KC Royals: The worst free agent deals in club history

KC Royals (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KC Royals (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /
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The KC Royals were eager for a return to the postseason after 1989 and signed a star free agent pitcher coming off a stellar two seasons with a division rival. The acquisition didn’t go as planned.

Storm Davis was raised in the Baltimore Orioles’ system, a baseball child of an organization known in the ’70’s and early 80’s for its wonderful homegrown pitchers. Davis learned and plied his craft as a starter from and with the likes of Jim Palmer, Mike Flanagan, Scott McGregor, Dennis Martinez and Mike Boddicker, winning 37 games in one three-year span and 61 in six.

It was Davis’ Baltimore success and two excellent seasons with Oakland that attracted the Royals when he became a free agent after the 1989 campaign. Kansas City had just won 92 games but finished second in the American League West, seven games behind the A’s; Oakland had supplanted the then-fading Yankees as KC’s chief rival and the Royals needed pitching to seriously challenge the A’s.

Oakland not only won the West in 1989, they also won the World Series, and Davis was a key to their success. He went 19-7 to tie Mike Moore for the second-most club regular season wins (Dave Stewart had 21); those 19 wins bettered his 16 of the season before when he helped the A’s claim their first of three consecutive division titles and World Series appearances.

The Royals coveted Davis and signed him to a three-year, $6 million deal to aid their pursuit of his former club, a move that complemented KC’s contemporaneous acquisition of star free agent reliever Mark Davis. (More on that later).

Storm proved to be too calm for the Royals. He went 7-10 with a 4.74 ERA in 1990, then 3-9 with a 4.96 ERA in ’91; his decline contributed to the Royals’ sixth-place finish both years. That Davis pitched for two bad KC teams didn’t help his record. But he didn’t help himself, posting WHIPs of 1.464 in ’90 and 1.627 in ’91, and his RA9 far exceeded his ERA both seasons.

Davis had one year left on his contract, but the KC Royals had seen enough. They traded him to the Orioles for Bob Melvin and he went 7-3 for them in 1992. It was his last decent season.

Expectations were justifiably high when the Royals spent $6 million (a hefty sum in 1989) to secure Davis’ services for a run at the A’s. But Davis never approached those expectations. The deal ranks here as the third worst in club history.

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