Royals lock up Alcides Escobar

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Ned Yost remembered seeing a young shortstop named Alcides Escobar when he was with the Milwaukee Brewers. The vision of him gliding across the infield never left Yost's mind, even when he took over the Kansas City Royals.

"I've loved this kid from the moment I laid eyes on him," Yost said.

He loved him more than ever on Thursday.

Escobar signed a four-year deal with Kansas City worth $10.5 million, with two club options that could drive the value to $21.75 million -- still well below market value for one of baseball's best shortstops, which is precisely what Yost believes Escobar can be.

"He's a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop," Yost said. "I personally think he's the best shortstop in the American League, if not in all of baseball.

"We've talked on many occasions how I think he's going to continue to grow offensively. He's just scratching the surface of what he's going to be able to accomplish offensively, and I love his energy. I love his personality and I love the way he loves to play the game. It's infectious."

Escobar will make $1 million this season and $3 million each of the next three seasons. The options are for $5.25 million in 2016 and $6.5 million in 2017 with $500,000 buyouts each year.

"I'm so happy for this situation, and I want to be here for a long time," Escobar said.

The 25-year-old Escobar was acquired from the Brewers in December 2010 in the deal that sent pitcher Zack Greinke to Milwaukee. He was immediately slotted into the Royals' starting lineup last season, hitting .254 with four homers and 46 RBIs while stealing 26 bases.

He joined Freddie Patek, U.L. Washington and Angel Berroa as the only shortstops in franchise history to steal at least 20 bases in a season.

"When you look at our defense in 2010, and we were I believe last in the American League, and of course we were able to execute that trade with Milwaukee and Alcides was the main player in that deal for us," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "You can't win championships without a shortstop, and he gives you the ability to stabilize your infield."