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Key questions facing the Kansas City Royals as 2023 Winter Meetings get underway

Kansas City Royals general manager J.J. Picollo has a few offseason objectives heading into the 2023 Winter Meetings. Picollo seeks to add pitching and a potential impact bat to surround KC’s young core.

The Royals have addressed a few needs this offseason. KC acquired veteran pitchers Nick Anderson and Kyle Wright from the Atlanta Braves. Anderson is expected to help stabilize the Royals bullpen — which turned in a 5.23 ERA — next season.

Meanwhile, Wright could provide long-term benefits. He is recovering from shoulder surgery and is likely to miss the 2024 season.

The Royals also signed utilityman Garrett Hampson to a one-year deal and hired Joe Dillon as their newest hitting coach.

However, there is more work to be done. This week, the Royals will embark on the Winter Meetings held in Nashville. Here are four things to watch as the Royals prepare for the annual event.

Will the Royals add starting pitching?

The Royals have earmarked pitchers Cole Ragans, Brady Singer and Jordan Lyles in the 2024 starting rotation. There are two spots available and a wealth of internal options that include Daniel Lynch IV, Kris Bubic, Alec Marsh and Angel Zerpa, among others.

The starting rotation is a point of uncertainty. The Royals would like to pursue a front-line starter to pair alongside Ragans. The Star previously outlined some realistic free-agent starters that could interest the Royals.

Still, the Royals will have to gauge the overall market. There are a few deals that highlight the going rate for starting pitching. The Detroit Tigers signed Kenta Maeda to a two-year deal worth $24 million.

The St. Louis Cardinals were also active. They signed Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn to a pair of one-year deals while adding Sonny Gray to a three-year, $75 million contract.

There are several free-agent options available. The Royals plan to utilize the Winter Meetings to continue their search for a quality starter.

Where do contract extension talks stand with Bobby Witt Jr?

Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. had a historic 2023 season. Witt became the first Royals player with a 30-30 season after posting 30 home runs and 49 stolen bases.

Witt also improved defensively. He finished with a .977 fielding percentage and committed 12 errors in 525 total chances. A lot of credit goes to his development under Royals infield coach José Alguacil.

The Royals have explored contract extension talks with Witt’s representatives. However, Witt has yet to enter arbitration and is not slated to reach free agency until the 2028 season.

KC is in a unique position. Around the league, several teams have issued long-term contracts to their young stars. The Atlanta Braves signed players like Austin Riley and Ronald Acuña Jr. to lengthy deals.

Recently, the Milwaukee Brewers reportedly signed top prospect Jackson Chourio long-term without him playing in a MLB game.

Witt has expressed his desire to remain in Kansas City. The Royals would like to keep him as a franchise cornerstone. A key question lingers: What will it take to get a potential deal done for both sides?

Can the Royals win the MLB Draft lottery?

The Royals are tied for the highest odds in the 2024 MLB Draft lottery.

KC has a 18.3% chance, alongside the Oakland Athletics and Colorado Rockies, to secure the top overall selection next July.

Last season, the Royals selected prep catcher Blake Mitchell with the eighth pick in the 2023 MLB Draft.

The draft lottery will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 5. Seventeen of the 18 non-playoff teams are eligible to land within the top six lottery slots.

Picks 7-18 will be in the reverse order of the MLB standings. After the first round, the remainder of the MLB Draft will follow suit in determining the order.

The Royals could also participate in the Rule 5 Draft. There is an opportunity to add a player to the 40-man roster this week. KC protected Will Klein and Tyler Gentry and added them to the their MLB Reserve List.

A few names, such as former top pick Asa Lacy, were not protected and are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.

Royals injury updates

The Royals dealt with the injury bug last season. KC lost first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino to a shoulder injury and Bubic to Tommy John Surgery. Injuries to catcher Freddy Fermin and Jake Brentz among others were also felt.

KC hopes to have these players on track to return next season. How they are progressing is something to watch in the upcoming months.