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Royals trade partner history: The Diamondbacks

Who have the Royals sent to the desert?

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Championship Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Three Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

This is a series that looks back at their trade history with each team in baseball. The first two entries featured trades with the Braves and Cubs. Today, we’ll look back at the history of trades between the Royals and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Total number of Royals/Diamondbacks trades: 19

The Diamondbacks have only been around for 25 years, and while the teams have engaged in quite a few transactions, they have been mostly minor deals for forgotten players. Do you remember the Royals getting Paul Abbott? Rey Navarro? Spring training legend Peter O’Brien? Did you weep when the Royals sent Lucas May to the desert of Arizona? One of the more significant deals was in 2018 when the Royals shipped veteran outfielder Jon Jay to Arizona for two minor league pitchers - Gabe Speier and Elvis Luciano. Speier was a decent reliever last year, but not with the Royals, while the club lost Luciano due to a weird quirk in the Rule 5 draft.

Best trade: The Royals traded Jermaine Allensworth to the New York Mets in a three-team trade, acquiring Jeff Suppan from the Diamondbacks on September 3, 1998

There isn’t a lot to choose from here, but the Royals did well getting Jeff Suppan. Suppan had been ranked as high as #35 by Baseball America as a prospect with the Red Sox, but after a 5.69 ERA in 22 starts, they left him unprotected for the 1997 expansion draft. The Diamondbacks selected him, and he fared worse with a 6.68 ERA over 13 starts as he battled tendinitis.

Baseball Reference has this as a cash consideration deal, but it was actually a somewhat complicated deal. At the trade deadline, the Mets sent veteran Bernard Gilkey to the Diamondbacks for pitcher Willie Blair, catcher Jorge Fabregas and a player to be named later. So the Diamondbacks owed the Mets someone. A few weeks after trading Gilkey, the Mets found themselves in dire need of an outfielder. Jermaine Allensworth was a toosly young outfielder the Royals had picked up earlier that summer from the Pirates, but he had stunk in his short time in Kansas City. The Royals agreed to send him to the Mets for the player to be named later that the Mets were getting from the Diamondbacks. That player turned out to be Jeff Suppan.

It was a pretty shrewd move, as Rany Jazayerli would later write in 2019.

And if you want to know how different baseball was 20 years ago, just consider that no team put a claim in on Suppan, who had made it to the majors in 1995 when he was just 20 years old and was a three-time Baseball America Top 100 prospect from 1995 to 1997. Just nine months before the D-backs gave him up for spare change, they had made Suppan their third pick in the team’s expansion draft. Suppan’s quick ascent to the majors was more about his command and poise than raw stuff, and at the time of the trade, he did have a 6.20 career ERA in 224 innings. He was also just 23 years old, with flawless mechanics, and his FIP — not that even Voros McCracken even knew what FIP was back then — was a run and a half better than his ERA.

Suppan made the rotation out of camp the next spring and became a stabilizing force with a 4.53 ERA (110 ERA+ in those homer-happy days). He would be their Opening Day starter from 2000 to 2002, and he posted three consecutive ten-win, 100 ERA+ or better seasons with the Royals. His performance fell off in 2002 and the Royals non-tendered him, but he bounced back in 2003 and enjoyed his best seasons with the Cardinals before signing a lucrative deal with the Brewers.

Worst/weirdest trade: The Royals traded Luke Weaver to the Diamondbacks for Emmanuel Rivera on August 1, 2022

The 2022 Royals were mired in a five-year rebuild and were on their way to a 97-loss season. They had a 26-year old third baseman in Emmanuel Rivera, a guy who had slowly risen through the organization to reach the big leagues. He was an improvement defensively over Hunter Dozier, but he wasn’t wowing anyone with his bat with a line of .237/.284/.399. Still, he was young, and there weren’t any better options at third.

But the Royals decided to flip him at the deadline for veteran pitcher Luke Weaver, a 28-year-old with a career 4.76 ERA. Weaver had shown flashes of being an effective pitcher in his career, but was far too inconsistent and he had trouble staying on the mound, having never pitched 30 starts in a season. The Royals pitched him out of the bullpen, hoping he could eventually transition to a starter. He lasted just 14 games with a 5.59 ERA before the team non-tendered him after the season. Rivera has been a bit over replacement value in Arizona, hitting .261/.314/.358 in 86 games for the National League champions in 2023, but that’s far more than what the Royals got from Weaver.

Underrated trade: The Royals traded Billy Buckner to the Diamondbacks for Alberto Callaspo on December 14, 2007

Callaspo could really hit in the minors, but had some defensive limitations. The Angels traded him to the Diamondbacks in his minor league career, and he was named Diamondbacks Minor League Player of the Year in 2006. But he must have worn out his welcome quickly, because just 79 games in the big leagues, they sent him to the Royals after the 2007 season for pitcher Billy Buckner (not to be confused with All-Star first baseman Bill Buckner, who also played for the Royals).

He hit .305 in limited action in 2008 with the Royals, then hit .300/.356/.457 with 11 home runs in 155 games in 2009. Callaspo did have some off-field issues - he was arrested in 2007 with the Diamondbacks for suspicion of domestic violence, and he was arrested for a DUI with the Royals. When he slumped in 2010, the Royals traded him mid-season to the Angels for pitchers Will Smith and Sean O’Sullivan.