KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Hall of Famer George Brett doesn’t view the Royals blockbuster trade with Tampa Bay last week as a panicky move geared toward the present.
Instead, Brett sees the trade as a deal that helps secure the Royals’ future.
“A deal like this,” Brett told FOXSportsKansasCity.com, “lets everyone on the team know and lets everyone in baseball know the Royals have to be taken seriously now. We are players again in the big picture.
“It tells the young guys on this team, like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, that the Royals intend to compete for a long, long time. And if we are competitive in the next couple of years and make the playoffs, that’s going to make guys like Hoz and Moose think about staying here a long time.
“Hopefully they go to their agents and say ‘Hey, this is great playing here. Get the best deal you can because I want to stay here. We’re winning.’ “
Knowing he was going to play for a winner is the main reason Brett decided to stay in Kansas City his whole career. He signed a five-year contract in 1976, and another one in 1980 before signing his lifetime contract with the Royals.
“I never would have signed either one of those five-year deals if we hadn’t been a competitive team,” Brett said. “That was the difference for me, knowing each night I got to the ballpark we had a chance to win and each year we had a chance at the playoffs.
“That’s how most ballplayers think. They want to win. And I’m sure it’s the same for the Royals, guys like Moose and Hoz. They’re competitive and they want to win. And now we have a chance to win.”
Brett hopes the acquisition of starting pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis pushes the Royals into contention in the Central Division immediately.
“Of course, time will tell,” he said. “But, everything I have heard about Shields is that he’s a presence in that clubhouse. We need that, a guy who knows how to win and expects to win. He’s a leader for the younger guys. I’ve heard the same thing about Davis. He’s a quiet guy but he leads by example.”
Some fans in Kansas City have been bemoaning the loss of prospects Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard.
“I look at it this way: It’s like a chess match,” Brett said. “Maybe we had to give up a rook and a horse so we could get in position for checkmate. That’s how you play the game. You have to give up some pieces for the bigger goal.
“I hope guys like Myers and Odorizzi and Montgomery have a lot of success, Leonard, too. I don’t root against them. I hope they have big 10-year careers with Tampa, just like I hope the Royals are competitive over the next 10 years.
“But I will say this: None of them have done anything in the major leagues yet. I’ve seen too many guys have big minor-league careers and not do anything in the majors.”
Brett, in fact, had established a relationship with Myers and Odorizzi, and called both after the trade. His phone conversation with Odorizzi was somewhat comical.
“I just happened to call him out of the blue Sunday night when the deal went down,” Brett said. “I didn’t know the trade had happened. So I’m asking how he’s doing and all that and he says, ‘George, I’ve been traded to Tampa.’ And I went, ‘Whoa, really?’
“But he’s cool with the trade. He understands. Actually, I got to know him a little by accident. I was in Cancun (Mexico) for Jamie Quirk’s daughter’s wedding back in November. And Jake was staying at the same hotel – he happened to be getting married the very next day. So we got to know each other a little better.”
While Brett is rooting for the traded Royals’ prospects to be successful, he is also pumped about what the Royals’ off-season acquisitions mean for 2013.
“We’ve got four legitimate starters,” Brett said. “When was the last time we could say that?
“And the other thing I think that will happen is that our offense will get better. Guys will relax and not think they have to hit a three-run homer on every at bat because we’re always down 4-1. This is going to effect everyone in that clubhouse. It’s pretty exciting.”
Criticism that the Royals’ trade has completely depleted the Royals’ farm system practically makes Brett laugh.
“I heard that stuff on the radio,” Brett said, “that we’ve ruined our farm system. My response to that is it’s not like baseball is doing away with the draft. The Royals will have a draft this June and another one next June and another one the June after that. And they’ve been pretty good at this.
“They’ll keep drafting guys and restocking the system. And I guarantee you that there are some guys in the low minors right now we’ve never heard of who will get everybody’s attention, the same way Wil Myers did.”