For the first time in a long time, the Kansas City Royals have a strong young group of players.
And the new ownership looks to build around them.
On Saturday, at the Royals FanFest event, new general manager J.J. Picollo told reporters (including MLB.com’s Anne Rogers) that the team is considering extensions for its core of young players. Any deals may not be particularly close and it isn’t known how far any talks have progressed in regards to future contracts, but Picollo didn’t put a specific timeline on negotiations, saying the Royals would explore the topic throughout the 2023 season.
“It is something that we’ve discussed,” Picollo said. “We’ve studied other extensions signed, and when they get to certain years of service, now you get better comps of, this is what it should look like. Hopefully, the partner on the other end feels the same way.”
As Rogers notes, players such as Bobby Witt Jr, Brady Singer, and Vinnie Pasquantino fit the model of young extension candidates the Royals would certainly have interest in locking in as key parts of their future, with Witt Jr. being one of the most touted prospects in years. Meanwhile, MJ Melendez, Drew Waters, or Michael Massey could conceivably also be on the radar for long-term deals, and it’s safe to assume that pitchers like Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic, or Jackson Kowar won’t be considered until they show more at the Major League level.
Bubic, especially, has struggled since joining the league in 2021, posting a 10-26 record and an abysmal 4.89 ERA, one of the worst in all of Major League Baseball in that timespan. In actuality, Lynch has fared even worse in that timespan, with an ERA of 5.32, and a mere 8-19 record.
The Royals’ pitching has been their biggest downfall over the past five years, and the new regime worked to resolve those issues over the course of this past off-season.
Owner John Sherman also addressed reporters on the topic of extensions on Saturday, saying that he’ll be at the Royals’ Spring Training camp to talk extensions with the team’s front office.
“I’d love to know we’ll have some of these guys beyond their arbitration years. It becomes very valuable, because you have cost certainty,” Sherman said. “Plus, if you’re going to lose them in five years, you’ve got to think about, how do you get a return on a really talented guy in their fourth or fifth year?”
Since Sherman officially took ownership of the Royals in late 2019, spending has been low in the organization, although both the pandemic and the Royals’ ongoing rebuild impacted the club. This has also been an offseason of change for the franchise, with Picollo taking over baseball operations from Dayton Moore in September and Matt Quatraro hired as the Royals’ new manager.
Singer has the most experience of the Royals’ younger core, and he has been solid to excellent throughout his three Major League seasons, highlighted by a 3.23 ERA over 153 1/3 innings last season. Singer is aiming for a $3.325MM salary for 2023, while K.C. countered with a $2.95MM figure. And his 2022 season saw a major improvement from the previous season (10-5 in ’22 compared to 5-10 in ’21) with his ERA dropping from 4.91 to 3.23.
If those improvements keep coming, Singer will be the future ace of the Royals’ rotation.