Greinke's potential to return and other offseason Q's

October 31st, 2022

This story was excerpted from Anne Rogers' Royals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

KANSAS CITY -- The first major move in a major offseason for the Royals and general manager J.J. Picollo was made Sunday night, when they hired Matt Quatraro as their new manager.

Read more about Quatraro's hire here.

Now the work begins filling out Quatraro’s coaching staff, including a new pitching coach. And that’s just the beginning of the offseason: There will be moves to make with the club’s 40-man roster. The Royals will look to add to their roster through trades and free agency to improve both the pitching and offense ahead of Feb. 13, 2023, when pitchers and catchers will report to Surprise, Ariz., for Spring Training.

The winter months may seem long, but they will be busy. Here’s an FAQ primer to get you ready:

Which players are free agents? Will they receive a qualifying offer?

The Royals only have one impending free agent: . He is unlikely to receive a qualifying offer, but the Royals are interested in bringing him back on another one-year deal -- if he’s willing to return. The 39-year-old hasn’t announced anything regarding his retirement, and he was exactly what the Royals wanted him to be in 2022, with a 3.68 ERA across 137 innings and a great model for the Royals’ young pitchers.

Greinke talked highly of Kansas City and the Royals after his final start. It’s easy to imagine a return for the Greinke family, but time will tell.

Who is arbitration-eligible, and are there any non-tender candidates?

The Royals have several players due raises through arbitration: Pitchers Brad Keller, Scott Barlow, Brady Singer, Amir Garrett, Taylor Clarke, Kris Bubic and Josh Staumont; infielders Nicky Lopez and Adalberto Mondesi; and infielder/outfielder Ryan O’Hearn.

Of those 10, Barlow, Singer, Clarke, Bubic and Lopez seem like locks to be tendered a contract. Mondesi missed all but 15 games this year with a torn ACL but is projected to make $3.1 million, per Cot’s Contracts, in his second year of arbitration. The Royals aren’t committing to him as an everyday player yet, but it’s unlikely they’ll move on from him yet.

The Royals have decisions to make on Keller (who is projected to make $6 million in his final year of arbitration), Garrett ($2.725 million, final year), O’Hearn ($1.7 million, second year) and Staumont ($975,000, first year).

Reliever Tyler Zuber, who was claimed off waivers by the D-backs last week, was a non-tender candidate, as well as righty Luke Weaver, who was claimed by the Mariners. Others include Gabe Speier, Jose Cuas and Nathan Webb because a roster jam is coming.

Players on the 40-man roster must be tendered a contract by Nov. 18.

Who needs to be added to the 40-man roster this winter to avoid the Rule 5 Draft?

Right around the time the Royals must make non-tender decisions, they’ll have to protect any players eligible for the Rule 5 Draft by adding them to their 40-man roster.

Right-hander Alec Marsh, the Royals’ No. 19 prospect on MLB Pipeline, and lefty T.J. Sikkema (No. 16), whom the Royals acquired in the Benintendi trade with the Yankees this summer, seem to be locks to be added. Utility player Samad Taylor will also likely be added after the Royals acquired him from the Blue Jays.

Decisions loom for lefties Anthony Veneziano, Drew Parrish and Josh Dye. All three had up and down years, but they all have solid potential. Lefties are coveted in the Rule 5 Draft.

Two outfielders to remember are Brewer Hicklen -- who hit 28 homers, 30 doubles and stole 35 bases in Triple-A Omaha this year -- and John Rave, who had a consistent year in Double-A Northwest Arkansas and is standing out in the Arizona Fall League right now. Teams could swipe them for outfield depth.

The Royals believe a team also might take Tyler Tolbert because of his speed; he stole 60 bases this year for High-A Quad Cities without being caught.

What kind of help do they need? Will they be active in free agency?

Don’t expect the Royals to be ultra-aggressive in free agency, although they are looking to make a few moves to add to their roster. The Royals will target backup catching to help Salvador Perez, especially when MJ Melendez is in left field. Pitching is always a priority, and the Royals would like to add at least two veteran starters to stabilize the rotation, as well as a closer-type reliever to help Barlow at the back end of the bullpen.

A veteran bat could also be beneficial, with right field and third base two positions they could add. With the arbitration raises as well as increases to Perez’s salary ($20 million) and Hunter Dozier’s ($7.5 million), it remains to be seen how many free agent signings Sherman will approve -- or if the trade market is the way to go.

Who might they be willing to trade?

Let’s start with who’s off limits: Melendez and Bobby Witt Jr. won’t be traded, and Vinnie Pasquantino is also extremely unlikely to be moved. Arb-eligible players like Keller, Garrett, O’Hearn and Staumont would be trade candidates. Michael A. Taylor could be, too, entering the final year of his contract, and the Royals could look to move Dozier if another team is willing to take on his contract.

The Royals know, though, that they will have to part with some of their young talent to get the pieces they need to contend.