KC Royals: Old friends abound across the major leagues

(Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports) /
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KC Royals, Johnny Cueto
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

A few former favorite KC Royals are working for other major league teams.

Johnny Cueto’s Kansas City stay was short, beginning with the late July trade that brought him to town for the memorable 2015 stretch run, and ending when he signed a free agent contract with San Francisco before the calendar year was out. Cueto’s regular season with KC was unremarkable (4-7, 4.76 ERA), but he came through in the postseason.

Cueto masterfully shut down Houston in the deciding game of the American League Division Series. He two-hit the Astros for eight innings and retired the last 19 batters he faced before Wade Davis took the ninth. Then, Cueto retired 15 in a row while throwing a two-hit, one-run complete game against the Mets in Game Two of the World Series.

Despite leaving the club after only a few months, Cueto was a KC favorite. His multi-dimensional pitching style, outgoing demeanor, and ability to come through in big games endeared him to Kansas City fans.

This is the final season of his $130 million Giants contract. It’s been a mixed-bag Bay Area run for Cueto—he won 18 games in his first year but, plagued by injuries, only 14 since.

One of the KC Royals’ best closers now pitches in the National League West.

Joakim Soria was another Kansas City pitching favorite. A two-time Royal (2007-11, 2016-17), his 162 KC saves trail only Jeff Montgomery’s 304 and Dan Quisenberry’s 238 on the club’s all-time list. He signed with Arizona in February after pitching for the White Sox, Brewers and A’s since leaving Kansas City.

He became a favorite, but lasted only a short season with the KC Royals.

Some wondered why the Royals signed free agent third baseman Maikel Franco two winters ago. Franco had power, but Kansas City already had a good hitting third sacker in Hunter Dozier. But because Dozier possessed a glove that made the club nervous, KC seemed convinced a change was necessary. And despite his own defensive shortcomings, Franco was the Royals’ choice.

He worked out well in 2020’s pandemic-shortened season, playing every game and hitting .278 with eight homers and 38 RBIs. Franco endeared himself to teammates and fans alike with his attitude, hard work and play, and good performance.

But the Royals non-tendered him in December, a foreseeable move considering the money he was likely to make in arbitration. Franco is with Baltimore now, where he appears set at third.