From his home in Arizona, Royals designated hitter Billy Butler has been watching the team’s recent transactions with growing excitement.
By KATHLEEN GIER
The Kansas City Star
First, the Royals went out and signed left-handed pitcher Jason Vargas. Then they acquired outfielder Norichika Aoki, second baseman Omar Infante and infielder Danny Valencia in a set of moves that Butler feels point toward a positive 2014 campaign.
“It’s adding to a team that was already close to making the playoffs, so you can’t help but be excited,” said Butler during a stop at Kauffman Stadium on Friday. “There’s not an area on the field that you can say needs to be upgraded.”
He specifically pointed to the signing of Aoki on Dec. 5 as an important move for the Royals, who struggled to find a consistent leadoff hitter last season.
“No offense to Alex, he has done a great job up there, but he is a middle-of-the-order bat. He was just the best thing we had up there,” Butler said. “It is going to be fun, because he (Aoki) is one of the first true leadoff guys I’m going to get to play with.”
As for the rumors involving his own career — that he’s been dangled as trade-bait — Butler said he simply doesn’t listen to them, and hasn’t for the last several seasons.
“Every year I’ve been (the subject of rumors), ever since I’ve been in the big leagues,” Butler said. “It’s been quite a while now, and I’m still a Kansas City Royal, so I take it with a grain of salt. I never got a call from Dayton (Moore), so I know nothing was serious.”
Now that the Royals are seeing success after his nine years with the franchise, Butler said he’s even happier to be sticking around.
“My personal success has always been there, but the team success this past year was great,” he said. “I’d hate to get to that point where we are on the verge of making the playoffs and winning the American League Central and then I’m not here anymore, because I’ve put 10 years into getting to this point so I’d like to stay here.”
Butler, who was back in Kansas City for the day to do some Christmas shopping, said he has been spending his offseason playing fantasy football and working out with a personal trainer five days a week for an hour or two at a time.