Gonzalez gets one-year, $4.5M from Royals
Kansas City gained a proven power hitter -- if he can stay healthy. Injuries limited Gonzalez to 152 games over the last two seasons, but Royals general manager Allard Baird said the team is not worried about the durability of the 34-year-old outfielder.
"I went out to Arizona and watched him work out for two days," Baird said. "I think he's in great shape ... and I feel very comfortable with him being ready to go."
The free agent's salary for this year could inflate, through incentives, to as much as $6 million if he gets 575 plate appearances, or to $5 million if he gets 500 plate appearances. Then there's an option or $500,000 buyout for 2005.
Gonzalez broke into the majors with Texas in 1989. He played there until 1999, then returned in 2002 after a year in Detroit and another in Cleveland.
Last year, Gonzalez played in 82 games, hitting .294 with 24 homers and 70 RBI before a calf injury ended his season.
"At the major league level, numbers don't lie," Baird said. "What he did in half a season last year is pretty impressive."
The three-time All-Star has a .296 career batting average with 429 homers and 1,387 RBI.
Gonzalez has five seasons with at least 40 homers, leading the AL with 43 in 1992 and 46 in 1993. He also led the league with 50 doubles in 1998.
"We wanted a run-producing bat," Baird said. "That's the key for us. If he stays healthy, he could have a 120-130 [RBI] year. He's got a lot of guys ahead of him who can get on base."
In 2004, Gonzalez can earn bonuses of $50,000 for 400 plate appearances, $100,000 for 425, $150,000 for 450 and $200,000 for 475. In each year, he can earn $500,000 each for 500, 550 and 575 plate appearances.
The Royals have needed both an outfielder and a run producer since failing to keep free agent Raul Ibanez, who signed with Seattle after hitting .294 and driving in 90 runs for Kansas City in 2003.
"As we were profiling the lineup for next year, we went back to Juan Gonzalez and said, 'If he's healthy, he's our guy,' " Baird said.
Aaron Guiel started in right field for the Royals last year, but Gonzalez will go into spring training as the Royals' starter there. Guiel, who hit .277 with 15 homers and 52 RBI in 2003, is the likely starter in left field, Baird said.
Gonzalez's signing is the latest -- and biggest -- of a busy offseason for the Royals.
The team has already signed utility infielder Tony Graffanino, veteran catcher Benito Santiago, reliever Scott Sullivan and outfielder Matt Stairs, and re-signed four players who were instrumental to last season: third baseman Joe Randa, starting pitcher Brian Anderson and relievers Jason Grimsley and Curtis Leskanic.
The Royals' also have re-signed right-hander Kevin Appier, who joined the team in August but pitched in just four games before tearing a tendon in his right elbow.
Kansas City's 83-79 finish last season also locked All-Star first baseman Mike Sweeney into the $55 million, five-year contract extension he signed in April 2002. Sweeney could have opted out had the Royals not produced a .500 record by 2004.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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