Sunday, March 25, 2007

The 100 Greatest Royals of All-Time

#94 Kevin McReynolds

Many Royals fans have probably forgotten that in the late 1980s, Kevin McReynolds was a pretty darn good player. From 1986-1988 he averaged .284 27 HR 97 RBI and 86 Runs scored. Between the 1987-1988 seasons he was 35 out of 36 in stolen base attempts. He was fifth in the NL in OPS in 1986, finished in the top six in slugging in 1986 and 1988, finished in the top ten in home runs from 1986-1988, was top six in RBI in 1986 and 1988, and finished third in MVP balloting in 1988. He also never made an All-Star team, although that is due to an abundance of superstar outfielders in the National League in the late 80s.

Kevin McReynolds was known as a guy that didn't want to work particularly hard at the game of baseball. He was an Arkansas kid, an avid hunter and outdoorsman who would rather spend his time in the backwoods of the Ozarks than patrolling the left field of Shea Stadium. He wasn't jovial with his teammates, and did not seem to enjoy being a Major League baseball player. He earned the nickname "Sleepy" for seemingly coasting through the season.

In the early 90s Kevin McReynolds was still pretty solid, but beginning to decline. On the final day of the December 1991 Winter Meetings, McReynolds was shipped with IF Gregg Jefferies and IF Keith Miller for P Bret Saberhagen and IF Bill Pecota.

I have spent several hours trying to figure out how the Bret Saberhagen trade makes reasonably good sense for the Kansas City Royals. I finally gave up.

This is the kind of deal you hear fans suggest on call-in shows. They suggest taking three guys who have become expendable and putting them in a sack to obtain a premier player. You chuckle because the suggestion assumes the other team's front office just fell off a potato truck.

Jonathan Rand, Kansas City Star

It was the first major trade by General Manager Herk Robinson, who was promoted the previous winter to replace the departing John Schuerholz. The deal outraged Royals fans. Saberhagen was a popular Royals pitcher and had won the Cy Young Award as recently as 1989. Pecota was a popular bench player thrust into a starting role in 1991 who responded with his best season ever. Jefferies was a hugely hyped infielder who had yet to live up to expectations. He was still young, but had put up fairly pedestrian numbers in 1991. Miller was a utility infielder coming off his only productive season. And McReynolds was still solid, but definitely in his decline phase.

But to borrow from Stephen Colbert, "Was it Really That Bad"?

Win Shares
1991 Royals
Bret Saberhagen 16
Bill Pecota 14
Total - 30

1991 Mets
Kevin McReynolds 17
Gregg Jefferies 15
Keith Miller 11
Total - 43

Bret Saberhagen 37
Saberhagen was hurt for most of his time in New York. From 1992-1994, he made just 58 starts, but did post a 3.11 ERA. In 1995, he was traded in mid-season to the Rockies for a couple of minor leaguers.
Bill Pecota 5
Pecota spent just one season in New York, one of the worst of his careers, before leaving as a free agent for Atlanta.
Total - 42

Kevin McReynolds 22
McReynolds had two pretty average seasons in Kansas City before being dealt back to the Mets for Vince Coleman.
Gregg Jefferies 14
Jefferies only spent on year in Kansas City and was pretty good offensively, but committed 26 errors at third. He was dealt to St. Louis for OF Felix Jose.
Keith Miller 15
Miller filled in at 2B and performed adequately, but "Pigpen" was struck with injuries for the next three seasons and could never contribute after his one good season.
Total - 51

In hindsight, I'd have to come to the conclusion that the Royals got the better of the deal, just slightly. They got three starters, all of whom provided average, although not spectacular production at their positions for one season. And they were able to flip two of them for starting outfielders. The Mets got an oft-injured pitcher who was great when healthy, but was only healthy enough to make 74 starts in four seasons. Essentially, the Royals got four seasons of average production, while the Mets got the equivalent of two seasons of very good production. At the very worst, the trade was a push.

However you could make an argument that the Royals should have gotten more for a pitcher of Saberhagen's stature. In the 80s, the Royals had a tremendous surplus of pitching, and a dearth of big boppers. Instead of trading these young pitchers for some big bats, they instead sought to fill specific needs. Danny Jackson brought Kurt Stillwell to fill the void at shortstop. Bud Black brought Pat Tabler to fill the void at DH. Charlie Leibrandt brought Gerald Perry to again fill the void at DH. Saberhagen brought McReynolds, Jefferies and Miller. None of the players brought in were great players, but they all filled voids in the starting lineup with average production.

The production the Royals got from Jefferies, Miller and McReynolds could probably have been obtained on the free agent market or in-house pretty cheaply. Saberhagen instead could have been used to bring in a big bat the Royals needed. Maybe this is why the franchise declined. Instead of going out and getting the best player available in trades, they sought to fill voids. Voids created because the organization wasn't producing enough talent.


Max said...

No one wants to comment on Sleepy Kevin McReynolds? Did he even exist?

Jay said...

Did I miss No. 95?

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