As is the case with any MLB team, anything is possible for the Kansas City Royals this offseason. The work done during the winter months can change a franchise's outlook for years to come. Winter meetings are less than a month away, and that really kicks the offseason into high gear. Right now, the Royals are getting their internal ducks in a row and are planning for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.
One way that Kansas City can improve itself immediately is by examining the deficiencies of the current coaching staff. The pitching coach position is rightfully the organization's main focus right now. Executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager J.J. Picollo was blunt about the process during the GM meetings in Las Vegas.
“The search is pretty thorough right now,” Picollo said. “It’s very similar to what we did with the managerial position. We know what we want in that position. Now, it’s finding guys who have that background. And the compatibility piece comes into play. Who do we know we can work with that has that working knowledge we’re looking for? We’ll find that out in the interviews next week.”
There have been no updates regarding Cal Eldred's replacement, but new Royals manager Matt Quatraro is still rounding out his staff. Paul Hoover is Kansas City's new bench coach, replacing Pedro Grifol. Grifol moved on to the Chicago White Sox's managerial role, taking Mike Tosar with him from Kansas City. Tosar was a special assignment hitting coach for Kansas City, serving a key role for Alec Zumwalt.
Overall, the coaching staff right now is thin, even by Kansas City's standards. The Royals currently have 14 coaches, the third-largest group in the AL Central. The Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Guardians both have 17-man coaching staffs, while the Detroit Tigers have only nine. Logic would say that more specialized coaches allow managers to focus better on their jobs, but the Royals lack those specialty coaches.
Look around the baseball landscape. The Tampa Bay Rays, Quatraro's former team, have a process and analytics coach. The Houston Astros, the American League's only 100-win team in 2022, have a mental skills coordinator. Coaching staff positions have evolved along with the game of baseball, yet Kansas City lags behind other organizations.
Rusty Kuntz couldn't handle the rigors of being the full-time first-base and outfield coach after the 2021 season and while he is still a coach, he's one with a fancy front-office title. Kuntz's coaching has had a positive impact on the Royals' outfield in the past, but there comes a time when it's time to move on and forward. Former Royals manager Mike Matheny brought John Mabry to Kansas City after the 2019 season but with Matheny gone and Zumwalt entering his first full season in the majors, Mabry is clearly an odd man out in Kansas City.
The changes the Royals need might not be popular, but they should improve a young team. Rather than relying on part-time coaches or positions as a favor, bring in subject-matter experts to help. Quatraro has a chance to mold his team this offseason. Hopefully, the moves made now and soon will result in a successful season for Kansas City in 2023.