New additions give Royals hope in '09

New additions give KC hope in '09

KANSAS CITY -- Royals general manager Dayton Moore is not one to shut down his engine and just coast into Spring Training. Expect some revving sounds, even though it might be just a tuneup.

The Royals headed into the new year with considerable work accomplished.

Moore jump-started the post-World Series trading action by getting first baseman Mike Jacobs from the Florida Marlins. Not long afterward, he obtained center fielder Coco Crisp from the Boston Red Sox.

That's firing up with some horsepower and sparkplug speed.

Because those deals came at the cost of right-handed setup men Leo Nunez and Ramon Ramirez, the aggressive Moore went to the Winter Meetings and signed two right-handers in Kyle Farnsworth and Doug Waechter. Although Waechter probably will fit more into middle relief, Farnsworth is a power pitcher with a setup background.

In addition, left-hander Horacio Ramirez was re-signed as a possibility to crack an all-righty rotation.

But, hold on, there are a lot of free agents still unclaimed as the new year begins. The question, of course, is fitting them into a payroll budget of around $70 million. For 13 Royals players under contract, the total is already at about $55 million with some stiff settlements still ahead for such arbitration-eligible players as Jacobs, John Buck, Mark Teahen and Brian Bannister.

The budget is up about $11 million over last year with owner David Glass' blessing.

The Royals still could explore such free-agent relievers as Juan Cruz and Brandon Lyon, late of the Arizona Diamondbacks, or Russ Springer from the St. Louis Cardinals. But the Royals looked at these relievers before Farnsworth was signed and apparently weren't seen as a fit, for one reason or another.

It's quite possible that other relievers could be signed in the hope someone will burst into unexpected effectiveness as Ramon Ramirez did last season.

Unfulfilled so far has been a hunt for a middle infielder, preferably seasoned, to pair with Mike Aviles, the hotshot rookie shortstop.

Hot Stove
Although Alberto Callaspo hit well after returning from the disabled list late in the season and Moore says he could start 2009 with the middle infielders in place, the Royals don't seem entirely sold on Callaspo as the second baseman. For one thing, he has to prove conclusively that he's over what put him on the disabled list after a DUI arrest. For another, they'd like someone with a little more range to play alongside Jacobs, no Gold Glove candidate himself.

The Royals' late entry into the race for shortstop Rafael Furcal -- Aviles would've shifted to second -- fizzled last month as he returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Still on the market are the likes of second baseman Orlando Hudson and shortstop Orlando Cabrera but, in all likelihood, they're out of the Royals' price range. Apparently, though, Moore had plans to free up some salary somehow to cover Furcal's hefty check and perhaps similar thinking could carry over.

Certainly Moore might send out feelers just in case. While prime free agents have hauled in some big dough, the recession is affecting all segments of society including baseball and some bargains might be found as Spring Training approaches.

Old friend Mark Grudzielanek is out there but he turned down the club's offer of salary arbitration and hopes to sign with a presumed contender.

This offseason fans kept peppering in e-mails with suggestions that Teahen -- the noted Mr. Every Position, who is being squeezed in the outfield -- be tried at second base. That's not likely to happen because, as fine an athlete as Teahen is, his tools aren't seen as fitting the demands of that position.

Speaking of tools, there's still a lot of them being used at Kauffman Stadium where the renovation is surging toward completion, or close to it, by the April 10 home opener against the New York Yankees.

Wider concourses, restroom and concession upgrades, a new wait-service area behind home plate, a right-field restaurant, outfield seating, luxury suites, a Royals Hall of Fame and new glass-lined offices are included in the two-year project. The first major improvement to be unveiled last year was the massive CrownVision board, an impressive centerpiece in center field.

There'll be a gala re-opening of the stadium which began life in 1973 and has been a remarkably enduring locale with its signature fountains and friendly fans. That will come on April 10 against the New York Yankees, an arch postseason rival in the stadium's early days.

Although this actually will be the Royals' 41st season, it's the 40th anniversary of the franchise's inaugural season, 1969, and that occasion will be marked as well.

The official warm-up to the season will begin on Friday night, Jan. 16, with the revival of the baseball awards dinner last held in 2001. There will be 13 award-winners including Aviles, the Player of the Year, and Joakim Soria, the Pitcher of the Year. Presenters will include former Royals stars Frank White, Willie Wilson and Mike Sweeney.

That will be at the Sheraton Overland Park Hotel, followed by the second Royals FanFest on Saturday and Sunday next door at the Overland Park Convention Center. Last season nearly 10,000 fans turned out for the inaugural FanFest.

Then, before you know it, players will be arriving at camp in Surprise, Ariz., to begin workouts. Early birds, including manager Trey Hillman, will start informal workouts around Feb. 6 but the official reporting dates are Feb. 13 for pitchers and catchers and Feb. 17 for the rest of the squad. The first spring game will be on Feb. 25 against Texas.

Everyone seems ready to surge into '09 after a super September lifted the Royals into fourth place, ending a four-year stay in the American League Central cellar. If there's to be a new version of the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, fans in Kansas City have a candidate in mind.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.