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.

TeamMonthYearPlayerRoyals WARCareer WAR*Notes
ARIMay2010Carlos Rosa0.30.4Rey Navarro
ARIDec2007Billy Bucker0.3-1.4Alberto Callaspo (4.3)
ATLDec1989Charlie Leibrandt21.431.7Gerald Perry (0.2 in one year)
BALJune2004Jason Grimsley44.4Denny Bautista (0.4)
BOSOct1973Dick Drago13.921.3for Marty Pattin (12.5 WAR to that point, 8.1 w/ Royals after)
CHCApril1995Brian McRae3.613.2
CHWOct1970Pat Kelly – OF2.99.3
CINNov1987Danny Jackson10.316.4For Kurt Stillwell (6.4)
CINNov1972Roger Nelson7.89.5Hal McRae (26.4)
CLEJune1988Bud Black12.319.6Pat Tabler (-2.6)
COLJuly2001Jermaine Dye8.317.7Neifi Perez (-1.9)
DETJuly2011Wilson Betemit2.23.7
FLAOct2008Juan Oviedo0.93Mike Jacobs (-0.9)
HOUJuly2004Carlos Beltran24.660.8Teahen/Buck/Wood (4.2 combined)
LAAOct1996Mark Gubicza35.634.8Chili Davis (2.3 in 1 yr) Gubicza played one more year – broken leg July 1996
LAADec1979Al Cowens10.712Willie Aikens (5.5)
LAAApril1974Paul Schaal9.53.1
LADJuly2010Scott Podsednik1.512.4Elisaul Pimentel
MILDec2010Zack Greinke22.724.4Cain/Odorizzi/Escobar/Jeffress
MINOct1973Tom Burgmeier0.711.9Only player KC has ever traded to MIN
NYMDec1991Bret Saberhagen37.354.7McReynolds(Coleman)/Miller/Jefferies (Jose) combined for 1.9
NYMMarch1987David Cone-0.157.5Ed Hearn. Cone had 19 WAR as Met. Re-signed in 93 w/ KC
NYYMay1976Fran Healy4.35.1for Larry Gura (16.6 WAR for KC)
NYYDec1973Lou Piniella2.911.4
OAKJuly1999Kevin Appier44.150.4Brad Rigby/Blake Stein/Jeff D’Amico (1.7)
OAKJan2001Johnny Damon16.251.6Angel Berroa/Roberto Hernandez (5.2)
OAKApril1998Mike Macfarlane14.817.1Shane Mack (0.2)
PHIApril1979Doug Bird7.78.9
PITDec1973Ed Kirkpatrick9.38.4Nelson Briles (1.7)
SDDec1995Wally Joyner6.834.2Bip Roberts (2.0)
SEAJune1978Jim Colborn3.415.8
SFNov2011Melky Cabrera2.97.7Jonathan Sanchez (TBD)
SFOct1970Fran Healy0.15.1traded back, added 4.2 with KC, traded for Gura
STLFeb1993Gregg Jefferies1.517.5Felix Jose (-0.2)
TBJune2006J.P. Howell-0.52.7
TEXJuly1997Tom Goodwin2.16.3Dean Palmer (2.2) 34 homers in 1998
TORFeb1983Cecil Fieldern/a15.3Fielder never played past minors for KC.
TORApril1995David Cone12.757.512.8 in two years w/KC, 1993 CYA
TORDec1983Willie Aikens5.56.3Jorge Orta
WASJan1985U.L. Washington6.26.6traded 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.

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