Billy Butler says he thinks a 25-year playoff drought is nearing an end for the Kansas City Royals.
Butler is full of hope, boosted by the Royals' highly regarded minor league system. He's part of the future, too, after getting a four-year, $30 million contract over the weekend.
"Overall, both sides are happy," Butler said Monday. "I couldn't be happier in Kansas City. I've worked so long already to bring a winner to Kansas City I don't want to go anywhere else and win there. I want to win here."
Butler spoke to The Associated Press during the Royals' caravan to the home of their Double-A affiliate in Northwest Arkansas. He cited his good relationship with Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore as a reason for agreeing to the deal.
Butler said he thinks the Royals could soon post their first winning season since 2003, even though they traded former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke to Milwaukee this offseason.
The first baseman set career highs with a .318 average, 189 hits, 69 walks and a .388 on-base percentage last year. In four major league seasons, he has a .299 average with 55 home runs and 278 RBIs.
Butler pointed to top prospects Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer as reasons the Royals could soon win, and said Moore didn't have to work hard to convince him that top talent is on the way.
"I've known those guys ever since they got drafted," Butler said. "I made it a point to go and talk with them and build a relationship with them, because Moustakas and Hosmer are going to be the guys protecting me. And I'm going to be protecting them. That's the bottom line."
Kansas City owner David Glass, also at Monday's caravan near his Arkansas home, said Butler's signing is a key for the Royals.
"We're going through a transition right now where we're beginning to see the results of what we started about five years ago," Glass said. "He'll be a big help in that, because you need a veteran presence to make it work."
It hasn't been an easy offseason for Kansas City. Greinke had made it clear he wasn't willing to wait for the Royals' prospects and wanted to win now.
Glass, who spoke fondly of Greinke at this same caravan before signing the pitcher to a four-year contract two years ago, said he wished the right-hander well with the Brewers. He also admitted to facing plenty of questions from Kansas City fans about the trade, which brought in more prospects from Milwaukee.
"He's a good kid and I have a great relationship with Zack," Glass said. "I really, really want him to be successful and I hope he can get into the postseason with Milwaukee this year. He's got a world of ability."
"As time plays out," Glass said, fans will "judge the trade then."
Butler said he hasn't talked with Greinke since the trade, adding "Zack doesn't talk to anybody." He said Greinke's desire to win now put the Royals in a difficult position and they made the best of the situation with the trade.
"You want a player happy," Butler said. "And he wasn't happy here anymore, and you don't want that on your team. It's not good for your team.
"We felt like we got great return, so hopefully it works out for him in Milwaukee. That's pretty much all we could do."
Glass said he is well aware Royals fans are "starving for a winner," and he expects that to happen within the next few years.
"It's been a long time," Glass said. "The fans deserve a winning team in Kansas City, and I'm absolutely convinced that with this transition we'll be very competitive in our division year after year for some period of time."
Butler agreed, but he wasn't giving up on the immediate future, either.
"We are striving and preparing to win the American League Central and go deep into the playoffs," Butler said. "That's our goal. Anything less and we might as well stay home. You can't prepare any other way."