CHICAGO | There is little sense of urgency this year among the Royals as the July 31 nonwaiver trading deadline approaches. This time, there is no Octavio Dotel to be shopped hard for the best return.
“I’d never classify any player as untouchable,” general manager Dayton Moore said, “because I’m always looking to improve our baseball team.”
That’s about as specific as Moore gets when questioned about trade possibilities but, yes, the Royals will listen — and have listened — as offers surface for David DeJesus, José Guillen, Zack Greinke and Ron Mahay.
Club officials acknowledge privately they are disinclined to trade any of those players, unless overwhelmed by an offer, and see little chance for a major deal before the deadline.
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Gil Meche’s name continues to surface in trade rumors, but he has a no-trade clause and has said he doesn’t plan to waive it. Further, Moore says the Royals need Meche to build a contending team in coming years.
The club, in contrast, would welcome any reasonable offer for veteran second baseman Mark Grudzielanek, who becomes a free agent after the season. So far, there is little market for Grudzielanek, 38, despite his .308 average and steady defense.
“It will probably have to be a need-based thing for somebody,” a club official said. “Somebody loses a second baseman and really needs to go get one. Otherwise, I don’t see it happening.”
Several teams, sensing a buy-low opportunity, contacted the Royals about Guillen following his recent public rants regarding teammates and fans. The price, though, seems to start at two top prospects.
That cooled all inquiries.
Plus, the Royals seem more inclined to add a veteran bat before next season, probably through free agency, than to deal away Guillen, who leads the club in homers and RBIs while in the first season of a three-year deal.
DeJesus is having the best season of his six-year career, but his real value is in an under-market contract signed before the market’s latest acceleration. He makes just $14.3 million over the next three years.
The Royals would be shopping Mahay if, like Grudzielanek, he were in line to become a free agent after the season. But Mahay is under contract through next year, and the club isn’t anxious to surrender a veteran lefty who has been their best setup reliever.
Jimmy Gobble’s puzzling decline makes it even tougher to trade Mahay barring a can’t-refuse offer.
Greinke remains under club control via arbitration through the 2010 season. While the Royals show no inclination to explore a multi-year contract with Greinke _ a decision that could later prove costly — neither do club officials show much interest in trade probes.
“The main thing we’ve done,” Moore said, “is work to improve our pitching. We know we can’t build a championship ballclub without pitching and defense.”
Butler adjusts stance
Only time will tell whether an altered stance re-energizes Billy Butler at the plate, but Friday’s early returns were encouraging. Butler hit the ball hard four times and collected two hits, including a cannon shot of a homer.
“I looked at some video,” he said. “I don’t know if it was the cause of (his slump) or not, but I thought I was a little too close to the plate.”
Hitting coach Mike Barnett suggested Butler step back a little from the plate.
“We agreed that might free my hands up a little bit to get to some pitches,” Butler said, “and still be able to get to the outside part of the plate.”
Butler had a season-high four RBIs in Friday’s 9-5 loss after producing just one RBI in his previous 25 games. He also closed the pre-break schedule with just three hits in 35 at-bats.
“It didn’t look like he was pressing near as much,” manager Trey Hillman said. “He needs to continue to do what he did (Friday) — let the game come to him instead of forcing the issue. Just put good swings on the ball.”
“It’s all about going up there and hitting the ball on the screws,” he said. “Just try to hit the ball hard every time. It’s not going to work out every time, but if you put good swings on the ball, it’s going to work out more times than not.”
Teahen bats leadoff
Mark Teahen batted leadoff Saturday for the first time in his career in Hillman’s latest effort to jump-start the Royals’ attack.
“On-base percentage and walk ratio,” Hillman explained. “It’s something that has been thrown around. We’re lacking, obviously, production in the No. 3 slot. David’s (DeJesus) production is arguably the best we could have in the No. 3 slot.
“So the issue becomes how do you fill No. 1 slot? Teahen knows how to run the bases. He knows how, occasionally, to get a base-hit bunt. He knows how to take a walk.”
Teahen said he batted leadoff in high school. He has now batted in every position in the lineup in his four-year career.
“We’ll try it,” Hillman said, “and see how it works.”
Guillen still out
Guillen again wasn’t in the starting lineup because of back spasms but his improvement was deemed sufficiently improved to serve as a pinch-hitting option.
“He’s still stiff,” Hillman said, “and I want to be more careful than aggressive. I expect him to be back in there (Sunday).
Rehabbing lefty John Bale is expected to test his recovery from a broken hand by pitching one inning Sunday and Monday for Class AAA Omaha. Bale made two appearances last week for Class AA Northwest Arkansas.
•John Buck started at catcher for the seventh straight game, but Miguel Olivo is tentatively scheduled to start Sunday’s series finale.
•Outfielder Joey Gathright started for just the second time in eight games.
•Shortstop Mike Aviles entered Saturday with 15 hits in his last 34 at-bats. The surge follows a zero-for-17 skid.