Wednesday saw the Kansas City Royals finish off game 162 of their 2022 Season. They finished their season with a 65-97 record. Just hours after the team’s 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians, the Royals announced more changes to their coaching staff. Executive Vice President and General Manager J.J. Picollo announced on Wednesday night that manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred will not return for the 2023 season. The team released a statement on Twitter:
Kansas City Royals Executive Vice President and General Manager J.J. Picollo announced that manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred will not return for the 2023 season. — Kansas City Royals (@Royals) October 6, 2022
The moves come just weeks after the Royals dismissed long-time executive Dayton Moore. For Matheny, it marks the end of his second stint as a major league manager. His tenure with the Royals was marred by many of the same issues that plagued him in St. Louis, including questions about his decisions to play struggling veterans over younger, less established players with more potential. He often played struggling veterans like Ryan O’Hearn, Hunter Dozier, and Carlos Santana this season when younger prospects like Nick Pratto and Vinnie Pasquantino sat on the bench or in the minor leagues.
The Royals Failure To Develop Pitching Will Headline The Team’s Offseason
Beyond Matheny, the team struggled to develop pitching. Cal Eldred became the brunt of many jokes this season (and last) after the team’s 2018 crop of pitchers has mostly failed to succeed at the game’s highest level. Only Brady Singer — 10-5, 3.23 ERA, 150 SO, 35 BB — has seen any sort of lasting success at the major league level. Meanwhile, his fellow draft-class members Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic, and Jackson Kowar have failed to succeed at the major league level.
In total, the Royals became just the second team since 1955 to rank last in the American League in hits allowed, runs allowed, walks allowed, and strikeouts. The only other team to do so was the 2006 version of these Kansas City Royals. As a result, Eldred was given his walking papers on Wednesday alongside his manager. Kansas City will look to revamp their pitching development this offseason much as they did with their hitting program prior to 2019 with Drew Saylor and Alec Zumwalt.
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Potential Replacements For The Royals Now-Vacant Manager Position
With Matheny and Eldred now on their way out, who might the Royals look to in order to start a new chapter in 2023? There are a couple of different routes the team could look to, although most signs point to an entirely new approach by the organization. Instead of again looking for an established presence, they might look for new blood with a modern approach to the game.
The best candidate for the Royals could be a first-time manager fresh out of a first-class organization. Kevin Cash is the current manager of the Rays but Quatraro has been his bench coach since 2018. Before that, he spent time with Cleveland’s coaching staff as well. He was the Rays hitting coordinator from 2010-2013 before joining Cleveland as assistant Hitting Coach in 2014. He then returned to Tampa Bay as third-base coach in 2017 before becoming bench coach the next season.
Quatraro would add another established hitting mind alongside Zumwalt and Saylor to help emphasize and build around the team’s young core of hitters. Adding a member of the Rays organization — which ranks at the top of the league in respect to analytics in-house — could also help take the Royals forward into a much-needed new era.
Espada has been the Astros’ bench coach since he was hired there in 2017. Prior to that, he was with the Yankees for three seasons as infield and third-base coach. He also spent time with the Marlins as third-base coach for four seasons from 2010-2013. Espada is a well-regarded managerial candidate who has already interviewed for two open positions — the Rangers after 2018 and the Cubs after 2019.
Say what you will about their cheating scandal, but the Astros’ organization has a clear track record of developing talent and a winning culture to go with it. Espada is a highly regarded candidate who would again represent forward-thinking and a new era of Royals’ baseball.
Do the Royals dare go back to the well with another former Cardinals manager? Shildt replaced Matheny upon his dismissal from St. Louis back in 2018 and could be a candidate to once again replace him, this time for the Royals. Much of Shildt’s career to this point has been characterized by player development — somewhere the Royals could certainly focus more of their attention.
He started his career as a scout for the Cardinals, ultimately earning the franchise’s George Kissell Award for excellence in player development following the 2009 season. Upon replacing Matheny as manager mid-way through the 2018 season, Shildt posted a record of 252-199 (.599) over three and a half seasons as Cardinals manager. However, his team went just 4-9 in three postseason appearances under his watch. Perhaps most notably, Shildt’s 2021 club won a franchise-record 17 consecutive games to earn a wild-card spot.