CHICAGO (AP) _ Kansas City sent Brian McRae packing, and the outfielder couldn’t be happier.
``I’m excited to play for a team that wants me,″ McRae said. ``The Cubs do; obviously, the Royals don’t. I think the Cubs are going to get the best end of the trade.″
The financially troubled Royals traded McRae on Wednesday in return for two minor-league pitchers. Kansas City is expected to shed players who command big bucks under reinstated salary arbitration rules.
McRae, a free agent, said he’s excited by the prospect of playing at Wrigley Field, but expects it to be a challenge to switch to the National League from the American.
``I saw my first game two years ago and I got chills just walking in there,″ he said.
Cubs field manager Jim Riggleman, at the team’s spring training camp in Mesa, Ariz., said the Cubs already have a wealth of outfielders, but McRae is an All-Star-caliber player.
``I think our infield is pretty solid. With the kind of outfield we can have, I think it can give our pitchers confidence,″ Riggleman said.
McRae, 27, batted .273 with four home runs and 40 RBIs last season. In his four-plus years with Kansas City, McRae has hit .262 with 30 home runs and 248 RBIs. He was a first-round draft pick in 1985.
The Cubs will send pitchers Derek Wallace and Geno Morones to the Royals. Wallace pitched for Orlando and Iowa in the Cubs farm system last year, while Morones spent last season at Class A Daytona.
Kansas City general manager Herk Robinson said he was happy with the trade.
``We had an opportunity to acquire two young pitchers with outstanding arms, and this supports our philosophy of further strengthening our nucleus of prospects,″ he said.
Robinson was faced with ditching players or getting clobbered in arbitration hearings. He’s trying to hold the payroll to about $31 million. It had been more than $40 million.
The Royals had seven players under contract for 1995 at a total of more than $21 million. That doesn’t leave much for the remaining 18 players on the 25-man roster.
Those who were seen as likely to be traded included McRae and pitchers Kevin Appier and Tom Gordon.
Appier’s 1994 contract was for $3.8 million, McRae was at $1.9 million and Gordon at $2.635 million. All were likely to seek considerably higher figures in arbitration.
The Royals were already losing about $16 million even without the strike, team president Mike Herman has said. That made the Royals No. 1 among major league money-losers, according to the team’s own projections.
The Royals were concentrating on building farm teams until the strike forced them to shut down their fall instructional league. The team hoped to straighten out the payroll by 1996 by letting long-term contracts expire and signing younger, less expensive players.
The reinstated arbitration rules, imposed by a federal court injunction that was upheld Tuesday, probably forced them to speed up their timetable.