KC Royals general manager J.J. Picollo has his work cut out for him this winter. The man most responsible for putting together the team Matt Quatraro will manage next season — the Royals' chief mechanic, so to speak — Picollo must change out some parts. Something between a tune-up and an overhaul is what these Royals need.
The task won't be easy. Although the Royals speak of spending some money this winter, just how much cash principal owner John Sherman is willing to put on the table to improve the status quo remains to be seen, especially when consummating a long-term deal with Bobby Witt Jr. is an absolute imperative.
While what immediate help Picollo brings to Kansas City will drive most of the Hot Stove attention and speculation, who he chooses to part with is also important. Scattered about the Royals' 40-man roster are players the club just doesn't need in 2024, and who probably won't be back when the season opens in late March.
Who are they? We recently cast considerable doubt on Jackson Kowar's KC future, but definitively answering such a question is difficult when it comes to teams like the Royals, who have so many expendables but won't let them all go.
Here are some predictions.
Infielder Matt Duffy won't be with the KC Royals when next season starts
Predicting Duffy's departure is easy, not because he isn't a good player or his free agent status makes his leaving Kansas City likely, but instead because the Royals will have Nick Loftin. Duffy's Kansas City career will end, while Loftin's is just beginning.
Under other circumstances, the club might bring Duffy back: he was, over 78 games, the effective utility infielder the Royals signed him to be. Duffy played every infield position and his .251 average was, in the context of how Quatraro used him, serviceable.
But Loftin is a rising star (MLB Pipeline says he's the organization's fifth-best prospect) whose versatility rivals Duffy's. And although it's derived from a small, 19-game sample, the .323/.368/.435 line he put up after the Royals called him up in September is promising.