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Ranking Royals general managers

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It’s not a long list.

Cincinnati Reds v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

After I completed the series on the 1985 team, I decided to embark on a different tangent. Trying to identify the five best to play each position for the Royals along with the five best managers and general managers. Why not start at the top?

Since there have only been six general managers in the Royals 51-year history, this might seem like an easy place to start. After digging through the numbers, I found it anything but easy. Let’s look at the list.

6. Allard Baird

Tenure as general manager: June 2000 to May 2006, five full seasons, two partial seasons.

Royals record during tenure: 381-576 .398. One winning season out of five complete seasons.

Number of 90-loss seasons under his watch: Five, if you include the 2006 season.

Number of 90-win seasons under his watch: None.

Post-season appearances: None.

Known for: Club-record 106 losses in 2005.

Best draft choices: Zack Greinke, Mike Aviles, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon.

Best international signings: None.

Best free agent signings: Aaron Guiel, Raul Ibanez, Darrell May, Jose Lima, and Mark Grundzielanek.

Notable trades: Jose Santiago to Phillies for Paul Byrd

Stinker moves: Traded Johnny Damon and Mark Ellis to A’s for Angel Berroa, A.J. Hinch and Roberto Hernandez.

Traded Jermaine Dye to Rockies for Neifi Perez.

Signed Juan Gonzalez as a free agent. For $4 million, Juan Gone played in 33 games and hit five home runs.

Traded Carlos Beltran to Houston for Mark Teahen, Mike Wood and John Buck.

Conclusion: There’s not much doubt about this choice. Granted, Baird was in a tough situation, the club was between owners and trying to run the operation on a shoestring budget. He did produce a couple of decent draft choices, just not enough of them. And he traded the Royals All-Star outfield for what amounts to a bag of balls and some game worn bats. In just those three trades alone (Damon, Dye and Beltran), Baird gave up almost 136 of future WAR in exchange for just 7.7 WAR. And I know the story of how the Royals brass refused to spend an extra million to sign Beltran. It happened on Baird’s watch. There’s just no way to sugarcoat that kind of disaster.

5. Herk Robinson

Tenure as general manager: October 1990 to June 17, 2000. Nine full seasons, one partial season.

Royals record during tenure: 683-772 .469. Three winning seasons out of nine complete seasons.

Number of 90-loss seasons under his watch: Three.

Number of 90-win seasons under his watch: None, although the 1994 team was on pace for 90 wins before the strike.

Post-season appearances: None.

Known for: The team (and organization) got progressively worse under his watch

Best draft choices: Mike Sweeney, Joe Randa, Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran, Mark Ellis, David DeJesus

Best international signings: Carlos Febles

Best free agent signings: Mike Boddicker, Wally Joyner, Gary Gaetti, David Cone.

Notable Trades: Bought Jeff Suppan from Diamonbacks.

Traded Bill Pecota and Bret Saberhagen to NY Mets for Kevin McReynolds, Greg Jeffries and Keith Miller.

Traded Billy Brewer to Dodgers for Jose Offerman.

Traded Mark Gubicza to Angels for Chili Davis.

Traded a package of players including Joe Randa to Pirates for Jay Bell and Jeff King.

Traded Michael Tucker and Keith Lockhart to Braves for Jermaine Dye and Jaime Walker.

Traded Tom Goodwin to Rangers for Dean Palmer.

Sinker moves: Traded Jon Lieber to Pirates for Stan Belinda.

Traded David Cone to the Blue Jays for some spare parts.

Let Tom “Flash” Gordon walk in free agency.

Conclusion: Robinson took over the job as the Royals glory years were coming to an end. He was unable to maintain the level of excellence from the 1973 to 1990 levels. He picked up some value in the draft (Sweeney, Damon, Beltran and DeJesus) just not enough of it. His best trade, in terms of giving up nothing to get something, would have been the Brewer for Offerman trade. In his three stinker moves, he let go of over 69 WAR in exchange for -0.5 WAR.

4. Dayton Moore

Tenure as general manager: June 8, 2006 to present.

Royals record during tenure: 1,014 – 1,196, .459. Three winning seasons out of 13 complete seasons.

Number of 90-loss seasons under his watch: Seven.

Number of 90-win seasons under his watch: One.

Post-season appearances: Two pennants, one championship.

Known for: The team has won more games under his watch than any other general manager. The team has also lost more games on his watch than under any other general manager.

Best draft choices: Luke Hochever, Jarrod Dyson, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, Greg Holland, Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers, Whit Merrifield, Jacob Junis, Hunter Dozier, Sean Manaea, Ryan O’Hearn, Nicky Lopez.

Best international signings: Salvador Perez, Kelvin Herrera, Yordano Ventura, Cheslor Cuthbert, Adalberto Mondesi, Melbrys Viloria.

Best free agent signings: Scott Barlow, Gil Meche, Jason Vargas, Kendrys Morales, Edison Volquez, Ryan Madsen, Peter Moylan, Homer Bailey, Jake Diekman.

Notable trades: Traded Yuni Betancourt and Zack Greinke for Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi.

Traded Jonathan Sanchez to Colorado for Jeremy Guthrie.

Traded package including Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi to Tampa Bay for James Shields, Wade Davis and Elliott Johnson.

Traded Brandon Sisk to the LA Angels for Ervin Santana.

Traded Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb to Cincinnati for Johnny Cueto.

Traded Sean Manaea and Aaron Brooks to Oakland for Ben Zobrist.

Traded Wade Davis to Chicago Cubs for Jorge Soler.

Acquired Joakim Soria from San Diego in Rule 5 draft.

Acquired Brad Keller from Cincinnati for cash considerations in the Rule 5 draft.

Stinker moves: Traded Jorge De La Rosa to Colorado for Ramon Ramirez.

Traded David DeJesus to Oakland for spare parts.

Traded Melky Cabrerra to Chicago White Sox for Jonathan Sanchez.

Signed Omar Infante for $30.25 million.

Traded Jose Martinez to St. Louis for Tony Cruz.

Signed Alex Gordon for $74 million.

Signed Ian Kennedy for a boat load of money.

Traded Matt Strahm and Esteury Ruiz to San Diego for Ryan Buchter, Trevor Cahill and Brandon Maurer.

Traded Jarrod Dyson for Nate Karns.

Released Brian Goodwin. Lost Elvis Luciano to Toronto on Rule 5. Traded Sam Gaviglio to Toronto for player to be named later.

Signed Brandon Moss, Jason Hammel, Alcides Escobar, Blaine Boyer, Lucas Duda (twice), Chris Owings, Billy Hamilton, Terrance Gore, Brad Boxberger.

Conclusion: Putting Moore at #4 was the most difficult choice. Yes, I know he’s been to two World Series and won one. He’s had considerable success with his international free agent signings and the verdict is still out on how successful his 2018 and 2019 drafts will be. He’s overseen the rebuild of the Royals, the championship year and the subsequent collapse of 2018 and 2019. The team the Royals fielded in 2019 is his team, so if you want to complain about the Royals not having enough talent, the buck stops on Moore’s desk. Every player on this roster was either drafted or signed by him.

Compared to other general managers, his trading record has been average, at best. His best trade, in terms of giving up nothing to get something was sending Jonathan Sanchez to Colorado for Jeremy Guthrie. Zack Greinke did Moore a huge favor by rejecting his proposed trade to the Washington Nationals. Had that trade gone through, I seriously doubt the Royals make the 2014 or 2015 playoffs. The San Diego Padres did Moore another solid by outbidding him for Eric Hosmer. Until Jorge Soler’s breakout 2019 season, the Wade Davis trade was looking like a loser as well. I’ve long been a critic of that trade, not because he got Jorge Soler, but because he only got Jorge Soler. The trade was made at a time when the market for relief pitchers was hot and Davis was one of the best in the business. Soler was spectacular in 2019 and I’m happy to eat crow on that one. Moore also pulled the trigger on two late season trades in 2015 (Cueto and Zobrist) which pushed the Royals over the top. Since the 2015 season ended, Moore seems to have lost his touch as nearly every free agent signing and trade has been a disaster.

At the end of the day, Moore looks the part and he talks the part but his record says he’s a .459% general manager with three winning seasons out of thirteen. In Kansas City, that’s good for fourth place.

3. John Schuerholz

Tenure as general manager: October 1981 to October 1990.

Royals record during tenure: 754 – 702, .518. Six winning seasons out of nine complete seasons.

Number of 90-loss seasons under his watch: None.

Number of 90-win seasons under his watch: Three.

Post-season appearances: One pennant.

Known for: The team won the first World Series in club history under his tenure.

Best draft choices: Danny Jackson, Bret Saberhagen, Kevin Seitzer, Brian McRae, Mike McFarlane, Bo Jackson, Tom Gordon, Kevin Appier, Jeff Conine, Bob Hamelin.

Best international signings: None.

Best free agent signings: Steve Farr, Jim Eisenreich.

Notable trades:

Traded Manny Castillo to Seattle for Bud Black.

Traded Bob Tufts to Cincinnati for Charlie Leibrandt

Acquired Steve Balboni from the Yankees for a package of players.

Acquired Jim Sundberg from Texas for Don Slaught.

Traded Scott Bankhead to Seattle for Danny Tartabull.

Traded Van Snider to Cincinnati for Jeff Montgomery.

Traded Danny Jackson to Cincinnati for Kurt Stilwell.

Stinker moves:

Traded away Ken Phelps, Rance Mulliniks, Cecil Fielder and Atlee Hammaker for old veterans.

Traded David Cone for Ed Hearn.

Signed Storm Davis. Signed Mark Davis.

Conclusion: Schuerholz made some nice trades in his tenure, getting the final pieces needed to win the 1985 World Series. He was especially tough on Cincinnati, getting Leibrandt and Montgomery for basically nothing, though he did give back some value on the Jackson-Stilwell trade. He picked up some excellent arms in the draft, but in retrospect his drafts weren’t deep on talent, which ultimately left his successor, Herk Robinson, in a tough spot. His loss of Cecil Fielder was especially painful, and the trade of Cone still ranks as one of the worst in Royals history. And he signed the two Davis’s which was the baseball equivalent of setting $10 million dollars on fire. At the end of the day, Schuerholz rode the players left to him by his predecessors and did just enough to keep the team moving in the right direction, before abandoning ship.

2. Joe Burke

Tenure as general manager: June 1974 to October 1981.

Royals record during tenure: 654 – 524, .555. Six winning seasons out of seven complete seasons.

Number of 90-loss seasons under his watch: None.

Number of 90-win seasons under his watch: Five

Post-season appearances: Four division titles, one split-season division title (1981), one pennant.

Known for: The team appeared in the first World Series in club history during his tenure.

Best draft choices: Clint Hurdle, Rich Gale, Darryl Motley, Pat Sheridan, Bill Pecota, Mark Gubicza, David Cone, Dan Quisenberry (undrafted amateur).

Best international signings: None.

Best free agent signings: None.

Notable trades: Acquired Larry Gura from New York Yankees for Fran Healy.

Traded Mark Littell and Buck Martinez to St. Louis for Al Hrabosky.

Traded Jamie Quirk, Jim Wholford and Bob McClure to Milwaukee to Jim Colborn and Darrell Porter.

Traded Al Cowens and Todd Cruz to California for Willie Aikens and Rance Mulliniks.

Stinker moves: Sold Gene Garber to Philadelphia.

Lost Rupert Jones and Al Fitzmorris in expansion draft.

Sold John Mayberry to Toronto.

Let Darrell Porter walk in free agency.

Lost Tom Candiotti in Rule 5 draft to Milwaukee.

Conclusion: Despite having the best win percentage in Royals history, the perception remains that Burke accomplished this on the players acquired by Cedric Tallis. Overall, his drafts were weak, he only made one free agent signing of note and his trading record, while good, was sparse. Burke basically sat tight and used what was left to him and did his best not to screw things up. The team did make the playoffs five times in his tenure and appeared in the 1980 World Series.

1. Cedric Tallis

Tenure as general manager: 1968 to June 1974.

Royals record during tenure: 413 – 447, .480. Two winning seasons out of five complete seasons.

Number of 90 loss seasons under his watch: Two.

Number of 90-win seasons under his watch: None.

Post-season appearances: None.

Known for: The Royals first general manager oversaw the building of the organization from the ground up.

Best draft choices: Paul Splittorff, Doug Bird, Al Cowens, Jim Wohlford, Tom Poquette, John Wathan, George Brett, Steve Busby, Joe Zdeb, Mark Littell, Jamie Quirk, Dennis Leonard, Rupert Jones and Willie Wilson. Undrafted amateur signings Frank White, U.L. Washington

Best international signings: None.

Best free agent signings: None.

Notable trades: Traded Hoyt Wilhelm to California for Ed Kirkpatrick and Dennis Paepke.

Traded John Gelnar and Steve Whitaker to Seattle for Lou Piniella.

Traded Joe Foy to the New York Mets for Bob Johnson and Amos Otis.

Traded Fred Rico to St. Louis for Cookie Rojas.

Traded Jim Campanis, Jackie Hernandez and Bob Johnson to Pittsburgh for Bruce Dal Canton, Jerry May and Fred Patek.

Traded Lance Clemons and Jim York to Houston for John Mayberry.

Traded Roger Nelson and Richie Scheinblum to Cincinnati for Hal McRae and Wayne Simpson.

Traded Kurt Bevacqua and Ed Kirkpatrick to Pittsburgh for Nelson Briles.

Traded Barry Raziano to California for Vada Pinson.

Stinker moves: Traded Pat Kelly to Chicago White Sox for Gail Hopkins.

Traded Greg Minton to San Francisco for Fran Healy.

Traded Tom Burgmeier to Minnesota for spare parts.

Traded Lou Piniella and Ken Wright to New York Yankees for Lindy McDaniel.

Conclusion: Tallis earns the number one spot with ease, given his excellent handling of the 1968 expansion draft, his excellent amateur draft record (Brett, Busby and Littell all came in the same draft!) and his unequaled trade record. Of the 17 players in the Royals Hall of Fame, 11 of them were drafted or signed by Tallis. Tallis was a master at acquiring talent (Piniella, Otis, Rojas, Patek, Mayberry and McRae) and giving up nothing in return. He also minimized his bad moves. He hired Bud Blattner and Denny Matthews. He hired Art Stewart, Jack McKeon, Herk Robinson, Sid Thrift, Lou Gorman and John Schuerholz. The Royals went from an expansion team to having a winning record in only three seasons.

It’s a shame that Tallis was let go before getting to see his hard work come to fruition. It’s a borderline crime that he is not in the Royals Hall of Fame. He built the infrastructure of what became a model franchise in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s.

After being forced out of Kansas City, Tallis landed with the Yankee’s as assistant GM. He took over General Manger duties in 1978. During his tenure, the Yankees won the World Series in 1977 and 1978. Tallis left New York in 1983 to become the Executive Director of The Tampa Bay Baseball Group. He remained in that capacity until suffering a fatal heart attack, May 8, 1991. Tallis was 76.

There has been a growing chorus that Tallis was not only the best General manager in Royals history but also one of the best General managers in baseball history. Kansas City was very fortunate to have him.

Next: Top five managers in Royals history