Before bidding adieu to the Hot Stove season, we asked our 30 beat reporters to look back at their club's past and answer the following question: Who is the best free-agent signing in the team's history? We narrowed the choices with the following parameters: The signings had to be multiyear
Before bidding adieu to the Hot Stove season, we asked our 30 beat reporters to look back at their club's past and answer the following question: Who is the best free-agent signing in the team's history?
We narrowed the choices with the following parameters: The signings had to be multiyear contracts, to exclude fluky one-year deals and to focus on players who got real commitments. And contract extensions don't count. Only instances when every team in the league had a chance to bid on the player were allowed, including international free agents who received Major League contracts.
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals had just finished the exhilarating ride all the way to Game 7 of the World Series in 2014 when general manager Dayton Moore and his staff began discussions on how to improve to the team for '15.
One hole that needed to be filled was at designated hitter, which long-time DH Billy Butler had vacated by signing with Oakland.
The Royals pondered a "floating DH," in which no one hitter would occupy the spot permanently, but rather, position players would rotate there throughout the week (an idea they are once again considering for 2017).
But it wasn't long after that when the Royals signed veteran DH Kendrys Morales, who was coming off a dreadful 2014 in which he signed late, then hit .218 with eight homers combined for the Mariners and Twins.
But Moore and manager Ned Yost always had great admiration for Morales' power. The Royals got him relatively cheap -- two years, $17 million.
And the rest is history. Morales helped drive the Royals to a World Series championship in 2015. In two years, Morales clubbed 52 homers with 199 RBIs and an .821 OPS.
Perhaps the greatest Royals free-agent signing of all time? One can certainly make the case for it.
"I know this much," Moore said, "we couldn't have won a championship without Kendrys Morales. He was a major force in the middle of the lineup."
Added Yost, "You just don't find that kind of production very often."
Especially for a small-market franchise such as the Royals, which is why we'll go ahead and classify the Morales signing as the best in franchise history.
"At first thought, I have to agree that Kendrys Morales would have to be near the top or at the top of the list [of best free-agent signings]," director of the Royals Hall of Fame and team historian Curt Nelson said. "That's from both a productivity aspect and from the perspective of his impact on a World Series championship."
Morales was a catalyst in the championship run, hitting .290 with 22 homers and 106 RBIs during the regular season. He also had four homers and 10 RBIs in the postseason, and his three-run blast in Game 5 of the American League Division Series helped clinch that series win.
Here are some honorable mentions for the best free-agent signings:
David Cone: Owner Ewing Kauffman still was so dismayed that the Royals traded away Cone in the 1980s that he offered him a three-year, $18 million deal as a free agent in 1992. Kauffman even personally handed him a $9 million signing-bonus check to secure the deal. Cone won his only Cy Young in 1994 for the Royals.
Wally Joyner: The first baseman hit .293 over four seasons with the Royals after signing a one-year, $4.2 million deal in 1991 (in June of that season, he signed a three-year extension) with 44 homers and 271 RBIs. He was great defensively as well.
Gary Gaetti: The infielder doesn't really qualify by our parameters because he never signed more than a one-year deal (but he was signed three straight years). We mention him because he resurrected his career with the Royals by hitting 61 homers in three years. He nearly broke the franchise record for homers when he hit 35 in 1995 (record is 36 by Steve Balboni).
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.