Kansas City, Mo. Mike Sweeney, frustrated that the Kansas City Royals didn't go after more free agents during the off-season, says he would consider a trade if he could play for a contending team.
The Royals first baseman and team captain has a limited no-trade clause in the five-year, $55 million contract extension he signed in March 2002. He said he signed that contract after Royals owner David Glass told him of plans to increase the payroll and add players that would help the struggling team become a contender.
"It's frustrating when you're told they're going to build the team around you," Sweeney said. "I was willing to do that. I said, 'Just show me that it'll be worth it for me.' Not financially, but just show me you're going to build a team, a winning team, around me.
"I don't feel like Mr. Glass lied to me. He's a fine man. I just feel like I've been misled a little bit."
Glass said he didn't recall telling Sweeney about a substantial payroll increase, and that paying more for players didn't guarantee a winning team.
"I think Mike's just misled or doesn't understand," Glass said. "I don't think the size of the payroll determines how good your team is. There were a lot of teams with a smaller payroll that won a lot more games than we did. The quality of the players matters most."
After the Royals surprised everyone in 2003 by staying in pennant contention until late in the season, expectations were high for last season. But the team collapsed, losing 104 games.
"No one played better last year, including Michael," Glass said. "He had a lousy year."
Sweeney has been troubled with back problems that caused him to miss 146 games over the last three seasons.
Last year, when he sat out the last 42 games because of a herniated disk, he hit .287 with 22 home runs and 79 runs batted in. In 2000, his last full season before the back problems started, he had a .333 average, 29 homers and 144 RBIs.
Glass said the Royals were putting together a team "with a lot of young talent" and that he hoped Sweeney wanted to be a part of it.
This season's lineup will include young players like John Buck, David DeJesus, Angel Berroa and, eventually, promising rookie Mark Teahen.
The team acquired veteran outfielders Terrence Long and Eli Marrero in trades, and the major free agent signing was pitcher Jose Lima, who returns to the Royals after spending last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"I would have liked to see them be a little more aggressive," said Sweeney, who had expected the annual payroll to increase from $44 million last season to around $55 million or $60 million. However, the payroll will drop a bit this season.
"I'm definitely not throwing up the white flag and saying get me out of here," Sweeney said. "But I am saying I'm frustrated."
He said that if general manager Allard Baird told him that a team with a consistent winning record was interested, "I'd have to pray about it, speak to my wife, speak to my family and then make a decision."
"Would I slam the door on it? No way. I'm not 25. I'm 31 years old. Only God knows how many years I have left to play. I want a chance to play in October."
Declining to talk about the possibility of trading Sweeney, Baird said the Royals were a completely different team when he was in the lineup but that "overall success is going to come from young kids stepping up to the next level."