The call came hours after Salvador Perez’s grand slam had sent a joyous shock wave through Kansas City.
The Royals had beaten the Red Sox at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday, and Royals general manager Dayton Moore was driving home when his phone rang. The message: The Royals had a deal to sign free-agent relief pitcher Neftali Feliz.
The next morning, Moore placed a phone call of his own. This was to the man who would have to relinquish his spot on Royals’ 40-man roster to make room for Feliz: pitcher Chris Young.
“I said come meet me at my house,” Moore recounted Friday after the team announced it had signed Feliz and designated Young for assignment. “We sat and discussed it. It was hard, but it was the right thing to do. C.Y., as I told him, he was perhaps in my mind, the MVP of our pitching staff in 2015. He did everything for us. He was one of the pillars of our team.”
The Royals signed Young as a free agent in March 2015, and he found success in the bullpen and as a starter. Young appeared in 34 games, making 18 starts, and had a 3.06 ERA. In the postseason, he made four appearances, including two starts.
That included a crucial three-inning relief appearance in Game 1 of the World Series against the New York Mets. Young got the win as the Royals won 5-4 in 14 innings. He also started Game 4, giving up two runs in four innings of what would be a 5-3 win.
The next night, the Royals won their first World Series since 1985.
But Young’s biggest moment came after one of his biggest heartbreaks. Pitching one day after the death of his father in September 2015, Young tossed five shutout innings in a win against the Indians and helped the Royals stay ahead of the Blue Jays in what proved to be a crucial race for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
“He went out and gave us just every bit, every ounce that he had that day,” Royals manager Ned Yost recalled. “It’s just a testament to his class as a competitor and his class as a person.”
After the 2015 season, Young again was granted free agency. The Royals brought him back on a two-year, $11.5 million contract, but he was never able to regain his form from that championship season.
Young started the 2016 season in the starting rotation, but struggled and was moved to the bullpen. He finished the season with a 6.19 ERA. This season, Young’s ERA jumped to 7.50, and Moore said the team had started discussions two weeks ago about removing him from the 40-man roster.
Although he battled to find success on the mound, Young remained an important presence in the clubhouse.
“I loved Chris Young,” said second baseman Whit Merrifield. “He did a lot for this team, and he did a lot for me. Last year, he talked to me and taught me how to go about doing things. He’s a great presence in the clubhouse.”
Off the field, Young quietly pledged money to the Urban Youth Academy in Kansas City, and he was at the groundbreaking in April 2016.
“I know that I’m a better person for being around him, and I know our organization is better,” Moore said. “He’s somebody truthfully that I’d like to partner with in the future in whatever endeavor.”
Yost spoke glowingly of Young’s contributions, but acknowledged that it was time to make the move.
“He played a big part in winning a championship,” Yost said. “It was special. He was a major influence in the locker room. He had the heart of a gladiator when it came to competing. It’s tough when these things happen, but they happen.”
Alec McChesney contributed to this story