The MLB lockout drags on, increasing with each passing unproductive day the chances of a delayed spring training, maybe even a late-starting regular season. What information about labor negotiations there is dominates baseball news. But the KC Royals, and some who played or may play for them, recently made news of their own.
The KC Royals made a few minor league managerial moves late in the week.
While the lockout stalls major league player transactions, organizations remain free to make non-player personnel moves at all levels. And that’s just what the Royals did Friday when, as reported by The Athletic’s Alec Lewis (Twitter link and thread), they revealed next season’s minor league managers and coaches.
A familiar former Kansas City player is getting a belated opportunity to manage again. Tony Peña Jr., a Royals shortstop from 2007-2009, skippered Kansas City’s Arizona rookie level team in 2018 and 2019 and was slated to manage the club’s Burlington rookie club in 2020 before COVID-19 put an end to that year’s minor league season.
Peña spent 2021 on Manager Mike Matheny’s major league coaching staff. Now, he’s set to take the helm at Low-A Columbia, where he’ll be assisted by veteran baseball man and former Atlanta player Glenn Hubbard (among others).
Peña is, of course, a big league and Royal legacy—his father Tony Peña Sr. distinguished himself as an excellent major league catcher and later managed the Royals.
Kansas City also rewarded Baseball America’s 2021 Minor League Manager of the Year award winner Chris Widger with a promotion to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Widger guided Quad Cities to the High-A Central League title in 2021, an accomplishment that earned the Baseball America honor.
Widger replaces championship-proven Scott Thorman, who moves from the Naturals to Triple-A Omaha where he’ll take over the Storm Chasers from veteran, and now retired, skipper Brian Poldberg. Thorman has led teams to three straight minor league titles—Lexington in the South Atlantic League (2018), Wilmington in the High-A Carolina League (2019), and Northwest Arkansas in the Double-A Central last season.
Omar Ramirez will manage the Surprise Rookie team and Sergio De Luna and Ramón Martinez will handle KC’s Dominican Summer League entries.
Two former members of the organization add to list of KC Royals retirees.
Outfielder Bubba Starling closed his frustrating career by retiring in October and, after a disappointing and injury-plagued campaign, Wade Davis followed suit a month later.
Now, two more ex-Royals have joined the ranks of retired players. Travis Snider, who twice signed free agent deals with the Royals in 2016 but played only at Triple-A Omaha, called it quits Thursday, and Melky Cabrera, a member of the club’s stellar 2011 outfield, did the same Friday.
Snider, like Cabrera an outfielder, played with Toronto, Pittsburgh and Baltimore and hit .244 during his eight-season big league career. Cabrera played on eight clubs and hit .285 with 144 home runs and 101 stolen bases.
And speaking of retirements, and although he was never a Royal, free agent Jon Lester retired Wednesday, meaning the Royals won’t get the chance to add him to their roster, a move we suggested earlier this winter.
The KC Royals are reportedly getting a trio of international free agents.
Kansas City took advantage of its ability to make deals that don’t involve major league players during the MLB lockout by recently signing former big league reliever Arodys Vizcaíno.
Now, it appears the Royals will ink at least three international free agents—veteran mlb.com writer Jesse Sanchez reported Saturday that it’s anticipated catcher Juan Olmos and outfielder Henry Ramos will sign for $800,000 each and Erick Torres will join the organization on a $500,000 deal.
They’re not allowed to make major league player deals, but the Royals are still making news this winter.