KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Royals bolstered their offense Monday by acquiring outfielder Josh Willingham from the Minnesota Twins, a move the long-suffering franchise hopes will help them end a playoff drought that stretches back nearly three decades.
Kansas City had won seven straight games entering its series opener against Oakland, climbing into the second wild-card spot and a half-game back of AL Central-leading Detroit.
The Royals have not been to the postseason since 1985, when they beat St. Louis to win the World Series. “Obviously the goal was to win with the Twins,” Willingham said from Houston, where the Twins were preparing to play the Astros. “Unfortunately, we weren’t. Now I have a chance to go help another club and hopefully make the playoffs.”
Willingham is expected to arrive in Kansas City in time for Tuesday night’s game. The Twins picked up minor league pitcher Jason Adam in the trade, while the Royals agreed to take on the remainder of Willingham’s contract — about $1.8 million of the $7 million that he was making in the final year of his three-year deal. Willingham was hitting just .210 for the Twins this season, but his 12 homers in limited at-bats were appealing for a Royals club that has struggled to find power.
“He had a big hit yesterday actually against Oakland. He’s a professional. He’s a winner,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “We feel very strong that he’s going to help our team. He’s the type of player and presence that you add at this time of year.”
Moore said that Willingham is more likely to serve as a designated hitter than play in the outfield, where there is already a logjam of players. Billy Butler, the club’s normal DH, has been forced to play first base while Eric Hosmer is on the disabled list with a right hand injury.
The Royals cleared space for Willingham on the 40-man roster by requesting unconditional release waivers on right-hander Wilking Rodriguez. They will still have to make a move to add Willingham to the 25-man roster when he reports to Kansas City.
AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken in Houston contributed to this report.