I tweeted this out the other day, figured I’d go ahead and expand on it at some point.
Priority #1: Someone’s got to go to prison, Ben
I want to start off by saying that I legitimately do not have any inherent issues with either Mike Matheny nor Cal Eldred. It feels like any time you read about the calling for heads that there is an inherent insidiousness behind the call. The thing of it is, life has expectations. If my students were consistently failing classes and not graduating because of it, there would be consequences to pay. My administrative staff wouldn’t stand by and allow that kind of thing to continue while I collected a pay check. Life has consequences. Mike Matheny and Cal Eldred have been at the helm for one of the five worst teams and one of the five worst pitching staffs in all of Major League Baseball the last few seasons. The results are undeniable. I am not blaming Matheny nor Eldred for the issues that the Royals have had. I am blaming them for not making it any better. Their job was to coach and they did not do much to improve anything substantial in the record column nor in the box scores. Even if it wasn’t their fault, it’s time for a new voice in that clubhouse to see if it helps with the win-loss record. This is a results-based business, and the results the last few years have been putrid. A couple heads have already rolled, and I expect we’ll see a couple more before Spring Training.
Priority #2: Trim the fat
The problem with this section here is that if I can think of good reasons to keep any of these guys around, you know the organization is going to find even more. Hunter Dozier is still owed $16.25M over the next two seasons despite being one of the least valuable players in all of Major League Baseball. Ryan O’Hearn, for all his faults, continues to hit the ball pretty hard and the organization has loved his presence in the clubhouse for the last few seasons. At this point, I won’t believe he’s gone until he’s actually gone. Brewer Hicklen could probably only provide you 90% of his (putrid) offensive value off the bench but at least Hicklen runs like crazy and plays good defense in the outfield. That would be an easy roster swap this offseason. Michael A. Taylor, despite a total lack of ability to hit the baseball like a big leaguer, is one hell of a defender in center field and I understand why people like him, even if there’s a 0.0% chance he helps the Royals achieve the playoffs in the next couple seasons.
So where do we go from here? Will the Royals actually get rid of any of these three players that are taking roster spots away from younger players with more upside? I don’t have the first clue. They need to. Drew Waters needs to be the every day center fielder on Opening Day. Hunter Dozier cannot continue taking away at bats from Nate Eaton, Nick Pratto, or Edward Olivares. Ryan O’Hearn is like the least valuable bench bat ever and you have more athletic, cheaper options in-house. Want to prove to your fans that you’re serious about making changes? Start with these three.
Priority #3: Find two new starting pitchers
Zac Gallen, please and thank you.
In all seriousness, you can’t start making real changes until you’ve gutted the bottom of your current roster first. Once that is done, the Royals have to find a couple of fresh arms to throw into this rotation. I’m more than fine with Brady Singer and Zack Greinke being back in this rotation in 2023 if Greinke wants to return. I’m okay with giving Daniel Lynch every last opportunity to start in the big leagues because his slider and changeup are absolutely filthy. After that, there isn’t a single starting pitcher in this organization that I’m comfortable slotting into the rotation to make 30 starts for next year. In my opinion, heading into Spring Training with fewer than two veteran additions to this rotation is setting the team up for 90+ losses again in 2023 barring some kind of miraculous turnaround from Jon Heasley, Kris Bubic, Daniel Lynch, and one of Jackson Kowar or Carlos Hernandez. You have to find legitimate starters if you want to have a legitimately competitive baseball team in 2023.
Here’s a few names I’ve started looking at as potential *free agent* options to add to the rotation for 2023:
- Martin Perez
- Martin Perez isn’t exactly a sexy option for the Royals next year, but you know what he hasn’t done a lot of that last few years? Walk people. The Royals need another veteran, like Zack Greinke, to give them quality innings without handing out a free base every fourth batter. Perez has had better luck with home runs this season than he normally does, so there’s a slight concern there, but he should be cheap (he’s 31 and only making $4M this year) and Kauffman Stadium isn’t exactly a home run friendly ballpark. Perez has a 2.93 ERA this season, so his market may be a bit inflated, but if you can get him for like…2/$16M, that would be a great bargain add to a rotation that desperately needs some stability.
- Mike Clevinger
- Clevinger missed the 2021 season due to Tommy John Surgery and has not quite been himself so far in 2022. His 4.33 ERA is 1.22 points higher than his previous career high of *3.11* and his strikeout numbers are way down as well. When healthy, Clevinger was legitimately one of the best pitchers in baseball. I have no idea what kind of contract he’d be looking for this offseason, seeing as he’s going to be entering his age-32 season coming off a down year and Tommy John Surgery, but I’d be very interested in bringing Clevinger in on a 1-year, $15M “prove it” deal if I was Kansas City. If you could get Clevinger for 4/$40M, I’d be very interested in something like that as well, I just don’t know why he’d be motivated to sign a long-term deal after the worst season of his career. Bring him in on a 1-year deal similar to the deal you gave Greinke last offseason, let your young arms develop under a new development staff, and see if Clevinger can turn himself into a valuable trade asset by July.
- Jameson Taillon
- Taillon is another name that won’t win any headlines, but he’s posted ERA’s of 4.30 and 3.83, respectively, the last couple seasons pitching against the AL East for the Yankees. If you can have that kind of success in that ballpark, against that division, I’m definitely interested in seeing what you can do against the AL Central in Kauffman Stadium. Taillon will be just 31 years old next year, so he’s relatively young for a first time free agent. I don’t have the first clue what kind of contract he’d be looking for, but he’s been pretty reliable during his career and I’d love to get him in a Royals uniform for the next three or four seasons. Does 4/$52M get it done? I’d be okay with that.
- Chris Bassitt
- When healthy, Bassitt has been an exceptional big league pitcher. He’ll be 34 years old next year and there should be a healthy market for his services this offseason, so I’m not entirely sure the Royals need to get into a bidding war here, but I would LOVE to add him to this rotation if he’ll take a 2-year…$40M deal? In order to keep him to two years I’m afraid you’ll have to throw some extra cash at him. We’ll see.
- Carlos Rodon
- I’m only being half serious here. Rodon is going to make a ton of cash this offseason. However…if the Royals really do bring Brian Bannister back into the fold in some kind of pitching development role (hell, maybe he’s the pitching coach), then maybe you do have a shot at the current Giants ace? I’d be so in favor of this package deal that I’d volunteer time at The K to help them save some money if they could get it done.
Priority #4: Find a way to make sure Alec Zumwalt and Drew Saylor are locked up long-term
The Royals hitting development team has been so good lately that they cannot afford to lose either of these two guys. I’ve been pretty vocal about my desire to make Zumwalt the manager and Saylor the big league hitting coach if that’s what it takes. Maybe it’s more money, maybe it’s a promotion, maybe it’s a new car. Whatever it is they want, get these guys locked up and make sure they are a part of the future for a very long time.
Priority #5: Overhaul the pitching development
The shit is broke. Maybe it’s the scouting, maybe it’s the development, but something is broken. Reevaluate the way you scout pitchers. Reevaluate the way you develop pitchers. Reevaluate the way you value pitchers. Reevaluate the entire process. It’s okay to not be good at everything. The Royals have done an excellent job of identifying hitters that are being undervalued in the draft and developing them into useful big league players. It’s time to find a way to do that with the pitching side of things. No one will judge you for overhauling it now. Everyone will judge you for doing nothing.
Priority #6: Identify one or two players to lock up long-term
I’d say just one but Vinnie Pasquantino is such an easy slam dunk at this point that there is no reason to not aim for two. Vinnie is easily the best hitter of your young core. He’s a first baseman at best long-term and more likely a designated hitter. It shouldn’t be hard to get him locked up for the next eight years. If the Royals are serious about wanting to extend their window this time, lock up the best hitter of the group for the entirety of his prime and start counting your money.
Once you get him locked up, identify one more guy that you really like and get him locked up too. If Bobby Witt Jr. and MJ Melendez are too rich for their blood, maybe you lock up Michael Massey on a cheaper deal and have your second base situation figured out for the better part of the next decade. Massey and Pasquantino are really good friends, so it makes some sense to have them both locked up long-term. Maybe they’ve seen enough from Drew Waters to think they can get him cheap through his age-31 season. Whoever it is, identify him, lock him up, and get yourself a couple of pillars to build around for the next window.