SEATTLE | José Guillen chose to depart Kansas City on the high road Thursday afternoon after his often-volatile time with the Royals came to an end after two-plus seasons.
“This is all good for me and the Royals,” he said. “I understand the business side of the game. They couldn’t trade me, and they wanted to go with some young guys and get a look at them. It’s just one of those things.”
The Royals, in all likelihood, walked away from roughly $4 million choosing to designate Guillen for assignment.
“You never want to do that,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “It wasn’t our expectation when the season began, but we just felt we had to move forward at this point in time with other players and give them an opportunity to play.
“It was better for everybody just to move on.”
The move clears the way for Kila Ka'aihue to get regular duty either as the first baseman or designated hitter in tandem with Billy Butler.
Ka'aihue, 26, batted .319 in 94 games at Class AAA Omaha with 24 homers and 78 RBIs prior to his recall last Sunday to the big leagues.
The Royals replaced Guillen on the roster by purchasing the contract of right-handed pitcher Philip Humber from Omaha.
Humber, 27, was 5-6 with a 4.47 ERA in 21 games for the O-Royals and is expected to join the club prior to Friday's game against the Mariners. He was selected last week as the top pitcher in the Pacific Coast League.
Guillen was a free agent following the 2007 season when the Royals, desperate for a run-production bat, signed him to a three-year deal for $36 million.
By that measure, the signing was a partial success. Guillen led the Royals in 2008 with 20 homers and 97 RBIs. Injuries limited him last season to 81 games, but he rebounded this season, and his 16 homers and 62 RBIs are tops on the club.
But Guillen’s mercurial nature, which regularly surfaced in sharply-worded criticism of teammates and fans, often overshadowed any on-field accomplishments.
“I had some great teammates here,” he said, “and I really liked Kansas City. I know it got a little rough at times. My passion is I want to win, and sometimes that gets misunderstood by people.”
The club’s decision follows unsuccessful attempts to trade Guillen, 34, prior to last Saturday’s non-waiver deadline. He went unclaimed earlier this week when sent through waivers.
The lack of a claim doesn’t necessarily reflect a lack of interest. Claiming a player on waivers requires that a club pick up the entire contract.
“There was some interest, some legitimate interest (prior to the deadline),” Moore said, “but some other deals were made that people preferred. Teams that were looking to acquire a right-handed bat or more offense were able to do that with other players.”
It remains possible that Guillen could be traded in the next 10 days, but interested clubs have little incentive to make a deal since he is in line to become a free agent who can be signed for a pro-rated portion of the major-league minimum salary – roughly $135,000.
The Royals would then remain on the hook for the balance of Guillen’s guaranteed contract.
“Now, I’m on standby and waiting to see who tries to get me,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a lot of interest. There are a lot of teams in the pennant race looking for help.”