Johnnny Damon, symbol of Royals fan frustration. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Kansas City Royals Swap Meet

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)
CHC April 1995 Brian McRae 3.6 13.2
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)
DET July 2011 Wilson Betemit 2.2 3.7
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)
LAA April 1974 Paul Schaal 9.5 3.1
LAD July 2010 Scott Podsednik 1.5 12.4 Elisaul Pimentel
MIL Dec 2010 Zack Greinke 22.7 24.4 Cain/Odorizzi/Escobar/Jeffress
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)
NYY Dec 1973 Lou Piniella 2.9 11.4
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)
PHI April 1979 Doug Bird 7.7 8.9
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)
SEA June 1978 Jim Colborn 3.4 15.8
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)
TB June 2006 J.P. Howell -0.5 2.7
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

We can only imagine what could have been. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

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.

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Bret Saberhagen Carlos Beltran Cedric Tallis Kansas City Royals KC KC Royals Mark Teahen MLB Royals Zack Greinke

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