J.J. Picollo, Kansas City Royals
Division rank: third
MLB rank: 16th
J.J. Picollo’s introductory season running a Major League front office may have ended with a last-place finish in the division, but that was more a function of what he was given to work with than what he did.
Picollo inherited the contracts of 20 players who saw time with the Royals this season. Of those 20, only six — Scott Barlow, Andrew Benintendi, Joel Payamps, Salvador Perez, Brady Singer and Michael A. Taylor — delivered a positive WAA. The sum total impact of the 20 holdovers worked out to -7.5 WAA, one of the worst legacies in recent history.
To rectify that situation, Picollo made moves involving 40 players who saw MLB time during the season. His focus plainly was on trying to mine talent out of the Royals’ farm system (15 of his 40 moves involved promoting a system product).
The short-term impact of that strategy was not all that great, but Picollo is playing a long game. His promotion of touted infielder Bobby Witt Jr. yielded a -1.2 WAA, but the 2022 Royals were more than willing to pay that price in exchange for the experience they hope will benefit Witt.
The same goes for M.J. Melendez, who debuted in May and whose numbers worked out to -1.3 WAA. If Witt and Melendez comprise the backbone of an ascendant Royals nucleus the next year or two, that will be OK with Picollo and Royals fans.
For the present, Picollo’s most productive move was the signing of free agent Zack Greinke. His 4-9 record was deceiving, for Greinke scored a 3.68 ERA in 137 innings, good for a +1.3 WAA.
The Royals front office was more laid-back in trade dealings, although it did find midseason takers for veterans Benintendi and Whit Merrifield. Kansas City ranked 10th in value obtained from trades, and 11th in free agent value.
The subpar figures for Melendez, Witt and others consigned the team’s substantial rookie class to 27th place. But again, the Royals will gladly overlook that if the 2022 rookie core turns the team around in the next season or two.