New KC Royals General Manager J.J. Picollo will be in just the second month of his new job when the difficult business of baseball’s winter fires up in earnest the day after the World Series ends. That’s when free agency begins, trading can resume, pre-Rule 5 draft 40-man roster planning kicks into high gear, and contract and arbitration concerns become more pressing.
Picollo, named to the GM position Sept. 14, hasn’t revealed what specific alterations he’ll make, but change is a must if his Royals are to contend next season.
That Manager Mike Matheny will return is a given, but his coaching staff is a different matter. Pedro Grifol will again attract attention on the managerial market and Tony Pena Jr. could be a candidate to succeed retiring Brian Poldberg at Triple-A Omaha. Whether other coaches, notably hitting coach Terry Bradshaw and pitching coach Cal Eldred, come back remains to be seen.
But Picollo’s primary focus must be between the lines. What are some of his biggest challenges?
Picollo needs to find a new starting pitcher for the KC Royals’ rotation.
Kansas City’s young starters may be the most potential-packed in the major leagues, but inconsistency and recurring control and command issues impede their, and the team’s, progress. While Carlos Hernandez is, at 6-2 with a 3.68 ERA, the most reliable of the bunch, Brad Keller, Brady Singer, Kris Bubic, Daniel Lynch, and Jackson Kowar haven’t harnessed the individual and collective consistency necessary for the club to contend.
What the Royals need, and their new GM must procure this winter, is a proven veteran winner to lead and mentor the rotation. The club hoped Mike Minor would check those boxes, but his 8-12, 5.05 record leaves much to be desired.
How might Picollo fulfill this need? A trade is possible, but improbable because any deal for an established winner will require the Royals to give up more than they’ll want to. Free agency, then, is the likely source—the pitching market includes some hurlers whose agents Picollo should sound out.
But wherever he looks, Picollo needs to find someone.