Royals: Examining Kansas City’s best three trades ever

Kansas City Royals (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
Kansas City Royals (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images) /
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Kansas City Royals (Otto Greule/Allsport)
18 Jun 1995: Pitcher Jeff Montgomery of the Kansas City Royals in action during a game against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Alameda county Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Athletics won the game 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule /Allsport /

In this final installment of our two-part series about key trades the Kansas City Royals have made, we take a look at the club’s best three deals and two that deserve honorable mention.

The Kansas City Royals have made several hundred trades since they began putting the club together in 1968. Some were bad — who can forget the trade of Carlos Beltran or the decisions to trade David Cone but twice? But some of the Royals’ trades have been good, and some historically so. In this finale to our two-part series about Royals trades, we examine the best of the best.

Honorable Mention: A replacement for Quiz

The 1980 World Series and 1985 World Championship seasons are milestone “bookends” to Dan Quisenberry‘s six-year reign as the Kansas City Royals’ closer–“Quiz” won the job during the Royals’ 1980 march to their first World Series and saved 182 games through 1985, the year KC won its first World Championship. He was a three-time All-Star, led in saves five times, and finished second twice and third twice in Cy Young Award balloting, no small achievement for a reliever.

Quisenberry’s consistent effectiveness, however, disappeared after ’85–he saved just 12 games in ’86 and only 16 more before quietly ending his career with the Giants in 1990.

Quisenberry’s shoes proved hard to fill: the Royals initially relied on Steve Farr,  then went outside the organization to find Quiz’ eventual long-term replacement. In Feb. of 1988, they found in Cincinnati 26-year old Jeff Montgomery, who had started and relieved in the Reds’ system and was coming off his first major league season. Impressed with his 37-20, 32-save minor league record, the Royals decided to trade outfielder Van Snider for him. And the trade paid off.

Montgomery went 7-2 in his first Royals season; he appeared in 45 games, but rarely as the closer and notched just one save. But in ’89, he split the role with Farr and posted 18 saves, then won the job in 1990 and saved fewer than 24 games only twice before retiring after the ’99 season. He saved a career-high 45 games in 1993 and over 30 games four times.

Montgomery ranks 26th on baseball’s all-time saves list; that he achieved that status while pitching for a team that posted winning seasons only three times between 1989-1999, a span in which Montgomery posted all but one of his career saves, is a testament to just how good he was.

Monty remains the Royals career saves leader with 304 and is a member of the Royals’ Hall of Fame. He is an established and popular member of the Royals’ television crew and a popular member of the Kansas City community.

(The mid-2015 trades that brought Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist to the Royals merit attention: both players contributed to the drive to the Royals’ World Series victory, but their stay was short).