The Royals made a trade Sunday unlike any other in their history, obtaining an ace starting pitcher who will become a free agent at the end of the season and going all-in for 2015.
Johnny Cueto is coming to Kansas City, and the trade won’t be considered a victory for the Royals unless Cueto has postseason success. Those are the stakes for this transaction that cost the Royals pitchers Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed.
Other major trades in Royals history had a profound impact on the club, for better or worse. Some of the greatest players in franchise history arrived by trade; some who became stars elsewhere started as Royals.
Here are five trades that proved to be pivotal points for the organization.
Dec. 3, 1969
Royals get Amos Otis and Bob Johnson from the Mets for Joe Foy
The Royals had already made a terrific trade in their young history, obtaining Lou Piniella from the fellow expansion team Seattle Pilots. Piniella became the 1969 AL Rookie of the Year. But Otis became the team’s first star, a foundation player for the future championship squad and a five-time All-Star. Johnson spent one year with the Royals and then was part of the deal with the Pirates that brought Freddie Patek to Kansas City.
▪ Winner: Royals
March 27, 1987
Royals send David Cone and Chris Jelic to the Mets for Ed Hearn, Mauro Gozzo and Rick Anderson
The Mets avenge the Otis deal. The Royals’ rotation was set with Bret Saberhagen, Mark Gubicza, Charlie Leibrandt, Danny Jackson and Bud Black. But Cone, the hometown product, was an amazing 20-3 for the Mets in 1988 and Hearn played in 13 games for the Royals because of injuries. Cone returned to the Royals for two years, including the strike-shortened 1994 Cy Young season. But most of his best years were spent away from Kansas City. Little did the Royals know, but they had just started a postseason drought of nearly three decades. The 1995 trade that sent Cone to the Blue Jays for three players (only Chris Stynes made the majors) was just as bad.
▪ Winner: Mets and Blue Jays
June 24, 2004
Royals send Carlos Beltran to the Astros, in a deal that also involved the A’s, for Mark Teahen, John Buck and Mike Wood
In 1999, the Royals' primary outfield was Johnny Damon in left, Jermaine Dye in right and Beltran in center. Damon and Dye were soon gone, winning World Series with other organizations. Beltran remained in Kansas City until 2004, when the Royals decided they wouldn’t be able to re-sign him. Turned out, it would have taken only $1 million more than the Royals offered over three seasons to keep Beltran, who became a postseason star with the Astros, Mets and Cardinals. Teahen had some serviceable seasons with the Royals and Buck made an All-Star team, with the Blue Jays.
▪ Winner: Astros
Dec. 19, 2010
Royals trade Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt to the Brewers for Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi
Another star leaves Kansas City, but although Greinke, the 2009 Cy Young winner, went on to more success with the Brewers and Dodgers, the Royals scored huge here, picking up their starting shortstop and center fielder. Escobar and Cain got hits in the All-Star Game this year. Odorizzi became a piece of another impact Royals trade.
▪ Winner: Royals
Dec. 9, 2012
Royals trade Wil Myers, Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi to Tampa Bay for James Shields, Wade Davis and Elliot Johnson
When the Royals didn’t reach the postseason in 2013, when Myers was named AL Rookie of the Year, the Devils Rays looked to have gotten the better of the deal. But Shields was the staff ace for two year and his veteran clubhouse presence had a positive influence on young players. Davis is his second season as one of the game’s most dominant relief pitchers. Odorizzi and Montgomery (with the Mariners) have had good starts to their major league careers, but this trade has been huge for the Royals.
▪ Winner: Royals