The continuing failure of players and clubs to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement is making a lockout and transaction freeze all but sure things. The current Basic Agreement expires at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 1, and without a new deal in place by then the owners will almost certainly lock the players out and declare trades and free agent signings off limits. The KC Royals will, of course, be subject to both.
But for now, the business of baseball must go on, including meeting the deadline that drops late today—all teams must finalize their 40-man rosters for Rule 5 draft purposes by 6 p.m. ET.
That draft, traditionally conducted the last day of the game’s Winter Meetings, which are tentatively scheduled for Dec. 5-9, subjects non 40-man roster players to being drafted by other teams if they signed at 18 or younger and have five years in the pros, or signed at 19 or older and have been pros for four years. Drafting clubs pay $100,000 to teams losing players and, with certain exceptions, must keep draftees on their major league rosters all next season; if they don’t, they risk losing them on waivers or to their original clubs.
As of late Thursday night, the Royals’ 40-man roster had four openings. Conspicuously absent were five hot prospects—first baseman Nick Pratto, catcher MJ Melendez, and pitchers Austin Cox, Zach Haake and Jonathan Bowlan—who’ll be exposed to the draft, and undoubtedly taken, if not added to the 40-man today.
Count on Kansas City adding them. And for good measure, the club might do well to also protect infielder Maikel Garcia and outfielders Seuly Matias, Brewer Hicklen and Dairon Blanco. But to make room for those nine players on the 40-man roster, the Royals must cut five from it.
Who should they be? Here are five possibilities—they aren’t the only options, but they make sense.
A lefthanded reliever is the most obvious choice for the KC Royals to move.
The first decision should be easy for Kansas City, and carries little risk. The club can move Richard Lovelady, most likely by non-tendering him, and feel safe—the southpaw reliever, who pitched well in 2021 (2-0, 3.48 ERA, and 23 strikeouts in 20.2 innings), had Tommy John surgery in September and will miss most, if not all, of next season.
That makes Lovelady an unlikely draft target and, if KC clears a roster spot by not offering him a contract and no one drafts him, it can re-sign him as soon as the Rule 5 ends.