With the Major League Baseball lockout (finally) ending and spring training games being on the horizon, teams are picking back up where they left off. The pre-lockout free agent frenzy saw many organizations squeezing in marquee signings, and the post-lockout stove is heating up once again.
The Kansas City Royals don't figure to be a part of that group.
That isn't to say that the Royals can't or won't sign any free agents for the rest of the offseason. It's to say that they're unlikely to make any major or "splash" moves from now until the regular season starts. The open market still has plenty of notable names on it — including the likes of outfielder Nick Castellanos and infielder/outfielder Kris Bryant — but Royals president of baseball operations Dayton Moore told the media over the weekend that the club probably won't splurge.
“I don’t anticipate us getting involved with a lot of the high-dollar free agents at this point in time," Moore said. "But nonetheless, we’re renewing some of the communication that has been absent through this past winter.”
This shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone, as the Royals simply don't hand out many significant contracts. When they do, they do so to their own players. Aside from in-house extensions, Kansas City's M.O. hasn't been to get into any bidding wards in free agency. Their year-over-year payroll rankings and averages back that up.
While the 2021-22 free agent class does contain some high-end options that would undoubtedly help improve the Royals, they have a lot on their plate already. The franchise's philosophy of finding out what it already has in its prospects — and even veterans — is sound logic. When factoring in the Royals' small market nature and lack of many glaring holes in the lineup, it's easy to see why they don't plan on shelling out a heaping amount of money for outside assistance right now. Discipline is a common theme, and Moore doubled down on that.
“When we last all spoke, one of the things we talked about was the importance of us staying disciplined with this current group of players," Moore said. "That doesn’t mean we’re not going to look for ways to supplement our talent — we will. But as you know, our roster is at 40 and it’s a very young and talented roster with more players and pitchers on the horizon. So, we’re going to be very disciplined with who we bring in and what we add.”
With one of the industry-leading farm systems that is beginning to churn out more and more MLB contributors, the Royals lack room. They have room to financially support a legitimate star contract if they absolutely had to, but the 2022 Royals aren't going to compete for a championship. They're going to compete in general, and adding a player like Bryant, Castellanos or even Carlos Correa would help any team win more games. Kansas City has prospects such as Nick Pratto, MJ Melendez and Bobby Witt Jr. to fit in its lineup, though.
The need for a top-shelf free agent isn't quite there yet. When it is, history suggests that a trade is more likely than an outright signing. Nevertheless, Moore and the Royals have shown in 2015 that they will put multiple eggs into a basket and seek a finished product in return. For this year, however, standing pat seems to be their method of choice.