One thing to know about baseball is that a trade rumor is just that—a mere rumor until a deal officially happens. Plenty of talk tends to escalate this time of year as the major league baseball trade deadline draws near (it’s today at 3 p.m. CDT). No team, including the KC Royals, is ever immune to the rumors.
There have been many memorable trades in Kansas City history, like 2010’s Zack Greinke deal with Milwaukee that reaped the Royals Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar, two cornerstones of the 2015 World Series championship team. Then there are some that didn’t turn out well for KC and fans would like to forget, like the David Cone deal that brought Ed Hearn to the Royals for all of 13 games.
But for all the trades where the trigger was pulled and the deal done, there are always some that were rumored but Royals fans should be glad never happened, including two involving Hall of Famer George Brett.
To many, Brett is and will always be the KC Royals. Whenever fans think of classic Royals baseball, Brett is always the one player that comes immediately to mind, so much so that it feels like it’s downright impossible to imagine him in any other uniform.
As hard as it is to believe, though, the legendary third baseman who won multiple batting titles was the subject of at least two trade rumors, one early in his career and one much later.
The KC Royals were quick to turn down an offer for a young George Brett.
The first Brett rumor came in 1974. That year marked Brett’s first full season, when he slashed .282/.313/.363 with two home runs, 47 RBIs and eight stolen bases, and finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. To top it all off, the Cincinnati Reds came calling for Brett after the season.
As shared by Rustin Dodd, then The Kansas City Star’s Royals beat writer (he’s since moved on to The Athletic) in early 2018, the Reds were willing to deal five-time All-Star first baseman Tony Perez, then 32, to get Brett:
As it turned out, nothing ever came of the rumor. But another surfaced later that had Brett headed across Missouri to interstate rival St. Louis.
Did the KC Royals ever consider dealing George Brett to the Cardinals?
The second rumor may have started with something as simple as Brett’s appearance in a Cardinals cap. As The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette told the story, Brett donned the St. Louis cap at a 1982 postseason game after a fan gave it to him and an Atlanta sportscaster countered with a Braves’ lid; Brett said he donned the former cap because he was sitting with St. Louis fans.
The Post-Gazette reported Brett’s reaction: “But things got blown all out of proportion after that.”
Was there more to the rumor than just a cap? As the Post-Gazette pointed out, Brett might have been disenchanted with his contract—he was playing on a five-year contract worth $5 million that took effect that season, but other players had since inked more lucrative deals and Brett wanted to renegotiate his but the KC Royals wouldn’t do it; George’s decision to sell his house and buy another in California could have been interpreted as another sign he wasn’t happy.
And on top of everything else, the St. Louis manager was none other than George Brett’s friend and former manager Whitey Herzog, and former KC teammate Darrel Porter was a Cardinal. And Royals catcher Jamie Quirk, well-known around Kansas City at the time as one of George’s running buddies, signed that winter with the Cards.
But despite all the signs pointing logically to Brett as a Cardinal, nothing came of the cap-created rumors that he wanted to be traded. The Post-Gazette reported Brett saying he was happy in Kansas City and that then-General Manager John Schuerholz discounted the trade chatter: “There was never talk of that. None.”
The rumors surrounding George Brett were just that for the KC Royals.
In the end, Brett remained a Royal for his entire career, playing with them up until his retirement in 1993.
Though the speculation surrounding Brett possibly leaving Kansas City turned out to be only rumors, it can be safely said that Kansas City fans are glad there was only smoke and not full-blown fire as Brett became a KC Royal for life, still associating with the team and city to this day.
Even George Brett was not immune to trade rumors when he was tearing it up in Kansas City.