Royals general manager Dayton Moore set aside any baseball discussion on the matter last week while an organization and a city mourned. But now Moore and his staff begin the search for solutions.
The Royals could delve into the dwindling free-agent market for a starter, orchestrate a trade or cross their fingers for an internal solution.
"We will look internally first," Moore told MLB.com
As it stands now, the rotation will consist of left-hander Danny Duffy, right-hander Ian Kennedy, left-hander Jason Vargas and right-hander Nathan Karns.
The fifth spot would be up for grabs among right-hander Chris Young, right-hander Kyle Zimmer -- who is coming back from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery -- left-hander Matt Strahm and possibly rookie right-hander Alec Mills.
Left-hander Mike Minor likely is headed for a bullpen role, Moore indicated. That's where Strahm likely was headed, too, before the Ventura tragedy -- he now may be needed in the rotation.
"We certainly need some of our young players to step up," Moore said. "The truth is, this is an enormous hole to fill."
The free-agent market for starting pitching was thin to begin with, and it now is down to names such as Jason Hammel, Doug Fister, Jered Weaver and so on. The Royals have been linked to Hammel, but Moore said the club wasn't close to any deal.
"We will continue to monitor the free-agent class as a possible solution," Moore said. "But as always it depends upon the deal."
The Royals weren't particularly impressed with the free-agent starting pitching class when the offseason began.
The Royals also could fill the vacancy via trade, but Moore seemed somewhat skeptical.
"Trade is a possibility, but I don't foresee anything happening there before Spring Training," Moore said. "There are teams with a surplus of pitching but it's obviously a matter of finding the right pieces."
Moore termed the search as fluid, and said it may stay that way perhaps until the end of Spring Training.
"We'll find a way to get it done eventually," Moore said. "We're confident of that."