Reviewing 10 biggest trades in Royals history

December 1st, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- One of the indisputable facts about baseball is that no general manager in Major League history has a perfect record when it comes to trades.

General managers make great trades and poor ones because, after all, they are human, and so are their scouts that recommend the deals, and the players involved in those deals.

And perhaps no transaction in baseball spurs more fan and media discussion than the trade.

With that backdrop, let's take a look at the most impactful trades -- in either direction -- in Royals history.

1. Myers for Shields, Davis

Acquired from Rays: RHP , RHP , INF Eliot Johnson
Dealt by Royals: OF , 3B Patrick Leonard, LHP Mike Montgomery, RHP Jake Odorizzi
Date: Dec. 9, 2012

This one ranks at the top because it helped catapult the Royals to their first winning season in 10 years in 2013, then back-to-back World Series appearances and their first World Series championship in 30 years in 2015. While fans and bloggers howled at the loss of prospect Myers at the time, general manager Dayton Moore concluded his rebuild needed acceleration. Shields threw well over 200 innings in each of his two seasons with the Royals, and more importantly, he changed the culture in the clubhouse to a winning mentality. Davis, of course, became one of the most dominant closers, in the short term, in club history.

2. Greinke for Cain, Escobar

Acquired from Brewers: CF , SS , RHP , RHP Odorizzi
Dealt by Royals: RHP Zack Greinke, SS , cash
Date: Dec. 19, 2010

Moore had two issues that offseason: Greinke wanted to be traded to a contender, and the Royals needed to get more athletic defensively. It was a trade that benefited both teams. Greinke led the Brewers to the postseason in 2011, and Cain and Escobar shored up the Royals' defense, which was instrumental in the back-to-back World Series runs. Odorizzi became a big part of the Shields-Davis trade with the Rays as well.

3. Saberhagen for McReynolds, Jefferies, Miller

Acquired from Mets: OF Kevin McReynolds, INF Gregg Jefferies, INF Keith Miller
Dealt by Royals: RHP Bret Saberhagen, INF Bill Pecota
Date: Dec. 11, 1991

Perhaps no trade stunned the fan base more than this one. Saberhagen was a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner and a World Series MVP. But general manager Herk Robinson, sensing the team, which had not made the playoffs since 1985, was drifting further away from contention, pulled the trigger on the controversial deal. Angry letters poured into the local newspaper, talk-show hosts screamed and billboards popped up around Kansas City denouncing the deal. Worse yet, McReynolds' career had faded by the time he got to the Royals, Miller was a gutsy but less-than-impactful player, and Jefferies, the key acquisition in the deal, was traded to the Cardinals after one season because of a perceived questionable attitude. Ouch.

4. McRae for Nelson, Scheinblum

Acquired from Reds: OF Hal McRae, RHP Wayne Simpson
Dealt by Royals: RHP Roger Nelson, OF Richie Scheinblum
Date: Nov. 30, 1972

If George Brett became the heart of the Royals' glory-year teams, McRae was unquestionably the soul. McRae's hard-nosed style of play -- just go to and watch his take-out slides -- became the Royals' persona of that era. McRae later became a Royals Hall of Famer and its manager in the early 1990s.

5. Cone for Hearn

Acquired from Mets: C Ed Hearn, RHP Rick Anderson, RHP Mauro Gozzo
Dealt by Royals: RHP David Cone, OF Chris Jelic
Date: March 27, 1987

This was sort of a precursor to the Saberhagen trade as the Royals dealt an arm they developed, and got virtually nothing in return. To be fair, the end of Hearn's career was sad and unfortunate. After catching for the World Series champion Mets in 1986, Hearn only played 13 games for the Royals over the next two seasons as injuries and a kidney disease ended his playing days. Kansas City made another regrettable Cone trade (after he signed back with the club as a free agent) in 1995, the year after he won an AL Cy Young Award with the Royals. Cone then was dealt to the Blue Jays for two Minor Leaguers and utility man Chris Stynes. Ouch again.

6. Mayberry for York

Acquired from Astros: 1B John Mayberry, INF David Grangaard
Dealt by Royals: LHP Lance Clemons, RHP Jim York
Date: Dec. 2, 1971

The Royals made numerous incredible trades back in the 1970s, acquiring pivotal pieces such as Amos Otis, Freddie Patek, Cookie Rojas, etc. Another one of those steals was Mayberry, another Royals Hall of Famer who hit 143 home runs in six seasons with Kansas City, and ge posted a remarkable .374 on-base percentage that certainly would have played big in today's game.

7. Zobrist for Manaea

Acquired from Athletics: Super utility man
Dealt by Royals: RHP , LHP
Date: July 28, 2015

Zobrist quickly became a fan favorite in Kansas City, and he was hugely instrumental in the World Series' title run in 2015. Zobrist immediately took over in left field for the injured (who came back in September), then he took over for the injured and ineffective at second base late in the season. There were no memorable signature hits for Zobrist with the Royals, but any time the team launched a decisive rally that season, he always seemed to be in the middle of it. The Royals gave up a budding star in Manaea, but hey, flags fly forever.

8. Cueto for Finnegan

Acquired from Reds: RHP
Dealt by Royals: LHPs , ,
Date: July 26, 2015

Cueto certainly registered high on the goofy scale at times with the Royals, but he came up huge in the postseason. He two-hit the Astros over eight innings in Game 5 of the AL Division Series to help the Royals advance to the AL Championship Series. Then, Cueto two-hit the Mets in Game 2 of the World Series in a 7-1 win. Finnegan, a first-round pick who pitched in the 2014 World Series for the Royals, hasn't quite panned out with the Reds, while Reed has secured a spot in the rotation.

9. Montgomery for Van Snider

Acquired from Reds: RHP Jeff Montgomery
Dealt by Royals: Outfielder Van Snider
Date: Feb. 15, 1988

We have to give a little love to Monty, now a Royals analyst on FOX Sports Kansas City. This under-the-radar deal produced another Royals Hall of Famer. Montgomery is the club's all-time saves leader with 304.

10. Beltran for Teahen, Buck (three-team deal)

Acquired from Astros, A's: 3B Mark Teahen and RHP from the A's, C John Buck from Astros
Dealt by Royals: OF Carlos Beltran (Houston sent RHP Octavio Dotel to Oakland)
Date: June 24, 2004

Could easily have put the Jermaine Dye or Johnny Damon trades in 2001 here, or the infamous Cecil Fielder trade in 1983 (he was a Royals Minor Leaguer then), but we'll stick with Beltran, who could be headed for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Both Teahen and Buck were serviceable players, but hardly enough return for a potential future Hall of Famer.