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Guillen deal spanned Winter Meetings

Guillen deal spanned Winter Meetings

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Jose Guillen deal extended from virtually the beginning of the Winter Meetings to the end. Finally, however, the Royals stamped DONE on it and they had the right-handed slugger they coveted.

Guillen, the 31-year-old Major League traveler, agreed to a three-year, $36-million contract with the Royals late Monday night. After he passed a physical examination, the deal became official on Thursday morning.

Mr. Guillen, sign in please.

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Even after getting Guillen, however, the Royals retained an interest in another right-handed slugger: Andruw Jones. That hope evaporated when Jones agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, also for $36 million, but for just two years.

Clouding the Guillen signing was talk of a possible suspension over his alleged purchases of human growth hormone, banned by the Major Leagues in 2005. The Commissioner's Office has talked to Guillen and is investigating the matter.

The Royals will be the ninth Major League stop for Guillen in 12 years. His resume includes the Pirates, Rays, Diamondbacks, Reds, A's, Angels, Nationals and Mariners.

Last season for the Mariners, his .290 average included a .362 (50-for-138) mark against left-handed pitchers, second best in the American League. Against AL Central clubs, he batted .329 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs in 39 games.

Guillen has topped the 20-homer mark in four of the last five seasons, with a high of 31 in 2003. He banged 23 last year.

The acquisition of Guillen was the Royals' only major move at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. Just before heading for the Music City, though, the Royals had ministered to another need by signing reliever Yasuhiko Yabuta.

Yabuta, from the Japan League, is seen as the likely successor to David Riske in a right-handed setup role. Riske, after one fine season, left the Royals for a three-year, $13 million contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. Riske's deal was laden with incentives that could drive it to $20 million if he becomes the closer.

The Royals still would like to further fortify their bullpen, and they wouldn't be averse to adding more lineup sock, either. But their primary remaining objective is obtaining a starting pitcher.

Hiroki Kuroda, a highly regarded Japanese right-hander, is on the Royals' radar, but several other teams are in pursuit as well. Next week, Kuroda is coming to the United States to talk to various clubs, starting his tour in Seattle where the Mariners are an attentive suitor.

Winter Meetings

There's no word on whether Kuroda's tour might include Kansas City.

"We're still working to improve our team," general manager Dayton Moore said. "There are a lot of different scenarios out there."

Moore left Nashville early Thursday before the Rule 5 Draft. He already knew the Royals would not be selecting in the Major League portion because the club had stayed with the maximum 40 players on its roster.

No other club selected a Royals farmhand during the Major League phase.

Deals done: Guillen's signing of a three-year contract was the only major development. Pitcher Colby Lewis was released so he could sign in Japan and first baseman Craig Brazell was sold to the Seibu Lions.

Rule 5 activity: The Royals' only pick up came for Triple-A Omaha in left-handed pitcher Ray Liotta, who missed last season because of shoulder surgery, from the White Sox organization. The Royals lost right-handed reliever Gabe DeHoyos, 6-0 with a 1.64 ERA for Double-A Wichita and 0-1 with a 5.52 ERA for Omaha. He was selected by the Padres.

Goals accomplished: For a team that was last in Major League home runs with 102, the acquisition of Guillen was a big step. He'll provide lineup protection for young hitters such as Mark Teahen and Alex Gordon.

Unfinished business: A starting pitcher to complement Gil Meche, Brian Bannister and Zack Greinke is still a high priority. More bullpen help to offset Greinke's move to the rotation and Riske's move to Milwaukee is needed, too.

GM's bottom line: "We've made our team better. At this point, we feel comfortable, we feel confident that we've improved our baseball team" -- Moore

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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