KANSAS CITY -- After a flurry of changes made in October, it’s been a relatively quiet offseason for the Royals.
They made a few roster moves earlier this month to protect some of their top prospects from the Rule 5 Draft, and they signed Ryan O'Hearn to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. Other than that, there hasn’t been much news out of Kauffman Stadium, and manager Matt Quatraro hasn’t finalized his coaching staff. He and the Royals are still finalizing a pitching-coach hire, while the White Sox announced Tuesday that Royals assistant hitting coach Mike Tosar and Minor League field coordinator Eddie Rodriguez will be manager Pedro Grifol’s Major League field coordinator and third-base coach, respectively.
That all could change next week with baseball’s annual Winter Meetings. Executives, agents and other officials will convene in San Diego for four days, and trade and free agent talks could heat up the winter months.
Here’s what you need to know heading into the Winter Meetings, which begin Sunday:
Sunday, Dec. 4: HOF Contemporary Era ballot results released (Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro, Curt Schilling)
Monday, Dec. 5: All-MLB Team announced
Tuesday, Dec. 6: Inaugural Draft Lottery, AL/NL Relievers of Year announced
Wednesday, Dec. 7: Rule 5 Draft
The vast number of changes to the Royals in 2023 will be on the coaching staff, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be roster changes. The Royals need pitching and are looking for a starter or two, specifically veteran types who can eat innings while taking the weight off the young staff Kansas City still developing at the Major League level.
They also would like to add a bat, particularly a right-handed veteran to complement the lefty-heavy young lineup. Positionally, that could come in right field or at third base as an everyday player, or as a backup catcher. The Royals are also looking at the relief market for depth and potentially adding a high-leverage reliever.
Brad Keller, Michael A. Taylor, Nicky Lopez and Adalberto Mondesi would likely be the Royals’ top trade candidates based on the projected salaries in their arbitration years (and final contract year for Taylor). Lopez would be an interesting decision for Kansas City given his defensive versatility and value. Scott Barlow could also be an option based on how the relief market looks this offseason, but the Royals have been reluctant to trade him in the past.
Prospects to know
The Royals will have a young team in ’23, as many of their top prospects arrived in the Majors this season. But there are still a few on the way. Look for utilityman Nick Loftin (Kansas City's No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline) and outfielder Tyler Gentry (No. 8) at some point next summer after breakout 2022 campaigns. Right-hander Alec Marsh (No. 19) was added to the 40-man this offseason and could make an appearance, too, if he continues on the right track. After a full, healthy season in Double-A, Marsh’s final two starts in Triple-A to end the 2022 season were encouraging, with two earned runs allowed over 10 innings.
Rule 5 Draft
The most intriguing prospect the Royals left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft is lefty T.J. Sikkema (No. 16), the Missouri alum the Royals acquired from the Yankees this past season in the Andrew Benintendi trade. Sikkema, the 38th overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, clearly needs more development, but will a team take the risk at seeing how his weapons -- including two fastballs and a slider -- and different look play in an MLB bullpen? We’ll find out next week.
Kansas City is usually interested in taking a flier in the Rule 5 Draft -- remember, Keller was a Rule 5 Draft pick in 2017 -- and the club will likely scour available pitchers to add depth to the roster in 2023. There are certainly some interesting names out there.
How will the front office and coaching changes affect play on the field? The Royals are re-evaluating the processes they have in place from the top to the bottom of their organization, but what matters is the improvement seen with the young players on the field in 2023. Will having different voices in the dugout help players take the next step in their careers and in the Royals’ rebuild? Next season will be a good indicator.