Jarrod Dyson cried when he found out. He only knew one franchise. He only knew one city, one collection of friends.
It was the first week of January, and the Royals had just traded Dyson, a 32-year-old outfielder, to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for starting pitcher Nathan Karns. After parts of seven seasons in Kansas City, after two World Series appearances and a world championship, after years of offering swagger to a clubhouse, Dyson was moving on. He needed a moment to let it out.
“That was all I knew,” he said.
These days, though, Dyson can look at the offseason trade in more rational terms. He will be a free agent after this season. The Royals had a surplus of outfielders. He just wanted to go somewhere where he could play most days. Here in Seattle, the Mariners have offered that.
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“In my situation, I kind of figured it would be my last year,” Dyson said Monday, standing inside the home clubhouse at Safeco Field. “Because I had a decent enough year, and I was going to be looking for more playing time. And I was in a tough spot over there with the Royals, with the outfield being stacked.
“You miss the boys because you grew up with them. But this city is new to me, and I love it. But absolutely, I miss the boys and the fans.”
On Monday afternoon, Dyson reunited with his old teammates as the Royals arrived in Seattle for a three-game series. Royals manager Ned Yost offered a hug. His old friends offered trash talk. But in his first season in Seattle, Dyson has settled into a comfortable routine.
“If you asked me: ‘Would I rather be doing what I’m doing now or with the Royals and not playing?’ I’d tell you I’d rather be here,” he said.
As Monday began, Dyson was batting .253 with a .331 on-base percentage and 19 stolen bases in 76 games. He has started 57 games in center field and another 12 in left. After a sluggish start at the plate, he batted .333 with a .372 on-base percentage in June. The production has helped the Mariners climb back into the American League Wild Card race. The numbers have solidified Dyson as an everyday player.
On the field, Dyson has added defense and athleticism to the Mariners’ lineup. In the clubhouse, his booming voice can carry across the room. For years, Dyson served as team provocateur in Kansas City, a spark plug who provided an edge. He’s brought some of that to Seattle, Mariners manager Scott Servais says. But in some ways, he’s become more reserved. Well, relatively speaking.
“When he’s not playing, he probably tends to pop off a little bit more,” Servais said. “And I joke with him: ‘That’s your comfort zone because you never played in Kansas City.’ ”
For now, Dyson is playing. But his future also remains uncertain. He will be a free agent when the season is over. And so will the Royals’ Lorenzo Cain. It’s possible that the Royals could be looking for a center fielder this offseason, whether that’s Cain or someone else on the free-agent market. Could a Dyson reunion be a possibility?
“I can’t make no promises that I’m coming back there,” Dyson said. “I love it where I’m at. Everything is gonna have to go right for me to come back, I think.
“They can have a spot (open). I ain’t looking for just a spot right now. I gave them a lot of my years over there, bro. Right now, I’m gonna do what’s best for me. It’s not a knock against them. It boils down to business. That’s how everybody else approaches it. That’s how you have to approach it.”
Dyson says he understood the business nature of the game before. He saw players come and go. He saw friends lose jobs. But that side of the game came into focus after he was dealt to Seattle. He loved his time in Kansas City, he says. He loved the team, loved the fans, loved general manager Dayton Moore. He loved the memories they made. But now that’s in the past, and he’s onto the next chapter. For the moment, it feels like the right spot.
“I appreciate everything the Royals did for me,” Dyson said. “They gave me a chance to succeed in my career and I appreciate that. I could have been out of the game. They kept me around. Dayton Moore did a great job with that. And I can’t do nothing but praise them for that.”