The KC Royals devoted December to making a surprisingly significant series of promising moves designed to put to rest the miserable memories of the 2023 season. That the first week of January has been all but silent on Kansas City's transaction front — losing pitcher Max Castillo to Boston on a waiver claim remains the Royals' only "move" of the new calendar year — isn't, considering the near-deluge of December roster changes, surprising.
Players and personnel with past ties to Kansas City, however, continue to feed the offseason news and rumor mills.
A former top Royals prospect appears headed for New York
Reports, including one from the New York Post's Jon Heyman, surfaced Sunday that the Mets are signing Sean Manaea to a two-year contract. Kansas City fans know the lefthander as the Royals' second pick in the 2013 amateur draft (they chose Hunter Dozier first) and as a key piece of the 2015 trade deadline deal with Oakland that made Ben Zobrist a Royal.
Manaea never made it to the majors with Kansas City, but he went 50-41 with a 3.86 ERA during his six seasons with the A's. He's since pitched for San Diego and San Francisco and owns a 65-56, 4.10 big league record.
Is another former Kansas City employee joining Chicago?
It looks like the conspicuous movement of ex-Royals personnel to the White Sox may be continuing. USA Today's Bob Nightengale indicated Sunday that long-time KC front office executive Jim Wong, who left the Royals in October, is headed for Chicago as an assistant general manager. He'll be the latest in the growing group of former Royals staffers and players now employed on the South Side.
What might recent rumors about Michael A. Taylor suggest about KC?
Free agent Michael A. Taylor, a fine center fielder known much more for his glove than his work at the plate, continues searching for a new team. Still unsigned after spending last season with Minnesota, where he surprisingly clubbed a career-best 21 homers, Taylor should find a new baseball home soon.
Taylor, remember, won a Gold Glove in 2021, the first of the two years he spent patrolling center field for the Royals. Now, he's being linked to the San Diego, Pittsburgh and the Angels, all of whom could use him in their respective outfields.
That could mean two things for the Royals: being connected to other clubs suggests Kansas City isn't seeking a reunion with Taylor, and that he poses no threat to Kyle Isbel, the Royals' presumptive center fielder.
A former KC Royals pitcher is excelling overseas
So impressive was Foster Griffin as a lefthanded prep pitcher that Kansas City grabbed him in the first round of the 2014 amateur draft. A 15-7, 3.35 ERA record in a 2017 season split between High-A and Double-A highlighted a minor league career interrupted in 2020 by Tommy John Surgery, and he was 1-0 but surrendered six earned runs in six innings with the major league club.
The Royals traded him to Toronto for Jonatan Bernal in 2022; he appeared once for the Blue Jays before they released him after the season.
But he found work and success in 2023 in Japan, where he went 6-5 with a 2.75 ERA in 20 games for the Yomiuri Giants. He also had a nice 1.074 WHIP and walked only 29 in 121 innings.