Already once this offseason, the Royals were a Hot Stove headliner. That was last month, when they bid farewell to their ace, Zack Greinke.
This time, they’ve topped the day for the talent they’re keeping not letting go.
First baseman Billy Butler has signed a four-year, $30 million contract extension, both sides announced Saturday. Butler, 25-years-old in April, was arbitration eligible and hit .318 with 15 home runs, a .388 on-base percentage and a .469 slugging percentage in 2010.
“I just get to worry about playing baseball, and it’s what’s best for me and my family,” Butler said. “That’s what it’s all about. I didn’t want to have to worry about going to arbitration every year, and this is where I want to be. The city’s great, and we love it here. I can’t express how happy we are right now.”
Another Royals corner infielder (and DH) for so long — 13 years of his 16 big league years — Mike Sweeney has told MLB.com’s Dick Kaegel that he’ll have a decision on his playing future by next Sunday.
Sweeney, 37, made the playoffs for the first time in his career last season with Philadelphia and singled in his lone at-bat. He’s a career .297 hitter who batted .252 between the Mariners and Phils last season.
“I made it clear to my agents that the only way I’m going to play this year is if a contending team offered me a guaranteed deal — and I told them the chance of that happening is next to none,” Sweeney said. “But that’s the criteria I set for them.”
Elsewhere around the league:
? Orioles president Andy MacPhail shot down reports that the Orioles were closing to signing Vladimir Guerrero, although the club is interested. “[The] report is not accurate,” MacPhail told MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli via email.
? Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said that a trade of Armando Galarraga, who has been designated for assignment, is likely by next week. “We’re making some progress on some trade talks at this point,” Dombrowski said. “Not quite sufficient to make any announcements, but I would think by the middle of next week we would be in a position where we would make a deal.”
? Right-hander Jason Hammel is back with the Rockies, signing a two-year, $7.75 million contract on Saturday to avoid two of his three years of arbitration. The 28-year-old is 20-17 with a 4.57 ERA since joining the Rockies in a trade with the Rays in 2009.
? The Giants signed their lone remaining arbitration candidate to a one-year deal. Outfielder Andres Torres is believed to have received $2.1 million. He played for $426,000 last year. The switch-hitter turns 33 on Wednesday.
? SportsIllustrated reported on Twitter that a friend of the Reds’ Aroldis Chapman, Jose Carlos Thompson, has signed with the Astros for $250,000. Thompson attended junior college at Western Oklahoma, and the school’s website lists his hometown as Woburn, Mass.
Billy Butler and the Royals have agreed to a four-year, $30-million contract extension, the first baseman said Saturday.
The multi-year contract avoids salary arbitration and gives Butler the security of a long-term deal through 2014.
“I just get to worry about playing baseball and it’s what’s best for me and my family,” Butler said. “That’s what it’s all about. I didn’t want to have to worry about going to arbitration every year and this where I want to be. The city’s great and we love it here. I can’t express how happy we are right now.”
Butler had filed in arbitration for $4.3 million and the Royals offered $3.4 million. Now that’s off the table.
His new deal was worked out by agent Greg Genske of Legacy Sports with Royals general manager Dayton Moore.
“It worked out for both sides,” Butler said. “I’ve always been happy to be a Royal. We have a lot of young guys coming up and we plan on doing great things. It just means I’m a big part of it.”
Butler, his wife Katie and their daughter Kenley live in Idaho Falls where Butler made his pro debut in 2004 with a rousing .373 average. He was in Kansas City for the Royals FanFest.
“It’s just what’s best for your family,” Butler said. “We’re happy to be done with it and Dayton and the whole organization were great.”
Butler on Saturday was to receive the Royals Player of the Year Award for the second straight time after setting new career highs in several categories, including average (.318), hits (189), walks (69) and on-base percentage (.388).
According to FOXSports, the Angels have agreed to deal catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera to the Toronto Blue Jays for outfielder Vernon Wells, who waived his no-trade clause in the report by Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi.
Wells has $86 million coming in the remaining four years on his contract and can opt out after drawing $23 million in 2011. He could move into center field or play left with Peter Bourjos in center field and Torii Hunter in right. Wells had 33 homers and 88 RBIs in 2011 and owns three Gold Gloves. He is 32 and has spent his entire career in Toronto, emerging as a regular in 2002.
The Blue Jays could combine Napoli with former Angels teammate Jose Molina behind the plate, along with J.P. Arenciba and also give the slugger playing time at first base, where he performed capably last season in Kendry Morales’ absence. Napoli is arbitration-eligible and has asked for $6.1 million while the Angels proposed an offer of $5.3 million. He led the club with 26 home runs last year.
Rivera is owed $5.25 million on the final year of his contract. Combined, Napoli and Rivera would account for roughly half of Wells’ 2011 salary. Adding Wells would lift the Angels’ payroll into the $150 million range, but they are receiving an unspecified amount of cash in the trade.
The swap would leave the Angels with Jeff Mathis, Bobby Wilson and Hank Conger as their catchers. — Lyle Spencer
The free-agent market has definitely thinned, now that less than one month remains before the start of Spring Training. But as of Friday, several big names remained in the veteran corner outfielder/designated hitter category.
That may change soon.
The Rays, an industry source told MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, are nearing a one-year deal with Johnny Damon and are also in the mix for his former Red Sox teammate, Manny Ramirez.
But Tampa Bay may have some competition for Ramirez’s services, since sources told MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan that the Rangers and Angels are also interested. Sullivan notes that it’s the Rangers and Rays that are the front-runners at this point, with the Angels seemingly lagging behind.
Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com heard from sources that Vladimir Guerrero, like Ramirez and Damon, could also be close to signing, saying the Orioles and Angels have interest. The Rangers, Sullivan added, also haven’t closed the door on bringing back Guerrero.
The problem is the soon-to-be-36-year-old — coming off a season in which he batted .300
with 29 homers and 115 RBIs as Texas’ full-time DH — may still be
trying to land an everyday job.
Here’s more from around the league…
* The Red Sox were trying to reel in free-agent closer Rafael Soriano
on a lucrative one-year contract, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com and
MLB Network. If they would have succeeded in that, they could’ve dealt
current closer Jonathan Papelbon to the Athletics or White Sox. Boston also made Yankees closer Mariano Rivera an offer this offseason, so there’s seemingly concern in Beantown about Papelbon.
* When Prince Fielder hits free agency at the end of the 2011
season, the slugging first baseman expects to yield a contract of at least eight
years and for about $200 million, Heyman added.
* The Reds have been all about locking up their own players this
offseason, and they still may not be done. Regarding unsigned starter
Edinson Volquez, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty told the Cincinnati
Enquirer, “We’re looking at both — one-year and multi-year” deals.
Volquez, arbitration-eligible for the first time, made $445,000 in 2010. Bronson
Arroyo, Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto and Joey Votto have all inked
multi-year deals with the Reds this offseason.
* The Cardinals signed veteran infielder Nick Punto
to a one-year contract. The 33-year-old switch-hitter will serve as a
utility infielder and an insurance policy at third base for David Freese.
* The Mariners reduced the signing bonus of Dominican shortstop Esteilon Peguero, from $2.9 million to $1.1 million, according to Baseball America.
— Alden Gonzalez
According to Yahoo’s Tim Brown, via Twitter, the Rays are close to reaching a deal with veteran Johnny Damon, but the report goes on to say a lot of work needs to be done to finalize the deal.
Damon would seem to be an excellent fit for the Rays, who could use him in left field and at DH. In addition, he would provide leadership inside a young clubhouse.