12/01/08 8:14 PM EST
Grudzielanek looking beyond Royals
KC offers salary arbitration, but infielder likely to decline
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
"I'm probably 95 percent, 98 percent sure I'm going to pass on it," Grudzielanek said.
"Not that I wouldn't want to come back there. It's not that I had a problem with anybody there. It just comes down to my situation and my career where it's at right now. I'm going to be a little spoiled here and try to go to somebody who has a little bit more opportunity to push to the [World] Series."
The Royals offered arbitration Monday to Grudzielanek, their second baseman for the last three seasons, thereby assuring the club will receive a compensatory Draft pick in 2009 if he signs with another club. Grudzielanek is a Type-B free agent, meaning the Royals will get a "sandwich pick" after the first round of the First-Year Player Draft.
Officially Grudzielanek, the Royals' only six-year free agent, has until 11 p.m. CT on Sunday to accept the arbitration offer, which would have returned him to the 40-man roster. But he's ready to say no thanks.
"I'm an honest guy, I'm not going to beat around the bush. Mostly likely I'm going to reject that and move forward and see what's on the other side. Whether it's better or not, I think it's time to take that chance," Grudzielanek said from his San Diego home.
General manager Dayton Moore praised Grudzielanek's contributions.
"Mark Grudzielanek is an absolute pro and he's been a very productive player for the Royals the last three years," Moore said. "I expect him to do what's in the best interests for him and his family. I have nothing but great respect for him as a person and as a player."
Grudzielanek's decision was made after weeks of conferring with his agents, Keith Miller and Seth and Sam Levinson. Other clubs have expressed interest.
"Nothing's really happened yet but it's still real early," Grudzielanek said. "Just interest from five or six clubs and it's all early, all premature."
Grudzielanek emphasized that he had no problems with Moore, the Royals or Kansas City.
"I hope people do understand. I enjoyed my time there and really had a lot of fun," he said. "Tell the fans I really enjoyed it and the experience there for three years was a blast, and hopefully I helped out in moving the team forward -- whether it was between the lines or in the clubhouse."
Grudzielanek, 38, batted .300 overall in his three KC seasons while winning a Gold Glove Award in 2006 and being named Royals Player of the Year in 2007. Last season, he was limited to 89 games by injury but still batted .299.
"One of the best in the business is Dayton running the show and trying to get the players that will help get that team where they want to be," Grudzielanek said. "I'm just not so sure how quick it will be, and I'd rather not take that kind of a chance."
Grudzielanek made $4.5 million last season, and he realizes that by accepting salary arbitration, he could make more than that from the Royals in 2009.
"I know that, and it's not always about the money," he said. "I've played the game a long time and made a lot of money. It's part of it, but I'm at the point in my career where it's time to be in it in September and make a run at it. I've been with teams like that, and that's what it's all about. I'd like to go out like that."
Grudzielank played through two knee surgeries in 2007, and his 2008 season ended on Aug. 1, when he suffered a sprained right ankle in a collision with first baseman Ross Gload. Grudzielanek managed to see one positive in that.
"With that weird injury this year, I probably had two extra months off to get ready for next year. So I'm feeling really good physically, I can really bounce back after the knee surgeries and all of that and I really feel good," he said. "Next year, I feel I can make an impact."
Grudzielanek believes he has at least two solid seasons left, maybe more.
"We'll see what happens and turn the page," he said. "I'm looking forward to trying to help somebody else out and see if I can fit in somewhere as a piece of the puzzle."
The Royals have been looking for a seasoned middle infielder to pair with Mike Aviles, who emerged as the everyday shortstop during an outstanding rookie season. Grudzielanek obviously fit that profile.
Now they'll have to look elsewhere.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.