League deal with on Dec. 29, plays into the ramp-up the Royals and other teams will be making to stretch pitchers and their workloads from a 60-game season to what is scheduled to be a full 162-game slate. They have young pitchers on the brink of reaching Kansas City who can help fill some of those innings as they break into the Majors over the course of the season, but signings like Santana's help just as well.

“We’re going to have to have some veteran arms that can lead off, if you will, and have them go as long as they can, deep into the season,” Moore said. “And if we’ve got to pass the baton on to one of those young guys because they’re forcing our hand, we’ll be willing to do that.”

The Royals will not have organization-wide innings limits.

“It’s one pitcher at a time,” Moore said, “based on their previous health, based on what their kinetic chain looks like, the type of pitcher they are. Are they [max] effort? Do they do things easy? Are they efficient with their pitches. A lot of factors are going to go into that. What I believe we’ll do is we will not put limitations on pitchers or players, but we will simply manage it day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month.”

That doesn’t mean a youngster like Brady Singer will jump from 64 1/3 innings in 2020 to 180 innings this year. But veteran pitchers with track records of bigger workloads are likely to get more leeway.

“I don’t worry about Mike Minor throwing 200 innings,” he said. “I don’t worry about that one bit. We’re going to have a lot of debate about that. We need to have those discussions, because we’re doing something we’ve really never experienced as a group.”

Other topics Moore discussed:

• The deadline for teams to exchange numbers with arbitration-eligible players is Jan. 15, and while Moore didn’t go into detail on the possibility of longer-term deals with pitcher and shortstop , he left open the idea. “All of our players, especially the homegrown guys, the guys that we think are entering the prime of their careers, we want to do our best to keep them here long term,” Moore said. “You can assume that we’re always having those discussions. ... We’ll always do our best to keep our good players here as long as we can.”

• Rusty Kuntz is expected to return to manager Mike Matheny’s staff as first-base coach. The 65-year-old spent the past season as an advisor last year out of concern for risk factors at his age amid the pandemic. Damon Hollins, who filled in as first-base coach, will likely return to his previous role as a roving instructor.

• Rafael Belliard, who joined the big league staff as an infield coach, is expected to go back to his previous role as a special assignment coach in the organization.