No. 2: The Royals trade for Cole Ragans
Former Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore hinted at the Royals becoming more transactional later in his tenure, but it never really came to fruition. The expectation was that this would change after J.J. Picollo took over baseball operations late in 2022. Following a quiet offseason that had fans fearing business as usual, Picollo made some moves in 2023.
The early results were mixed. The less said about the Nicky Lopez-Taylor Hearn deal, the better. But two of those trades already look like steals. Nelson Velázquez provided a big bat to the Royals' lineup and Cole Ragans immediately became a top pitcher.
Picollo signed Aroldis Chapman as a reclamation project during the relatively quiet offseason, but he was meant to be dealt from day one. He pitched well, too, so the expectation of a high return was there, and came to fruition when the club traded Chapman to Texas and picked up Ragans as part of the deal. Ragans, who had posted a 2-3 record and 5.92 ERA in 17 games with the Rangers, barely moved the needle for most Royals fans when the deal was announced in late June.
But Ragans was electric for Kansas City, going 5-2 with a 2.64 ERA, 1.074 WHIP, and 89 strikeouts to 27 walks in 12 games. In August, he was named AL Pitcher of the Month, and despite pitching less than half the season in Kansas City, was named the club's Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year. He immediately moved to the top of the rotation and has to be considered the favorite for Opening Day starter in 2024. Most importantly, he gave Royals fans a compelling reason to watch the team every fifth day. No small feat for a 106-loss team.