When I was eleven years old, the Royals were coming off a 92-win season in which they had the third-best record in baseball, but missed the playoffs because they were in the same division as the juggernaut Oakland Athletics. The Royals went out that winter and handed the largest free agent contract in history at that time to Padres reliever and reigning Cy Young winner Mark Davis (to be eclipsed later that winter by Mark Langston's deal with the Angels). The Royals then went out and signed one of the enemy, Athletics starting pitcher and 19-game winner Storm Davis. To top it off, they signed veteran starting pitcher and one-time 20-game winner Rich Dotson. Upon seeing the news reported I remember turning to my father and asking if we could get World Series tickets.
It wasn't necessary. The Royals were a disaster, finishing 75-86, good for sixth place in the seven-team American League Western Division. Had eleven-year old me known about sabermetrics, I would have known that reliever performance is volatile and saves are a junk stat, and that Mark Davis wasn't worth the checks he was collecting. I would have known that Storm Davis' 1989 season was built on a house of lies, due to a pitcher's ballpark and terrific run support. I would have known that even at age 31, Rich Dotson was washed up, with an ERA+ of 82 the previous two seasons combined.
After another disappointing season in 1991, then-General Manager Herk Robinson decided to shake up the roster. I don't remember if there were any rumors of moving ace pitcher Bret Saberhagen, as we didn't have Twitter, the internet, or barely any sports talk radio (three hours of John Doolittle on KMBZ every day!). So I was stunned when I found out Robinson had moved Saberhagen to the Mets for Gregg Jefferies, Kevin McReynolds, and Keith Miller. It would have been one thing to have moved a two-time Cy Young winner and your franchise's only World Series MVP for a stud player in return, but Robinson instead got two players known for underachieving, and one known for always being injured. And that's exactly what they did in Kansas City.
During the Allard Baird years, the trade rumors dealt more with "which good player will other teams take us to the cleaners over" and free agent rumors over guys like Albie Lopez, Joe Mays, and Reggie Sanders. But Dayton Moore brought back some of the excitement - good and bad. I remember settling into bed for the night two years ago, only to look at my phone and see that the Royals had dealt top prospect Wil Myers and others to the Rays for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis. I was angry. I had trouble sleeping that night. But here we are two years later with a pennant under our wing, and James Shields and Wade Davis a big part of that.
Hot Stove season is a fun season, where teenagers can become reporters, realtors become gossip hounds, and men in bow-ties rule the roost. Every player has a "chance" to be good next year, every lineup is "1 or 2 players away" from being a contender. There's always next year.
What was the Royals trade or free agent you got most excited about?
What was the Royals trade you got most angry about?