The Royals hang out at the Winter Meetings
While the club brass makes the rounds baseball's annual offseason gathering, the Royals lose at the draft lottery and sign their oft-injured shortstop to a contract for 2023. It's quiet out there.
Lotteries are those games of chance where you have the tiniest sliver of opportunity to strike it rich. The odds of your team winning a draft lottery are much better than you striking it rich on the Powerball. The disappointment of the loss in either lottery can sting.
Major League Baseball held its inaugural draft lottery on Tuesday and the Royals, thanks to their 65 wins (or was it 97 losses), had a 10 percent chance to win the first pick of the 2023 player draft. Those are strong odds. In fact, it was the fifth-best odds among the teams in the lottery.
Alas, often times the ping-pong ball just doesn’t bounce your way.
Never mind that the Royals didn’t win the riches of the first pick of the draft. As the teams were drawn, the Royals actually fell back in the pack. If the draft went to chalk, they would have the fifth selection next year. Instead, they own the number eight pick in next year’s first round.
In this case, it is the draft letter is like a real lottery because this one cost the Royals some serious cash. Last year, the pool allocation for the number five pick (where the Royals would’ve selected without a lottery) was $6,497,700. The number eight pick had a slot value of $5,442,400.
I’ll do the math for you: It’s a difference of $1,055,300.
Remember, that’s not money dedicated solely to that pick. That cash goes into a team’s draft pool, to be used through the first 10 rounds of the draft. Less money means less opportunity to maneuver. And that’s one thing the Royals have been good at in recent years. The loss of fiscal draft flexibility is not great.
Fortunately, the order resets to the “normal” way at the start of the second round. The Royals will have the fifth pick of that round and the subsequent ones for the rest of the draft.
With the Royals not tied to any free agent not named Zack Greinke, and trade rumors being quiet in general, it’s been a muted start to the meetings for the Royals. The only player news that’s been made thus far is the team and Adalberto Mondesi agreeing to a contract for 2023. The oft-injured infielder will earn $3.045 million in his final year before he can hit the free agent market.
Oblique strains, shoulder subluxations, a hamstring strain, a torn ACL…the guy is a walking WebMD for sports injuries. As I’ve written before, it’s too bad for him because as the injuries have piled up and his time on the field has decreased, his earning power has not developed as we expected. Seriously, if you told me in 2016 that in his last year of arbitration-eligiblity, Mondesi would be earning a shade over $3 million, I wouldn’t have believed it possible.
Oh, it was possible.
Mondesi has played in 50 games the last two seasons and had 190 plate appearances. The injuries have been an issue, but the dude also hasn’t performed at all as expected at the bat. He’s electric as hell on the bases, but a .280 career OBP means he’s doesn’t have near the opportunity to wreak that kind of havoc. His career OPS+ of 82 is extremely poor for someone of his former prospect pedigree. He’s been better than league average at the plate once—in 2018 when he hit .276/.306/.498 with a 115 OPS+, career highs in every category. Hey…the defense is exceptional.
With manager Matt Quatraro declaring Bobby Witt Jr. is the first-choice at short, I wonder if the Royals will slide Mondesi over to third, or if they’ll find another spot for him.
Whatever happens, we will forever be left to think of what could’ve been.
The Winter Meetings are when managers and front office types get plenty of air time. It’s catnip for those of us who keep up with what’s happening in the league. Both Senior Vice President-Baseball Operations/General Manager J.J. Picollo and manager Matt Quatraro made the rounds in San Diego.
I love this pull quote from MLB Network Radio:
You don’t say? Ahhhh…I kid. I mean, I understand what Picollo is saying. They want to add one or two starting pitchers to fill out the rotation, but on short-term deals. (Welcome back, Mr. Greinke!) It’s understandable, but it would also be nice if they dipped their toe in that mid-tier pool of starters. Although seeing Taijuan Walker sign a four-year, $72 million deal on Tuesday was probably more than enough to send them to the shallow end. Even the middle level is getting extremely expensive.
Let’s be real…The Royals can afford a contract like that. All major league teams can. A week ago, Disney completed their purchase of BAMTech for the remaining $900 million dollars.
BAM Technologies is a software development company with its roots in digital streaming originally with Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) while the NHL had a minority stake. As noted in the above tweet, Disney first got involved with a $1 billion investment in 2016 and has continued dishing out the cash to take over in the ensuing years. Now Disney owns all of it while MLB was able to make a windfall thanks to the folks at MLBAM.
That’s a $30 million windfall for each team. Obviously, not all of that money will be thrown into the payroll kitty, yet when teams plead “budget constraints” as a reason they won’t play in that mid-tier range of free agents, it’s pretty much bullshit. Baseball isn’t hurting for cash.
More Picollo from MLB Network:
I’m looking forward to the end of “Will the Royals become transactional?” It’s a thing because in Kansas City, it hasn’t happened enough. And that falls on the old general manager. I’ve said in this space plenty of times over the last couple of months that I understand the skepticism that surrounds Picollo due to his relationship with Dayton Moore, but I’m willing to give him some time to prove himself in the arena. One, it’s not like we have a choice…And two, he’s his own guy who will ultimately forge his own path. I’m willing to take the time to see how that plays out.
If you click the tweet below, you’ll be taken to Quatraro’s media session in San Diego. Warning: If you have strong opinions about Ryan O’Hearn on this roster, think twice before you click.
Some takeaways—which include plenty of familiar themes:
They will look to improve the pitching. That’s where they’ll look to make their biggest strides and they’ll depend on the guys currently on the roster.
New pitching coach Brian Sweeney is a good communicator and a good listener. “We’re helping the players get better. We’re not dictating what they’re going to do. We’re partnering with them to make them as good as they can be.”
Every department will have a voice and will then come together to help the player improve.
On new bench coach Paul Hoover: “His willingness to dive into every aspect to help a player get better is unparalleled. From a game management standpoint, he is super aware of situations, rules, of people’s emotions and feelings and how to connect with those players. That’s going to be a huge attribute for me to utilize.”
He will look to use the entire roster. The goal is to keep guys fresh and use players in matchups that will be advantageous to them. Platoons are possible, but depends on how the roster is constructed. In other words, O’Hearn will probably get more at bats than last year. (Quatraro said it. Don’t kill the messenger.)
Bobby Witt Jr. is going to get every opportunity to play at shortstop. That’s what’s best for him and his development. And that’s where he wants to be.
They are not at a similar place with where MJ Melendez will play. There are too many moving parts on the roster to say definitively at this moment where he will spend most of his defensive innings.
Not much new ground covered. The comments on Witt were enlightening. I agree with Quatraro’s assessment: Witt is a premium athlete who can play a premium position. Last season was plenty bumpy, but you put him back out there and see how he develops.
Quatraro’s comments on Hoover were, I believe, the first time I’ve heard him speak of his bench coach. They go way back to when they were both players and it’s clear Quatraro has a high level of comfort with Hoover. He’s going to lean on his expertise.
Apparently, Quatraro’s media session ran concurrent with another manager.
I kind of wish that during his session Quatraro had broken that the Royals signed Aaron Judge. Alas, he’s going back to New York where he will continue to loft baseballs into the jet stream that screams out to right field.
And the news from around baseball rolls along…