Our old buddy Jermaine Dye was back in town this past weekend, as a member of the Chicago White Sox. Jermaine hasn't been a Royal in seven years, so its a bit hard to believe that he has still played more games with Kansas City than with any other team - 547 games in Royal blue, 535 with the White Sox, 394 with the A's and 98 with the Braves.
Jermaine was involved in what in my opinion is the worst trade in Royals history. The David Cone trade was bad and I have pointed out its flaws, but it wasn't abundantly clear to many at the time that Cone would become a future Cy Young winner. The Bret Saberhagen trade has been roundly criticized, but I've pointed out that with Sabes getting hurt so much, perhaps the deal wasn't all that bad. The Kevin Appier deal didn't pan out, but that was a salary dump, where the Royals lacked leverage much like the second David Cone trade, and the Brian McRae trade. No, the Jermaine Dye trade was the dumbest in Royals history.
Worst Trades in Royals History
10. P Greg Minton to San Francisco for C Fran Healy
A very overlooked trade. Healy was a modest hitter, but was actually useful as the starter for two seasons before being dealt to New York for Larry Gura (a great trade for the Royals). Minton however would go on to have a sixteen year career with 150 career saves, one of the most consistent relievers of the 1980s.
9. P Bret Saberhagen and IF Bill Pecota to the New York Mets for 3B Gregg Jefferies, OF Kevin McReynolds and IF Keith Miller
I've written before on how this trade wasn't quite as bad as people perceive it to be. Saberhagen was a very talented pitcher, but he was also injured quite often which reduced his value. Jefferies and McReynolds were both adequate, although not spectacular. The biggest criticism of this deal perhaps is that the Royals dealt an All-Star caliber pitcher without getting impact bats in return. Instead, they felt content getting solid starters with limited upside.
8. 1B Ken Phelps to Montreal for P Grant Jackson
Phelps today is known for being involved in another bad trade - for Jay Buhner (lampooned hilariously on "Seinfeld"). But in 1979, he was mashing home runs and drawing a ton of walks for Omaha, while the Royals were wasting their time at first with the light-hitting Pete LaCock. Rather than give Phelps a shot in 1980, the Royals instead acquired Willie Aikens, and let Phelps draw 128 walks with 23 homers in AAA. The Royals finally dealt Phelps in the winter before the 1982 season for a 39 year old Grant Jackson. Jackson pitched in twenty games for KC before getting released. Phelps wouldn't get his shot in Montreal, but in Seattle he became a twenty home run hitter who drew a lot of walks. The Royals could have used a first baseman like that in the mid-80s. And we could have dealt him to Steinbrenner for Jay Buhner!
7. P Jon Lieber and P Dan Miceli to Pittsburgh for P Stan Belinda
An overlooked trade at the time, the Royals added Belinda to strengthen their bullpen in 1993. Belinda had "post-season experience" if the Royals ever needed that. Unfortunately he wasn't too good in the regular season, posting a 4.28 ERA in '93 and an awful 5.14 ERA in '94. Miceli, meanwhile, put together a fourteen year career as a decent reliever. But it was Lieber who made this trade awful as he developed into a solid starting pitcher, winning twenty games in 2001 with the Cubs and still trucking to this day.
6. 1B Cecil Fielder to Toronto for OF Leon Roberts
Big Cecil was just a nineteen year old kid coming off an impressive season in Rookie Ball when the Royals dealt him to Toronto for reserve outfielder Leon Roberts. Roberts would have one decent season before being released. Fielder was a solid reserve for some good Jays teams, but he would have to go to Japan and back before being revered as one of the league's most feared sluggers.
5. OF Johnny Damon and IF Mark Ellis in a three team trade to Oakland for P Roberto Hernandez, SS Angel Berroa and C A.J. Hinch
The Royals had an amazing amount of blown saves in 2000, and with an explosive offense, and a 77 win season, General Manager Allard Baird felt that a closer was the key piece keeping his club from serious contention. With outfielder Johnny Damon nearing free agency, he saw an opportunity to not only get value for his leadoff hitter, but fill a need in the bullpen. Unfortunately, Hernandez was less than effective as a closer, and the Royals found themselves still struggling to get to the ninth inning with a lead. To add further insult, the throw-in to the deal, Mark Ellis, turned into a solid starter at second base for Oakland, while Royals prospect Angel Berroa, aside from his rookie campaign, was largely a huge and expensive bust.
4. P Kevin Appier for P Blake Stein, P Jeff D'Amico and P Brad Rigby
Small market clubs like Cleveland, Florida, Minnesota and Oakland have mastered the art of flipping sought-after pitchers into high-upside prospects that provide the building blocks for competitive ballclubs of the future. Meanwhile, Herk Robinson's Royals were taking a highly sought-after commodity and spinning it for three pitchers, all supposedly close to MLB ready, but all too old to have much upside. But hey, they threw hard! Had the Royals dealt Appier two years earlier, they could have received any one of the top prospects in baseball. But Ape injured his shoulder, hurting his value. Still, had the Royals dealt Appier to Cincinnati, a team interested in Ape, they might have received a young reliever by the name of B.J. Ryan. Instead, Ryan was dealt to Baltimore for Juan Guzman and the Royals ended up with three useless pitchers.
3. P David Cone and OF Chris Jelic to the New York Mets for C Ed Hearn, P Mauro Gozzo and P Rick Anderson
Again, I've written before on why this trade wasn't quite as bad as people make it out to be. When the Royals dealt Cone he looked like a relief pitcher with control issues, not a future Cy Young winner. Still, I don't think its ever a good idea to trade a live arm for a backup catcher with injury problems.
2. P David Cone to Toronto for IF Chris Stynes, IF Anthony Medrano and P David Sinnes
Even worse than the earlier Cone deal in my opinion, because the Royals KNEW Cone was an All-Star pitcher. Sure General Manager Herk Robinson was under demands to cut payroll, but did he really have to take the first deal that came along? The Royals sold Cone for pennies on the dollar, landing a utility guy, a no-hit shortstop, and a minor league closer for the reigning Cy Young winner. Terrible.
1. OF Jermaine Dye in a three team trade to Oakland for Colorado SS Neifi Perez
The....absolute.....worst. It wasn't even a salary dump because the Royals didn't save that much money in the deal. Nor did they get any high upside players. For an All-Star Gold Glove slugger they got....a slick fielding, light-hitting shortstop. Except they already had a slick fielding, light-hitting shortstop named Rey Sanchez. And another one in the minors named Angel Berroa. And Neifi's defense wasn't even that good.
Honorable mention: OF Pat Kelly and P Don O'Riley for 1B Gail Hopkins and OF John Matias; OF Lou Piniella and P Ken Wright to the New York Yankees for P Lindy McDaniel; ; P Atlee Hammaker, P Renie Martin, P Craig Chamberlain and IF Brad Wellman to San Francisco for P Vida Blue and P Bob Tufts; P Melido Perez, P Greg Hibbard, P Charlie Mount and P John Davis to the Chicago White Sox for P Floyd Bannister and OF Dave Cochrane; P Charlie Leibrandt and P Rick Luecken to Atlanta for 1B Gerald Perry and P Jim LeMasters; OF Brian McRae to the Chicago Cubs for P Derek Wallace and P Geno Morones
But let's move on to happier times. To get Dye, the Royals actually made one of their better trades in franchise history.
Jermaine hailed from Oakland and had been a 17th round draft pick by the Braves out of junior college, but had risen quickly through the system. In May of 1996 he was promoted to the big leagues to fill in for the injured David Justice and surprised many by hitting very well with a .281 average and a .459 slugging percentage as the Braves won the pennant. Dye had a tough post-season as a rookie starting right-fielder, hitting .179 with fourteen strikeouts in fifteen games and was blamed for distracting outfielder Marquis Grissom on a dropped flyball in Game Five.
When Justice returned, the Braves had a logjam in their outfield. They alleviated that by sending Justice and Grissom to the Indians for outfielder Kenny Lofton. They revamped their outfield even more by sending the 23 year old Dye to Kansas City along with pitcher Jaime Walker for outfielder Michael Tucker and infielder Keith Lockhart. I wrote before how coldly the trade was received in Kansas City, but it was viewed with equal skepticism in Atlanta.
I've liked Jermaine Dye as a young man with a solid future, but the Braves never made any fuss over him. Now he's gone. Now Schuerholz is looking for a right-handed outfielder for his bench. See if Jermaine Dye is available.
-Furman Bisher, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Dye began 1997 as the Royals starting right-fielder, but struggled mightily and in mid-May, with his average under .200, he was demoted to Omaha. Meanwhile, Tucker was hitting .345 and the Royals looked foolish for making the deal.
Jermaine Dye is still very much the player we wanted to get. We have no regrets at all.
-Royals General Manager Herk Robinson
Dye dominated Omaha and rejoined the Royals in June. His hitting slowly improved, but he found himself sidelines for a month in July when he aggravated his hamstring. He rebounded to have a decent September, but ended the year with a disappointing .236 average and just seven home runs in 75 games.
Dye failed to make the club out of spring training in 1998, but he was joined the club in May after a stint in the minors. He again struggled mightily and in late June, Jermaine and his .213 average were sent to Omaha. He returned to Kansas City in August, but was shelved for the year in September when he tore his right cartilage getting into his car while making a trip to Wal-Mart. Dye ended the year with a .236 average and an awful OPS+ of 56. At age 24, he was beginning to look like a serious bust.
Dye had to work hard to win a starting job in 1999, but when Jeff Conine was dealt days before the opener, Dye found himself the starting right-fielder. Dye finally got off to a great April, hitting five home runs and twelve RBI over a seven game stretch. He had a thirteen game hit streak in May in which he hit .510 with three home runs. On July 4, he went 4-4 with two home runs and six RBI against Cleveland.
Jermaine is big, tall, hits the ball hard, and he runs like Dave Winfield. The way he's swinging doesn't surprise me. I always thought he had the ability to be a Dave Winfield. It looks like he's gotten to where he knows his swing.
-Royals designated hitter Chili Davis
Dye ended the year with a .294 average, 27 home runs and 119 RBI, the second most RBI in franchise history. He finished second in the league in doubles, fifth in triples, played in all but four games, and set a Royals franchise record with seventeen outfield assists. He was named Royals Player of the Year.
Jermaine proved he was no fluke by improving on his performance in 2000. He got off to a sizzling start in April, hitting .388 and slugging .847 with eleven home runs. His hot hitting continued and he was voted into his first All-Star Game.
Dye kicks at the dirt a little bit. He wiggles his bat a little bit. He faces Seattle pitcher Brett Tomko. And there's electricity. When was the last time a Royals hitter came to the plate and there was real electricity?
"Like a World Series game," Royals manager Tony Muser said of the atmosphere. And he wasn't joking. More than 36,000 stomped at the stadium Friday night.
The Royals led by a run. Carlos Febles was on second base. Dye kicked at the dirt. He wiggled the bat. The stadium vibrated a little bit.
Yes, here's Jermaine Dye , an old-fashioned superstar for Kansas City. And it's not just because he leads the American League with 11 home runs, though that's pretty cool. It's not just that he's the first player in the history of baseball to reach double figures in homers and doubles in the month of April. It's not just that he's a brilliant outfielder and hard worker and a heck of a good guy.
No, there's something more at work here. Something that has to do with charisma. "Man," teammate Joe Randa says, "he is awfully fun to watch."
Dye would end the year hitting .321 with 33 home runs and 118 RBI and would win his first Gold Glove. The Royals set all kinds of franchise records on offense, and with a 77-85 record, the team didn't seem that far off from actually contending.
The Royals had hopes of building on their 2000 season with a prolific offense and a proven closer in Roberto Hernandez to fix what had been an awful bullpen. Instead the team struggled out of the gate and by May the team was ten games out of first place. Dye struggled out of the gate, but that didn't prevent trade talk to swirl around him. Dye was due to become a free agent after the 2002 season and teams began to call the Royals about acquiring the slugger.
"I don't know what's going to happen. I've made it clear that I want to stay here. But I know baseball's a business. It's hard for a team like Kansas City to keep a team together."
The Yankees showed a lot of interest, with many speculating they would be willing to deal second baseman Alfonso Soriano in return for Dye. On July 25, 2001, the Royals traded Jermaine Dye to the Oakland A's in a three-team deal that netted them Rockies shortstop Neifi Perez in the stupidest deal in Royals history.
Jermaine has moved on from the A's to the White Sox, and despite playing for a team I loathe, I still root for Jermaine. He was a very likeable guy with a sweet swing, a graceful gait in the outfield, and a cannon arm. He was a treat to watch, and you felt joy knowing that he was ours, if only for a brief moment.
Yes, in many ways, you have it so much better. But I suppose in one way, Kiddo, I feel sad for you.
Out there in right field for the Kansas City Royals, that's Jermaine Dye. He hits. He fields. He throws. And he does everything with a quiet grace. Really, he is so cool. If I were 9 years old, he would be my hero. His poster would be on my wall. I would trade every Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds I had to get his card. I would write a project about him for English class.
Only you can't love him like that. Because, sooner or later, Jermaine Dye will be gone. And, the worst part is, you already know that. You gotta grow up fast in today's sports world.
Kiddo, that breaks my heart.