KC Royals: Christmas Eve blockbuster would be a twist

(Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports) /

The KC Royals have been aggressive this winter, but a Christmas Eve deal would be surprising.

If past is prologue, it will be a quiet Christmas Eve in Kansas City’s front office. History cautions us not to expect the club to make any moves akin to those it’s surprisingly made so far this winter. That wouldn’t be the KC Royals’ style.

Like most other tidbits it packs into its databases, baseball-reference.com keeps track of just about everything that’s ever happened in baseball, and suggests Christmas Eve isn’t the time for big deals. In fact, you can count on one hand the number of Kansas City’s significant Christmas Eve transactions. Other teams, however, have made franchise-changing deals, or completed other notable moves, the day before Christmas.

Take, for example, the move the Yankees finalized on Christmas Eve 1996 that brought big-game starter David Wells to the Bronx. As Wells went 34-14 the next two seasons, New York made the playoffs in 1997, then won the World Series in ’98. Wells led the American League in shutouts that season and was the ALCS MVP.

Oakland waxed nostalgic in 1986, bringing Reggie Jackson back for his final big league season. Jackson, one of the leaders of the Athletics’ 1972-74 championship clubs, hit the final 15 of his 563 career home runs in 1987, then retired to await his call to Cooperstown.

Six winters later, the A’s secured more time with slugger Mark McGwire by signing him to a five-year, $28 million contract. He led the majors with 52 homers and a 1.198 OPS (196 OPS+) in 1996 and clubbed 58 homers in ’97. He left Oakland after that season and finished his career with St. Louis, where he was a teammate of KC manager Mike Matheny.

Just two months after winning the 2004 World Series, the Red Sox celebrated Christmas a day early with the re-signing of Boston mainstay Jason Varitek, who played for the Sox seven more years before retiring.

Texas re-signed pitcher Bobby Witt in 1995. He won 28 games for the Rangers over the next two seasons. And yes, he’s the father of hot Kansas City prospect Bobby Witt Jr.

But back to the KC Royals’ Christmas Eve activity, which isn’t quite as notable.

The Royals, who played their first season in 1969, made their first Christmas Eve deal when they signed free agent pitcher Jimmy Myers in 1993. He didn’t last a year with the Kansas City organization—the righthanded reliever went 4-4 with a 4.90 ERA in 33 games for KC’s Memphis Double A affiliate and was released in July.

Then, in 2000, the club re-signed reliever Jeff D’Amico, who it had acquired that July in a trade deadline deal that sent star KC pitcher Kevin Appier to Oakland. D’Amico pitched seven times for the Royals after the trade and went 0-1 with a 9.22 ERA, then pitched all of 2001 at Triple A Omaha before Kansas City released him after the season.

The KC Royals’ latest Christmas Eve transaction came in 2014 when they signed free agent outfielder Mitch Maier to a homecoming deal. After the club selected him in the first round of the 2003 amateur draft, he made it to the big club in 2006 and played six seasons in Kansas City (.248/.327/.344 with 10 homers and 93 RBIs in 359 games) before becoming a free agent after the 2012 season. He signed with Boston, then the Cubs.

Maier didn’t make it to Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, but re-signed with the Royals in April 2014 and played 25 games for Double A Northwest Arkansas before being released. He re-signed again with KC on Christmas Eve, but didn’t play in the majors again.

Maier, however, became a Royals organizational coach in 2015; he made it back to Kansas City to fill in for first base coach Rusty Kuntz in 2017, coached there all of 2018 and 2019, and is now the Royals’ Director of Baseball Operations.

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Maybe the Royals will spring a Christmas Eve surprise and swing a major deal. But even if they don’t…Happy Holidays!