Kansas City may no longer be the Siberia of the major leagues.
In years past, it seemed every veteran in KC was ready to pack his bags and head for greener pastures. Dating back to the 1990s, it seemed no one really wanted to stay with the Royals if there were bigger paydays and playoff games waiting elsewhere.
The trend continued right up to the past off-season, when the Royals had to part ways with Zack Greinke because the kid just could not wait around for the team to develop its young talent.
But in the last few weeks, at least one veteran has voiced his desire to help KC build a contender, then backed up those words by putting his name on a contract extension.
After putting together a solid first half, teams were actually inquiring about trades for the much-maligned Jeff Francoeur. But Francoeur went public, proclaiming his faith in the direction of the franchise and expressing his desire to be part of the movement.
Now, you might be tempted to question the motives of a player basically lobbying for a job. Considering it was just a few months ago that no one saw Francoeur as more than a platoon player, it might seem he was just trying to parlay a few good months into a secure gig.
But Francoeur could have kept silent long enough to let the game play out. A trade to a contending team at a time when he was playing well could have helped to resurrect his image.
Instead Francoeur chose to speak out about his satisfaction with the city, the team and the leadership of the franchise. And last week he signed on for two more seasons, making himself a part of the rebuilding project during those crucial seasons when he will be 28 and 29 years old.
What’s the big deal? Well, though Francoeur may not be Willie Mays, he is a legit major leaguer with experience in big markets and playoff races. And he wants to play the prime years of his career in KC.
That example should carry some weight with other players nearing the end of their contracts – Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, Joakim Soria. The Royals must put a lock on the revolving door that has permitted the exit of every talented player (minus Mike Sweeney) seemingly since the 1990s.
In order to build a winner, not only do you have to grow up young talent, you have to be able to retain the good players you want to keep. Signing Francoeur looks like a step in the right direction.