There is a lull in the baseball season, the perfect time to engage in frivolities and shenanigans. You may have played the internet baseball trivia game Immaculate Grid that asks you to find players that meet specified requirements, many times, “who played for these two teams?”
I don’t know if that inspired Adam Sanford at DRaysBay, but he came up with the idea of writing about the best former Rays player for each MLB team. So I thought I’d copy the idea for Royals Review.
Using Baseball Reference, we are looking for former Royals who put up the most WAR for every other MLB team. So may have been great in Kansas City, or they may have only spent a few games here.
Arizona Diamondbacks - Zack Greinke (16.5)
Zack isn’t technically a “former” Royal yet, although we may have seen his last start. He was in Arizona for three and a half seasons, twice making an All-Star team. If you don’t want to include him, Miguel Batista is next at 11.6 WAR.
Atlanta Braves - Lonnie Smith (17.3)
Lonnie “Skates” Smith was a champion with the Phillies, Royals, and Cardinals, but the Braves were the team he twice lost in the World Series with.
Baltimore Orioles - Miguel Tejada (19.5)
Miguel made his name in Oakland, but spent four solid seasons in Baltimore before returning there again near the end of his career. His career definitively ended in Kansas City after 53 games and a PED suspension. Former Royals Mike Boddicker and Jeremy Guthrie were also valuable in Baltimore.
Boston Red Sox - Jackie Bradley Jr. (18.0)
Bradley seemed destined to play for the Royals, which he finally did for 43 games this year before being released. Johnny Damon nearly topped this list, and is perhaps more famous for his time in Boston.
Chicago White Sox - Ron Hansen (18.1)
I know a lot about Royals history and I had no idea Ron Hansen played in Kansas City. Hansen was the 1960 Rookie of the Year in Baltimore and was eventually traded to the White Sox as a shortstop with some pop. He spent 16 games with the Royals in 1972 at the end of his career.
Chicago Cubs - Jose Cardenal and Brian McRae (9.3)
This is one of the lower WAR totals for a former Royals player, but outfielders Jose Cardenal and Brian McRae both enjoyed some good years in the Friendly Confines. Bill Buckner is also high on this list, having won a batting title in Chicago.
Cleveland Guardians - Carlos Santana (29.8)
Santana was pretty beloved in Cleveland, but struggled to hit in Kansas City. Gaylord Perry also ranks high on this list.
Cincinnati Reds - Vada Pinson (47.7)
Vada Pinson was a pretty underrated player centerfielder from the 1960s who ended his career with the Royals in 1974-75.
Colorado Rockies - Jorge de la Rosa (15.5)
Jorge de la Rosa was one of the first player acquired by Dayton Moore when he took over, but he didn’t really take off until Moore traded him to Colorado, where he twice pitched in the playoffs.
Detroit Tigers - Kirk Gibson (27.7)
After starring on the gridiron for Michigan State, Gibson played for his hometown Tigers, winning a title in 1984. The Royals had long coveted him - their sudden lack of interest when he hit free agency was a big clue owners were colluding - and they finally brought him in for one season in 1991.
Houston Astros - Terry Puhl (28.4)
Terry Puhl could have been one of those players that has a decade-long or more career with just one team, but he just felt he had one more year to give after the Astros were done with him, so he played 15 games with the Royals in 1991.
Los Angeles Angels - Wally Joyner (19.0)
They were the California Angels when “Wally World” took the league by storm. But a contract dispute with owner Gene Autry brought Joyner to KC where he had four very good years.
Los Angeles Dodgers - Zack Greinke (17.2)
Zack again! Greinke spent three seasons with the Dodgers, winning an ERA title and winning 77 percent of his games. Tommy Davis and Hideo Nomo also rank high on this list.
Miami Marlins - Jeff Conine (13.7)
“Mr. Marlin” came up with the Royals after being a 58th round pick in the draft. Despite playing well in the minors, Kansas City left him unprotected for the 1992 expansion draft and he went on to play over 1,000 games with the Marlins, winning titles in 1997 and 2003.
Milwaukee Brewers - George Scott (22.5)
This is not actor George Scott (Patton, The Exorcist, Dr. Strangelove), but the home run champ with the Brewers. He was released in 1979 and the Royals brought him for 44 games only to release him later that summer.
Minnesota Twins - Harmon Killebrew (60.5)
I think I read once the Royals have traded with the Twins less than any other team. But they did pluck their Hall of Fame slugger from them, signing “Killer” for the 1975 season, where he hit the last of 573 career home runs.
New York Mets - Carlos Beltrán (31.1)
The top two players on this list were each involved in painful trades for Royals fans - Beltrán and David Cone.
New York Yankees - David Cone (20.3)
The Kansas City kid now does TV for Yankees games. Johnny Damon is second on this list, and Chien-Ming Wang is third.
Oakland Athletics - Vide Blue (29.0)
Blue won a Cy Young and MVP by age 21, but drugs took their toll and a decade later when the Royals acquired him, he wasn’t quite the same. He is most remembered in KC for his involvement in cocaine use among Royals players.
Philadelphia Phillies - Bob Boone (13.0)
Boone once played against the Royals in the World Series, but a decade later he was on their side, winning a Gold Glove at the age of 41. He would later manage the Royals after his career was over.
Pittsburgh Pirates - Jason Kendall (30.7)
Rewind yourself! The three-time All-Star with the Pirates spent the last year of his career with the Royals before becoming a special advisor with the club.
San Diego Padres - Benito Santiago (14.0)
Santiago won Rookie of the Year and three Gold Gloves with the Padres, but was near the end when he signed with the Royals in 2004.
San Francisco Giants - Gaylord Perry (37.0)
Perry was the infamous spitballer who won 314 games, the last four coming in a Royals uniform. Another Hall of Famer - Orlando Cepeda - nearly topped this list.
Seattle Mariners - Raúl Ibañez (14.8)
Ibañez came up with the Mariners, but first found success with the Royals. He returned to Seattle, but then returned to Kansas City to give a pep talk that helped spur the 2014 Royals to the pennant.
St. Louis Cardinals - Terry Pendleton (15.1)
A lot of players have crossed the state to play for both Missouri teams, but Pendleton was the best of them with the Cardinals. He won two Gold Gloves at third with them, but was a light-hitting DH when he finally made it to Kansas City at the end of his career.
Tampa Bay Rays - Ben Zobrist (35.3)
Zobrist was a two-time All-Star in Tampa Bay, and only spent 59 games with the Royals, but was three of the most memorable months in club history. He had a sensational post-season, became a fan-favorite, and won his first championship.
Texas Rangers - Jim Sundberg (34.7)
Sundberg was a six-time Gold Glover with the Rangers for over a decade before the Royals acquired him to be the starting catcher for their 1985 championship team. Two-time MVP Juan Gonzalez almost topped this list.
Toronto Blue Jays - José Bautista (38.3)
Bautista spent four weeks with the Royals after he was acquired from the Rays, appearing in 13 games before they traded him to the Mets. Six years later, he won a home run title with the Blue Jays, eventually losing in an ALCS against the Royals in 2015.
Washington Nationals - Rondell White (19.3)
White was a talented but oft-injured outfielder with the then-Montreal Expos. When the Royals found themselves in an unexpected pennant run in 2003, they picked up White, who hit .347/.400/.613 in 22 games for them.