July 25, 2024

The Royals have been one of baseball’s best turnaround stories in 2024, currently sitting nine games over .500 and holding the second Wild Card spot in the American League. They are five games behind the division-leading Guardians and just half a game ahead of the third-place Twins, putting them in a tight division race.

Royals general manager J.J. Picollo discussed the team’s aggressive offseason on “The Windup” podcast with Jayson Stark and Doug Glanville, which included signing nine free agents for over $100M and extending shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. to an 11-year, $288.7M contract. Picollo also hinted at their deadline needs, emphasizing the desire to deepen the bullpen and add a versatile bat for both the infield and outfield to strengthen the lineup.

Picollo mentioned that while some relievers are beginning to perform to their potential, the bullpen could still benefit from more depth and reliability. The Royals’ bullpen has an average fastball velocity of 93.6 mph, tied for fourth-slowest in MLB, with only a few relievers averaging over 95 mph. In-house power arms like James McArthur, Angel Zerpa, Carlos Hernandez, Dan Altavilla, and Will Klein have shown potential but lack consistent performance.

GM: Royals hope to deepen bullpen, add versatile hitter

The Royals’ bullpen has had mixed results from free-agent additions Will Smith and Chris Stratton, who have struggled with ERAs above 5.00. Stratton, who signed a two-year, $8M deal with a player option for the second year, and Smith, on a one-year, $5M deal, may both be candidates for upgrades if they continue to underperform.

Offensively, Picollo highlighted the need for more production, particularly from the outfield, but suggested that the new bat doesn’t necessarily have to be an outfielder. A versatile player who can also play infield would be ideal to lengthen the lineup and improve the back half. The Royals’ outfielders have collectively produced a .210/.271/.345 batting line, the worst in MLB, with players like Hunter Renfroe, Kyle Isbel, and MJ Melendez underperforming significantly.

The Kansas City infield has been more productive, led by Bobby Witt Jr., with other notable contributions from second baseman Michael Massey, first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino, and third baseman Maikel Garcia. However, the team is predominantly right-handed, and adding a left-handed or switch-hitting bat would be beneficial.

Picollo’s comments reflect a commitment to maintaining the aggressive approach from the offseason into the trade deadline, motivated by a desire to reward the fans and support the players who joined the Royals with the vision of winning and reaching the playoffs.

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