For some reason, I found myself on the Royals fan page on Facebook yesterday. Typically, my medium of baseball discussion is Twitter, but with a few announcements of one-year deals for pre-arbitration players (like Eric Hosmer et al), there were some fans who decided to comment who clearly didn’t know the rules of team control and service time in relation to baseball contracts.
Some were decrying these one-year deals, saying sarcastically that it was a real commitment to the future by signing guys to a contract for one year. Despite pleas from myself and others, the message wasn’t sinking in. Then, someone mentioned that these players would soon be Yankees if Kansas City doesn’t lock them up.
That got me to thinking – I couldn’t come up with an example off the top of my head of a big trade involving the Royals and Yankees. Some discussion on Twitter unearthed that the only two significant players to sign with New York immediately after leaving the Royals as free agents were Danny Tartabull (1992) and Chili Davis (1998). From there, I used Baseball-Reference’s handy team-to-team trade history tool to look at trades involving the Royals and Yankees. There have been seven. Total. The two biggest names involved were Lou Piniella (1973) and Fran Healy (1976). Of those two, Piniella had a higher career WAR, but Healy had more WAR as a Royal. Still, at the time of the trade, Healy’s 4.3 WAR (cumulative as a Royal) makes him the biggest producer the Royals have ever traded to the Yankees (and the player the Royals received was Larry Gura, who ended up in the Royals Hall of Fame.)
Well I couldn’t just stop at the Yankees, so below, you’ll find a table listing the most productive players the Royals have ever traded to each team in the big leagues. It’s pretty simple – the “Royals WAR” is the total WAR produced while that player was a Kansas City Royal. In some cases, I added a note of who the Royals received or other interesting trivia attached to the move. It’s an interesting – and sometimes painful – look at Royals trades of the past. I’ve also included additional trades of interest when necessary or in the case of a tie in Royals WAR.
*This is the WAR for their whole career, before, during and after being a Royal.
|Team||Month||Year||Player||Royals WAR||Career WAR*||Notes|
|ARI||May||2010||Carlos Rosa||0.3||0.4||Rey Navarro|
|ARI||Dec||2007||Billy Bucker||0.3||-1.4||Alberto Callaspo (4.3)|
|ATL||Dec||1989||Charlie Leibrandt||21.4||31.7||Gerald Perry (0.2 in one year)|
|BAL||June||2004||Jason Grimsley||4||4.4||Denny Bautista (0.4)|
|BOS||Oct||1973||Dick Drago||13.9||21.3||for Marty Pattin (12.5 WAR to that point, 8.1 w/ Royals after)|
|CHW||Oct||1970||Pat Kelly – OF||2.9||9.3|
|CIN||Nov||1987||Danny Jackson||10.3||16.4||For Kurt Stillwell (6.4)|
|CIN||Nov||1972||Roger Nelson||7.8||9.5||Hal McRae (26.4)|
|CLE||June||1988||Bud Black||12.3||19.6||Pat Tabler (-2.6)|
|COL||July||2001||Jermaine Dye||8.3||17.7||Neifi Perez (-1.9)|
|FLA||Oct||2008||Juan Oviedo||0.9||3||Mike Jacobs (-0.9)|
|HOU||July||2004||Carlos Beltran||24.6||60.8||Teahen/Buck/Wood (4.2 combined)|
|LAA||Oct||1996||Mark Gubicza||35.6||34.8||Chili Davis (2.3 in 1 yr) Gubicza played one more year – broken leg July 1996|
|LAA||Dec||1979||Al Cowens||10.7||12||Willie Aikens (5.5)|
|LAD||July||2010||Scott Podsednik||1.5||12.4||Elisaul Pimentel|
|MIN||Oct||1973||Tom Burgmeier||0.7||11.9||Only player KC has ever traded to MIN|
|NYM||Dec||1991||Bret Saberhagen||37.3||54.7||McReynolds(Coleman)/Miller/Jefferies (Jose) combined for 1.9|
|NYM||March||1987||David Cone||-0.1||57.5||Ed Hearn. Cone had 19 WAR as Met. Re-signed in 93 w/ KC|
|NYY||May||1976||Fran Healy||4.3||5.1||for Larry Gura (16.6 WAR for KC)|
|OAK||July||1999||Kevin Appier||44.1||50.4||Brad Rigby/Blake Stein/Jeff D’Amico (1.7)|
|OAK||Jan||2001||Johnny Damon||16.2||51.6||Angel Berroa/Roberto Hernandez (5.2)|
|OAK||April||1998||Mike Macfarlane||14.8||17.1||Shane Mack (0.2)|
|PIT||Dec||1973||Ed Kirkpatrick||9.3||8.4||Nelson Briles (1.7)|
|SD||Dec||1995||Wally Joyner||6.8||34.2||Bip Roberts (2.0)|
|SF||Nov||2011||Melky Cabrera||2.9||7.7||Jonathan Sanchez (TBD)|
|SF||Oct||1970||Fran Healy||0.1||5.1||traded back, added 4.2 with KC, traded for Gura|
|STL||Feb||1993||Gregg Jefferies||1.5||17.5||Felix Jose (-0.2)|
|TEX||July||1997||Tom Goodwin||2.1||6.3||Dean Palmer (2.2) 34 homers in 1998|
|TOR||Feb||1983||Cecil Fielder||n/a||15.3||Fielder never played past minors for KC.|
|TOR||April||1995||David Cone||12.7||57.5||12.8 in two years w/KC, 1993 CYA|
|TOR||Dec||1983||Willie Aikens||5.5||6.3||Jorge Orta|
|WAS||Jan||1985||U.L. Washington||6.2||6.6||traded to Expos|
What’s depressing to see is the parade of great players that the Royals have dealt off without getting much in return. In a couple of cases, you can see that the majority of a player’s WAR was accumulated as a Royal (like Mark Gubicza or Kevin Appier) which suggests that in those cases, the Royals got about all they could out of them, but along with that come the David Cones and Carlos Beltrans who are particularly painful. Cone was traded twice by the Royals and Kansas City received Ed Hearn and Chris Stynes to show for it.
Beltran is even worse because he was traded after many great seasons with the Royals, continued to improve and stands as the best player the Royals have ever traded. At the same time, after the trades of Jermaine Dye and Johnny Damon, he fits into the narrative of the small-market Royals and their inability to retain the talent they develop.
That’s where I think the bitterness and cynicism comes from when discussing the team with more casual, occasional followers of the team. Bret Saberhagen is another big name who continued to produce value in his post-Royals career as well as Damon (of course) and some like Brian McRae and Tom Burgmeier went on to productive careers as roleplayers.
The Royals rarely won a trade when trading their higher value players. When receiving “established” players, they either turned around and traded them away (Jefferies) or were getting them for one or two years (Gerald Perry, Dean Palmer) and a lot of the prospects received didn’t pan out beyond one summer of greatness (Mark Teahen, Angel Berroa).
So far Dayton Moore hasn’t had the worst track record in trades, but he’s not Cedric Tallis either. Tallis acquired John Mayberry, Cookie Rojas, Freddie Patek, Hal McRae and Amos Otis in trades for hardly anything. All five are in the Royals Hall of Fame.
Your move, Dayton.