There were a few Royals-related news items I thought I would touch base on in this edition of the “Jottings.” For those looking for an in-depth piece on an opposing pitcher in the AL Central, one can take a look at my latest Going Deep post on Pitcher List, as I analyze Detroit Tigers pitcher Matt Manning and the progression of his four-seam fastball from 2021 to 2022.
Anyways, onto the “Jottings”!
Lyles Signing Official; O’Hearn Designated for Assignment
After being unable to make the signing official last week due to weather, the Royals formally announced the acquisition of pitcher Jordan Lyles, who signed a two-year, $17 million deal with Kansas City.
To make room for Lyles on the 40-man roster, the Royals decided to designate Ryan O’Hearn for assignment.
The move was definitely a weird one for a variety of reasons.
First, O’Hearn seemed to find his groove last year as a bench bat and pinch hitter. As I wrote in a post a couple of days ago, his Statcast and expected metrics suggest that he could be productive for the Royals in 2023, albeit in a limited role. Furthermore, the Royals tendered O’Hearn a contract and agreed to a $1.4 million deal right before the Non-Tender deadline back in November. If JJ Picollo had any doubts about O’Hearn’s status on the team, why offer him a deal in the first place?
As expected, many Royals fans are wondering the same thing.
Honestly, I am not sure what will happen in O’Hearn in the coming days.
On one hand, I can totally see O’Hearn returning to Kansas City with the idea that he’ll be assigned outright to Omaha and pretty much stay there for organizational depth as a contingency option, should something happen injury-wise during the regular season (which is totally plausible considering the injury history of Adalberto Mondesi). It also appears like O’Hearn is well-liked by the Royals organization and fanbase (well, some anyways), and if he is willing to accept an outright assignment to Omaha to begin the year, having that kind of depth in Triple-A isn’t a bad thing to have.
On the other hand, O’Hearn suddenly being DFA’d after agreeing to a contract makes me wonder if something bigger is up.
Did Picollo perhaps find a trade candidate? Is a foreign team, perhaps in Korea or Japan, interested in O’Hearn’s services? Those would probably better explain O’Hearn’s sudden change in roster status, especially since it is likely he could have gotten non-tendered and still probably returned to the Royals organization on a Minor League deal.
Royals fans will just have to wait and see what happens in the next few days.
Greinke Return to Kansas City Looking Bleak
I have been open to a Greinke return to Kansas City for one more year, especially considering how rough the Royals’ starting pitching was in 2022. And honestly, it appeared that Greinke coming back for one more season in Royals blue seemed like a done deal early on, especially since Kansas City has been the only place he has been linked to this offseason.
Unfortunately, it seems like contract talks between the two are only getting more and more distant, which may prevent Greinke from having one last campaign with the Royals in 2023.
Furthermore, Jon Becker of Roster Resource, who has been predicting Greinke to the Royals all offseason, suddenly changed his predicted destination for Greinke on Wednesday, as I quote Tweeted:
If push comes to shove, I would rather have Greinke on the Royals than not.
Yes, I understand he isn’t what he once was, and that he had some injury issues that could be causes for concern in 2023. The strikeouts were way down last year (never good in this modern game), and he struggled performance-wise when he left the spacious confines of Kauffman Stadium.
That said, while I want Greinke to be a Royal, I am not sure that breaking the bank on him, even on a one-year deal, is necessarily wise for an organization like the Royals who seem to be frugal with spending this offseason.
After all, Corey Kluber, who is around the same age and generated more strikeouts than Greinke a year ago, agreed to a one-year $10 million deal with Boston Red Sox yesterday. To think that Greinke deserves more than the $13 million that I believe the Royals are offering him (which is what they gave him a year ago) seems a bit extreme, especially since it may be unlikely that he surpasses the 137 IP mark he totaled last season.
I would probably think that the Royals right now have a 40 percent chance of signing Greinke prior to Spring Training. Minnesota doesn’t seem like a great fit, but I could see them getting desperate after pretty much whiffing on all their pitching targets this off-season.
I also wouldn’t discredit the idea that Greinke hangs it up for good. After all, it seemed like he was pretty intent on ending his career in Kansas City, and it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to think that he would rather not play at all than play for more money in another organization.
Lynn Worthy Leaves Beat Post at Kansas City Star
In some media Royals-related news, Lynn Worthy, the Royals beat writer for the KC Star, announced on Twitter yesterday that he would be leaving the Star to work on the St. Louis Cardinals beat with St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
With Worthy’s leaving, the Royals are now down to one regular beat writer, as Alec Lewis of The Athletic left last September prior to the season-ending and hasn’t been formally replaced. Anne Rogers of MLB.com remains the lone Royals beat writer.
To be honest, congratulations to Lynn on the move, as I know the Cardinals and Post-Dispatch have a bigger following and fanbase than the Royals and the Star. While I didn’t pursue a formal path in the career of journalism (though I did study it in college and worked for some newspapers during that time), I know the hustle and knew how much one had to grind in those minor assignments before getting decent gigs. Covering the Cardinals in St. Louis is like covering the Chiefs here or the Yankees in New York: It’s the big-time, even if St. Louis is only four hours away from Kansas City.
Nonetheless, I am concerned about the future of the Royals’ media coverage, especially for the upcoming 2023 season.
It appears that The Athletic doesn’t seem driven to replace Lewis’ position on a full-time basis, which is a shame since the Royals have had two excellent beat writers through that site (the other being Rustin Dodd, who is now a national columnist). I do believe that the Star replaces Worthy, but the trend when it comes to hiring beat writers is to go young and without much experience.
On one hand, I like that, because fans get hungry writers who are eager to prove themselves and test the limits. That said, it also means that they probably aren’t paid well, and will leave the second they get a bigger and better gig.
I think that certainly was the case with Lewis and Worthy’s departures.
In the end, that simply dilutes level-headed Royals coverage, which is a loss for everyone involved. Type in “Royals” right now on Twitter, and all you see is endless whining, complaining, and crackpot ideas. Beat writers help give humanity to the players, coaches, and organizations. They help bring context. They help fans take a step back, breathe, and focus on the forest instead of the trees.
With only one beat writer, who has been in the process of getting married and on a honeymoon this hot stove season, those kinds of goals get less realized.
As a result, the voice of the “extreme” get amplified more, which taints things for everyone, especially the casual fan who just wants to know what’s going on. If the only thing they see online is “F*#^ John Sherman!” and “Royals don’t have a plan!” and “Why won’t they sign players like Aaron Judge?” then it’s easy to tune out and just follow other things, like more fawning of the Chiefs or Jayhawks basketball.
Now, I am not bashing Royals fans for feeling frustrated. They have every right to be, especially after such a downfall following their 2015 World Series run. However, the only things we are seeing right now on the web are the negative voices and stories.
Where are the positive ones?
The beat writers have traditionally contributed to producing those narratives, and in a way where it’s balanced and not coming off as PR. Unfortunately, though, we’re down to only one, and she doesn’t have the time or resources to produce enough content to get the Royals out of that shadow of “suck”, to put it frankly.
This Royals offseason really hasn’t been worse than others. You can’t tell me the Royals signing Carlos Santana and Mike Minor made this organization better. You can’t tell me that signing two years of Lyles is any worse than trading for two years of Andrew Benintendi, who appeared to have no interest in signing with Kansas City long-term.
The difference between this offseason and previous ones is that the beat writers were able to keep things positive.
There were three beat writers then though…
I highly doubt the Royals become a three-beat writer club again, which is a shame because there are a lot of stories to be told, even in this downtime of the off-season.
Just another sign of how the game of baseball continues to shoot itself in the foot time and time again, especially in small markets like Kansas City.
Photo Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
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