Skip to main content

Takeaways From J.J. Picollo’s Tuesday Zoom Call

Picollo covered plenty of ground following a pair of early-week trades by the Royals.

With less than a full day between moves, the Kansas City Royals have shaken up their roster by shipping outfielder Michael A. Taylor to the Minnesota Twins on Monday evening and sending infielder Adalberto Mondesi to the Boston Red Sox the following morning. Executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager J.J. Picollo indicated during Winter Meetings that the club was expected to be more active on the free agency and trade markets later in the offseason cycle, and the month of January has proven that true. 

On Tuesday afternoon, after the Mondesi trade, Picollo spoke with the media via Zoom to discuss the team's recent trades, Kansas City's plans for the rest of the offseason, what to keep an eye on in 2023 and more. Below are some of the main takeaways from his call — you can find a complete thread containing live tweets here — that stuck out to me. 

Bobby Witt Jr. is the Royals' starting shortstop in 2023

Early in his call, Picollo made it perfectly clear that the Royals want to give second-year infielder Bobby Witt Jr. as many chances to log innings at shortstop as possible in 2023. Last year, Witt struggled at short and spent a great deal of time at third base while also adjusting to facing big-league pitching on the fly. He still managed to turn in an impressive rookie campaign, although it may have been better with more stability in place.

Witt's defense at the hot corner was markedly better than it was at shortstop, and Picollo acknowledged that the young phenom still has plenty of work to do before being the quality full-time shortstop the organization believes he can become. With that said, Kansas City wants to give Witt ample opportunities in 2023 to focus on one position and one position only. Whether that plan ends up coming true remains to be seen, but Picollo was up front about that desire on behalf of the Royals.

Adalberto Mondesi needed (and perhaps wanted) a fresh start

Relatively early in the call, Picollo said that trading Mondesi "may be the best thing for him" and also mentioned the "frustrations" that Mondesi encountered during his time as a Royal. Picollo said that while Kansas City pondered over what it could've done differently to help Mondesi's Royals career take a different path, he was confident that everyone involved — including Mondesi — tried their best to make it work regarding health and strength/conditioning.

When asked about how Mondesi felt after hearing the news that he was being traded, Picollo used the word "excited" multiple times. Part of that was due to the destination (Boston is in need of a starting shortstop right now) but another part was because of the alleged need for something new. Picollo said he didn't want to speak for Mondesi, but he felt as if the 27-year-old needed a "clean break" and thought that it would help him move forward in his career. Through a tremendous amount of love and respect, Picollo also revealed some of the challenges and feelings surrounding the Mondesi era in Kansas City.

Kansas City is a proponent of Kyle Isbel in center field

On multiple occasions, Picollo mentioned Kyle Isbel as a possible solution in the outfield. He brought up the jumps Isbel got in center field in 2022, his speed/athleticism and also his natural profile and instincts for playing the position. In that same breath, he also alluded to needing to know how he performs over the course of a full season. Isbel has had stints of success at the plate, but last season was a rough one for him. Picollo also praised Drew Waters as a candidate for the center field job — one that the team doesn't necessarily anticipate having a huge rotational basis for — this coming season. 

Offseason work isn't done just yet

When asked about payroll, Picollo said he doesn't have a standard hard limit on how much he can spend but thought somewhere in the $85-90 million range was reasonable. That, combined with the recent trades, leaves some room for more external additions to be made in the coming weeks. He doesn't think the roster is "complete whatsoever just yet" between now and spring training, which indicates that moves could be on the horizon.

Picollo brought up infield depth as a point of emphasis, and it's well known that the Royals are still in contact with Zack Greinke. Additionally, Aroldis Chapman still hasn't officially been signed and added to the 40-man roster. Picollo said he couldn't comment much on that, although Anne Rogers of reports that the physical for Chapman will happen later this week. Once that occurs, he's in line to become a member of the team.

Read More: Royals’ Biggest Win in Taylor Trade May Not Involve Prospect Return