KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As recently as last week, the Royals were still hoping to be buyers this month.

They definitely plan to be buyers next winter.

People familiar with their plans say that the Royals are determined to find a significant starting pitcher for 2013 on the free-agent market.

"Not a fifth starter, but a real starting pitcher," one Royals person said this week.

It's not clear yet who the Royals will target, but Shaun Marcum would be one name to watch. Marcum grew up in nearby Excelsior Springs, Mo., and the Royals have shown interest in him in the past.

The Royals pitching staff was hit hard by injuries this year, with four pitchers undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Royals have some young pitching prospects (Jake Odorizzi and Yordano Ventura started the All-Star Futures Game), but they know they'll need outside help.