Why ’23 could be a swan-song season for Adalberto Mondesi, Royals: Winter Meetings news

Dynamic and gifted but oft-injured shortstop Adalberto Mondesi and the Kansas City Royals have reached agreement on a contract for the 2023 season, avoiding salary arbitration and setting the stage for what promises to be an intriguing year.

Mondesi, arbitration eligible for the final time before reaching free agency, signed a deal that will pay him $3.405 million in 2023, according to a source with knowledge of the contract. Mondesi’s salary in 2022, also agreed upon without arbitration, was $3 million.

Once viewed as a key building block for the Royals, Mondesi, 27, is entering his final year under club control and will be returning from a season-ending knee surgery to repair the ACL he tore in his left knee during April.

The switch-hitting Mondesi has shown tremendous skill and athleticism throughout his career in the majors and the minors. One of the fastest players in baseball, he has displayed above-average hitting ability, prodigious power, elite base-stealing speed and top-caliber defense as a shortstop.

However, injuries have prevented him from becoming the franchise player he was once expected to be for the Royals. Mondesi played in just 15 games in 2022 before the knee injury. He has played in just 358 major-league games since 2016.

The Royals went into the 2022 season with Mondesi as their starting shortstop in an infield that featured two other potential starters at the position: rising star Bobby Witt Jr. at third base and Nicky Lopez at second.

Lopez enjoyed his best season in the majors in 2021 when he took over at shortstop for Mondesi, who played just 35 games that year thanks to three stints on the injured list for two separate oblique strains and a hamstring strain.

Witt figures to be the Royals’ everyday shortstop now, while Mondesi’s role hasn’t yet been defined.

On Monday at the MLB Winter Meetings in San Diego, Royals executive vice president and general manager J.J. Picollo said Mondesi has been hitting, running and fielding ground balls. Picollo also indicated that he had seen video of Mondesi’s workouts.

“Physically, he looks great,” Picollo said. “He looks like an NFL wide receiver. He looks phenomenal.”

Picollo expressed optimism that Mondesi would not lose speed after the knee surgery. Picollo said club officials won’t have a set plan for Mondesi’s role or usage this season until things play out at spring training.

Mondesi could get used on the infield at shortstop, third base or second base. The outfield could also be an option.

Picollo said he had not yet had any in-depth discussions with manager Matt Quatraro about Mondesi’s specific role in 2023. The GM said the team would be “open minded.”.

“We’re just going to be open to whatever it is we can get out of him,” Picollo said. “We’ve got one year left with him. We just want, for us and for him, to get him on the field as much as we can.”