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Gonzalez agrees to terms with KC


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01/06/2004 4:59 PM ET

Gonzalez agrees to terms with KC

Two-time AL MVP and three-time All-Star joins Royals

By Chris Shaeffer / MLB.com

 

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals added a key component to their 2004 ballclub with the signing of free agent Juan Gonzalez on Tuesday.

 

The 15-year veteran agreed to terms on a one-year deal worth $4.5 million. Gonzalez will receive $4 million next season, and the deal includes a mutual option for 2005 at $7 million. If the Royals decline the option, Gonzalez would receive a $500,000 buyout. In addition, he can earn $2 million in performance bonuses this year and $1.5 million in 2005.

 

In order to sign Gonzalez, the Royals needed to increase the club's 2004 payroll and general manager Allard Baird said owner David Glass was willing to do just that.

 

"We went to ownership and said we are going to need some help with this and they responded," Baird said. "That allowed us to play in this thing. We were very fortunate."

 

The agreement completed an odyssey that began last summer when the Royals first inquired about obtaining the slugger, who was then a member of the Texas Rangers.

 

The Royals, in the middle of a tight pennant race in the AL Central, wanted to add an impact bat to their lineup and Gonzalez drew their interest. But a right calf injury landed him on the disabled list on July 20 and ended his season along with the Royals' hopes of getting the big bat in their lineup for the stretch drive last year.

 

Gonzalez, 34, has been on the disabled list nine times in his career, including twice in each of the last two seasons. The injury problems and his age are concerns, but Royals general manager Allard Baird is satisfied that Gonzalez is healthy and ready to contribute.

 

"We looked at both knees, his back, everything that he has come back from," Baird said at Tuesday's press conference at Kauffman Stadium. "I saw him work agility drills, speed drills, weights and we feel very comfortable with that. Is there a risk? Sure. There is a risk with guys that you signed that are healthy."

 

Gonzalez is friends with Royals center fielder Carlos Beltran and has developed a relationship with manager Tony Pe?a.

 

"This means a lot to me," Beltran said. "I've known Juan since I was playing here (Puerto Rico) in high school. It will be a real pleasure for me to play with him. He has been one of the best players in the big leagues for years. He has had some tough injuries the past couple of years, but he really looks confident and feels good. He believes he is going to have a real good year."

 

The three-time All-Star has a .296 career batting average with 429 home runs and 1,387 RBIs. Gonzalez has hit 40 or more home runs in five seasons and he led the American League with 43 homers in 1992 and 46 in 1993. He also led the league with 50 doubles in 1998. In his injury-shortened 2003 season, in just 82 games, Gonzalez batted .294, hit 24 homers and drove in 70 runs.

 

Gonzalez has been a solid hitter throughout his Major League career and Royals hitting coach Jeff Pentland knows that Gonzalez will help the club's lineup, but he believes Kansas City's current crop of hitters will also aid Gonzalez.

 

"I think what will help (Gonzalez) is the group of guys we'll have around him," Pentland said. "With Sweeney, Beltran, Guiel and Berroa, it solidifies what we are trying to do as an offensive ballclub. We will try to intimidate our opponents by sending up one hitter after the next with no holes in the lineup."

 

While there is little doubt that Gonzalez will fit in nicely in the Royals' batting order, Baird admitted that the possibility of disrupting the team's clubhouse chemistry was a consideration in the pursuit of the veteran outfielder.

 

 

"I think he is going to fit in very well here," Baird said. "That did factor into our evaluation when we began this process a few months ago.

 

"When the bell rings Opening Day, he is there to play baseball. I think with the culture in our clubhouse, with the veterans on the club, it's a very good fit."

 

Royals third baseman Joe Randa is excited to see a veteran run-producing bat added to Kansas City's already potent lineup.

 

"It's exciting for our fans that the Glass family has put a good product on the field," Randa said. "It's also exciting for the players that have been here a long time as well as a new guy like Brian Anderson. It shows that we are trying to build a team to win."

 

The Royals hope that Gonzalez, as the everyday right fielder, can become more consistent on defense, which at times has been excellent, and other times below average.

 

"If you look at what Raul Iba?ez did when he came here, he made himself a pretty darn good outfielder," Baird said. "I would think that Luis Silverio working with him and maintaining the emphasis that it's two parts of the game, both offensively and defensively, that there would be positive things come out of that."

 

The Royals are the fourth team that Gonzalez has played for in his career. He has also spent time with the Rangers (1989-99, 2002-03), Tigers (2000) and Indians (2001).

 

Chris Shaeffer is an editorial producer for MLB.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.

 

 

If I was a KC fan, I would be very happy with this deal

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