With the winter meetings coming up, trade rumors are spreading around like wildfire and it gets me in the mood to relive history with some of the past deals the Royals front office have made. The very first one that comes to my mind, for good reason, is the trade of Jose Bautista for Justin Huber the day before the trading deadline in 2004. Huber was a highly touted catcher in the Mets system and Bautista played in 13 games for the Royals hitting .200 at the time of the deal with 12 strike outs to only one walk. At the time no one even batted an eye to Bautista leaving, but now it definitely goes down as one of the worst trades in team history. A column by Bleacher Report writer, Sean Rinehart, ranks this as the 9th worst deal in the history of the American League Central.
If you really break it down from the beginning, I would say the Royals received the best haul in the deal. Huber was a talented 21 year old catcher and was the fifth best prospect in 2003 and 2004 according to The Baseball Cube. Around this time Bautista was struggling just to find some stability and a solid home. Afterall, he ended the 2004 season as a 23 year old utility man with 40 strike outs and seven walks in 96 plate appearances. He didn’t show many signs of pop as he ended the season with three extra base hits, all of which were doubles. So, who would be able to predict that six years later he would belt over 50 home runs?
Huber, in 2005, led the Texas League in batting in his first full year in the Royals system. At this point, the trade seemed to be working in the Royals favor. This landed him a promotion to the big club where he hit .218 in 25 games notching six RBI and 17 hits in his first major league season. Also, Huber was only the designated hitter or first baseman due to a knee injury that cut his 2004 season short in August after the Royals received him.
We turn to now, where Bautista is, arguably, the most feared right-handed power bat in the game. His big breakthrough came in 2010 when he hammered a major-league leading 54 bombs. This garnered him major attention and his first All-Star appearance and a Silver Slugger award. In his stellar 2010 he also finished fourth in the MVP balloting. He followed up his breakthrough campaign with a solid 2011 where he led the majors again with 43 home runs and finished 3rd in the MVP balloting. An injury stalled his 2012 season but he was able to put on a show for his former team’s home town fans as he finished second behind Prince Fielder in the Home Run Derby.
Huber played a total of three seasons for the Royals, compiling 98 at bats. He collected 20 hits, 7 RBI, and struck out 26 times. The Royals decided to part ways with Huber in 2008 and received cash from the San Diego Padres in a trade that took place in March of 2008. He finished a brief stint with Padres that year hitting .246 in 33 games. His last run in the big leagues ended up in Minnesota as he had 2 at bats for the Twins in 2009. He has recently been playing for the Melbourne Aces in the Australian Baseball League. Obviously, this trade didn’t end up in the Royals favor but there were a number of other teams who moved on without Bautista, so it’s really hard to have a gripe with a trade like this. It’s just too bad Joey Bats wasn’t able to break out in Kansas City instead of Toronto.