On July 31, Kansas City trailed Detroit by five games in the American League Central. As the Royals front office scrambled to make additions, unable to add payroll, the Tigers showed their might by acquiring former American League Cy Young award winner David Price. The juxtaposition stung, and did not exactly thrill inside the Royals’ clubhouse.
Flash forward less than two weeks later. The Royals now own first place, albeit by a half game. But they also displayed some financial flexibility, taking on the $1.836 million remaining on Minnesota outfielder Josh Willingham’s contract when they acquired him in exchange for pitching prospect Jason Adam.
Willingham is 35. He has hit 12 homers in 68 games this season. He also missed 41 games with a fractured wrist. He is not expected to be a savior.
“We can always use power,” Billy Butler said. “It’s a great addition. He’ll fit right in here with these guys. I’ve heard nothing but great things. He’s a great clubhouse guy. He’s great in every area. We’ll welcome him.”
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Willingham will become the team’s regular designated hitter. He may sit on occasion against right-handed pitchers to give Raul Ibanez a start. But general manager Dayton Moore projected Willingham as a fixture in the middle of the club’s lineup.
“I think it’s going to help us,” manager Ned Yost said. “Another veteran presence. We talked about needing a veteran right-handed bat. He fits that bill perfectly for us.”
Willingham arrives on Tuesday. He will join a first-place club, one which has roared to the top in the past two weeks.
“No matter if they make moves or not, we’ve got to still get our jobs done,” James Shields said. “I think that’s the attitude we’ve had. I think we believe in ourselves, and our team, and I think it’s shown over the last two weeks.
“I think adding Willingham just adds another powerful bat.”
FROM THE STAR
A small bit of bedlam broke out at Kauffman Stadium as the Royals reclaimed first place.
An hour before the game, the team announced a deal for Willingham.
Sam Mellinger explains what we actually talk about when we talk about this trade.
Eric Hosmer hopes on Thursday he can receive clearance to swing a bat.
THE ROYALS’ PLAYOFF PERCENTAGE (ACCORDING TO BASEBALL PROSPECTUS)
HERE IS SOME ROCK MUSIC
“Distance, Etc.” by Nai Harvest.