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How the Royals built their frozen 40-man roster

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The roots go all the way back to the Montreal Expos.

Kansas City Royals first round draft pick Hunter Dozier John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

This article is guaranteed to be relevant for the next couple of months. How often can you say that about an examination of a baseball roster?

But with 40-man rosters frozen for the foreseeable future, it seems like a good time to take stock in how the 2020 edition of the Royals (if they ever take the field) was constructed. Info has been gleaned from Roster Resource at FanGraphs and the always-indispensable-even-in-a-pandemic Baseball-Reference.

Draft

Name Year Round
Name Year Round
Alex Gordon 2005 1st
Danny Duffy 2007 3rd
Whit Merrifield 2010 9th
Bubba Starling 2011 1st
Cam Gallagher 2011 2nd
Jakob Junis 2011 29th
Kyle Zimmer 2012 1st
Jake Newberry 2012 37th
Hunter Dozier 2013 1st
Kevin McCarthy 2013 16th
Glenn Sparkman* 2013 20th
Foster Griffin 2014 1st
Scott Blewett 2014 2nd
Ryan O’Hearn 2014 8th
Tim Hill 2014 32nd
Josh Staumont 2015 2nd
Nicky Lopez 2016 5th
Richard Lovelady 2016 10th
Nick Heath 2016 16th
MJ Melendez 2017 2nd

This is 20 players. You don’t have to be a math major to understand that’s half the current roster. Five first-rounders and 10 players drafted in the first two rounds. I can’t give you perspective on how all the other teams were built, but the Twins (the current AL Central aspiration) have three first-rounders on their current 40-man while the Tigers (currently rebuilding) have two first-round picks and four from the first two rounds on their roster. So this is feeling like a large number of high draft picks populating the Royals 40-man.

There’s also plenty of tenure on this list, with eight of the players entering at least their eighth year in the organization.

The asterisk for Glenn Sparkman reflects that he was plucked from the Royals by the Toronto Blue Jays in the Rule 5 draft a couple of years ago, but was subsequently returned. For this exercise, he counts as a drafted Royals player. He just took a sabbatical north of the border for a few months (and two major league outings) in 2017.

And Alex Gordon counts as a draft pick even though he tested the free agent waters now twice.

International Free Agents

Name Year Country
Name Year Country
Salvador Perez 2006 VEZ
Adalberto Mondesi 2011 DOM
Meibrys Viloria 2013 COL
Jeison Guzman 2015 DOM
Carlos Hernandez 2016 VEN

Five more international free agents and that makes 25 out of the current 40 players to be basically homegrown. The Twins have 17 and the Tigers have 12. Maybe the Tigers aren’t the best comp. Or maybe they’re an example of how not to rebuild.

We’ve been over this time and again, this is the way the Royals will generally be constructed for the next couple of years as they rebuild.

Free Agents

Name Year
Name Year
Ian Kennedy 2016
Scott Barlow 2017
Maikel Franco 2020
Trevor Rosenthal 2020

Only four, each arriving in different circumstances. (They are listed by year they made their debut for the Royals, not date acquired.) Kennedy, of course, was the big pitching splash in the post-World Series haze. Barlow was let go by the Dodgers in a number crunch and secured a major league contract from the Royals, despite not having played in the big leagues at the time. Franco was non-tendered by the Phillies after underwhelming at the hot corner for several seasons. Rosenthal is trying to get his career back on track after Tommy John.

Four seems like a low number on a full 40-man roster (the Twins and Tigers both have eight), but again, this is where the Royals are as a franchise.

Waivers and Rule 5 Draft

Name Year How Acquired
Name Year How Acquired
Randy Rosario 2019 Waivers
Stephen Woods Jr. 2020 Rule 5

Combining the two so they won’t be so damn lonely.

Trades

Name Year Team Exchanged For
Name Year Team Exchanged For
Jorge Soler 2017 CHC Wade Davis
Brad Keller 2018 CIN Cash
Jesse Hahn 2018 OAK Ryan Buchter, Brandon Moss, Cash
Gabe Speier 2018 ARI Jon Jay
Kelvin Gutierrez 2018 WSN Kelvin Herrera
Jorge Lopez 2018 MIL Mike Moustakas
Brett Phillips 2018 MIL Mike Moustakas
Mike Montgomery 2019 CHC Martin Maldonado
Ryan McBroom 2019 NYY Cash
Chance Adams 2020 NYY Cash

Now we’re cooking. Let’s look at how each was acquired and trace their Royals family tree.

12/23/19 - Royals acquire Chance Adams from the New York Yankees for “unknown compensation.”

8/31/19 - Royals purchase Ryan McBroom from the New York Yankees.

We’re not exactly off to a blistering start. The Royals took advantage of a roster glut in the Bronx and grabbed a couple of potentially useful players for a little cash.

7/15/19 - Royals acquire Mike Montgomery from the Chicago Cubs for Martin Maldonado.

Again, not a very interesting transaction. Maldonado was a late free agent signing last spring to provide cover when Perez went under the knife for Tommy John surgery.

7/27/18 - Royals acquire Jorge Lopez and Brett Phillips from the Milwaukee Brewers for Mike Moustakas.

The Moose was a Royals first-round selection back in 2007. So no Royals family tree we can trace.

6/18/18 - Royals acquire Kelvin Gutierrez (and Yohanse Morel and Blake Perkins) from the Washington Nationals for Kelvin Herrera.

Herrera signed by the Royals as an amateur free agent, so there’s no family tree. Still. But we do have the rare “Kelvin-for-Kelvin” trade. That’s… something?

6/6/18 - Royals acquire Gabe Speier (and Elvis Luciano) from the Arizona Diamondbacks for Jon Jay.

An Inevitable Royal, Jay signed as a free agent the winter prior to this deal. Again, no roots on this Royals family tree. This trade will be remembered more for a player they eventually lost in Luciano. Due to a rostering loophole, they subsequently saw him plucked by the Blue Jays in the Rule 5 draft when they were unaware Luciano was eligible for selection. Ouch.

1/29/18 - Royals acquire Jesse Hahn from the Oakland A’s for Ryan Buchter, Brandon Moss and cash.

Finally! A deal with some roots!

The Royals picked up the oft-injured Hahn by packaging Buchter who was acquired in this trade:

7/24/17 - Royals acquire Ryan Buchter (and Trevor Cahill and Brandon Maurer) from the San Diego Padres for Esteury Ruiz, Matt Strahm and Travis Wood.

We all remember that transaction where the Royals were looking to shore up a bullpen while they were still on their last gasp of contention. It didn’t work out so well for the club, but they still have Hahn to show for it. Yet he didn’t have the greatest spring training and having thrown a grand total of 14.1 innings since joining the organization, this branch of the Royals family tree may be coming to an end once the rosters unfreeze.

12/14/17 - Royals acquire Brad Keller from the Cincinnati Reds for cash.

This was a de facto Rule 5 move as the Reds plucked Keller from the Diamondbacks organization in the draft and promptly dealt him to the Royals.

12/7/16 - Royals acquire Jorge Soler from the Chicago Cubs for Wade Davis.

Now we’re talking! The final trade on this list has roots in Dayton Moore’s two biggest deals as Royals General Manager.

For starters:

12/9/12 - Royals acquire Wade Davis (and James Shields and Elliot Johnson) from the Tampa Bay Rays for Patrick Leonard, Mike Montgomery, Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi.

The Wade Davis Trade! Or the alternate version is the James Shields Trade where Wade Davis is the “Key to the Trade.”

Leonard and Myers were all draft selections by the Royals. (So was Montgomery, but more on him in a moment.) But Odorizzi arrived from outside the organization.

12/19/10 - Royals acquire Jake Odorizzi (and Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jeremy Jeffress) from the Milwaukee Brewers for Yuniesky Betancourt and Zack Greinke.

We can trace the Soler acquisition all the way to Greinke. That’s kind of cool given Soler’s development as one of the premier power hitters in the AL.

But there’s another branch involved in that trade. Montgomery!

6/5/08 - Royals draft Mike Montgomery in the 1st round (36th pick) of the 2008 amateur draft. Pick was compensation for losing David Riske to free agency.

Riske came to the Royals as a free agent, so that branch ends there. But pivoting back to the trade with the Brewers, there’s more to follow…

We can never forget the Royals’ lust for Betancourt. The Yunigma. And the final branch of the Soler Royals family tree is a lengthy one:

7/10/09 - Royals acquire Yuniesky Betancourt from the Seattle Mariners for Derrick Saito and Dan Cortes.

7/24/06 - Royals acquire Dan Cortes (and Tyler Lumsden) from the Chicago White Sox for Mike MacDougal.

6/2/99 - Royals draft Mike MacDougal in the 1st round (25th pick) of the 1999 amateur draft. Pick was compensation for losing Jose Offerman to free agency.

12/17/95 - Royals acquire Jose Offerman from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Billy Brewer.

12/7/92 - Royals select Billy Brewer from the Montreal Expos in the Rule 5 draft.

There you go. We can trace Soler’s Kansas City roots through almost 30 years of transactions. All the way to the Montreal Expos.

While it would be great for Soler to stay in Kansas City, if he ever leaves we have to hope it’s via a trade. If only to keep the Billy Brewer connection alive.