Kansas City Royals manager Matt Quatraro had a bright smile while meeting with reporters at the 2023 Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee.
After a difficult first season, Quatraro admitted there were a few challenges in adjusting to a full-time managerial role. The Royals finished 56-106 as one of the youngest teams in Major League Baseball.
It was a huge responsibility to guide a rebuilding team. There were constant changes on and off the field. New players arrived during the billed “season of evaluation.” Also, Quatraro had to adjust to a new city and environment.
Frustration set in at times. However, there is a renewed optimism as Quatraro heads into his second year at the helm.
“It’s been a lot different, you know, personally knowing where I’m going to be and not interviewing for the first time in several years,” Quatraro said in Monday’s press conference. “My family is in one place, so the stability part of it is really good.”
Quatraro got a chance to reflect this offseason. He was able to reset knowing his entire staff would remain intact. KC provided additional support by hiring a third hitting coach to the mix.
“I feel really good for where we are, the stuff we are doing behind the scenes,” Quatraro said. “The people we’ve been working with, it’s really fun and challenging at times, but really fun to continue to build.”
Build is the key word.
The Royals made strides after the All-Star Break. KC finished with a 30-41 record in the second half and won six of its last eight series.
Several players vastly improved as well. Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. emerged as an MLB superstar. Meanwhile, KC got contributions from Cole Ragans, Maikel Garcia, Michael Massey and James McArthur, among others.
Familiarity could go a long way. Quatraro wants to see continued growth and believes he has a roster that can produce at a high level.
“I would start by saying those guys that took that jump, I would expect and hope that they continue to grow, too,” Quatraro said. “So it really goes across the board. You want everybody to continue to grow; you know, I’m excited.”
However, there is still work to be done. The Royals are in the free-agent market for starting pitching and relief help. There is a chance they could add impact right-handed bat.
The Royals have already made a few moves. Royals general manager J.J. Picollo acquired pitchers Nick Anderson and Kyle Wright in separate deals. He also signed utility-man Garrett Hampson to a one-year contract.
Each veteran brings a lot of experience.
Anderson will help stabilize a Royals bullpen that had a 5.23 ERA last season. Wright, who is expected to miss the 2024 season due to shoulder surgery, has pitched in a World Series. Meanwhile, Hampson made a postseason appearance with the Miami Marlins.
It’s fair to expect similar offseason moves in the near future. The Royals plan to furnish a competitive roster and Quatraro is working closely in the process.
“Last year, he met a lot of people at the Winter Meetings here, so he was a little bit more acquired,” Picollo said. “This year, he’s sharing a little bit more of his vision on the team — where the team is — because, you know, now he’s worked with a lot of them for a year.”
Competition will start in spring training. The Royals have spots to fill in the starting rotation and in the bullpen. KC also wants to solidify left field.
Additionally, Quatraro said strike-throwing must improve. Hitters must also make consistent contact and eliminate swing-and-miss tendencies.
The Royals struggled in both areas last season.
“Overall, the more where you can challenge hitters the more you can be in the zone,” Quatraro said. “The more decisions they have to make, the better it is for us.”
KC will continue to have conversations throughout the Winter Meetings. While Quatraro endured a learning experience last season, he will head into the 2024 campaign with a renewed focus. The expectations are already set: The Royals must to put forth a better effort.
It’s something Quatraro knows all too well.
“Trying to put players in the best positions to succeed,” Quatraro said of his offseason goals. “I want to improve on that for sure.”