The Royals are in the World Series (air time for Game 1 is 7:30 p.m. ET Tuesday on FOX, game time 8 p.m.) for the second straight season.
Here's a look at the five moves that made them the perennial powerhouse they are today:
1. The Zack Greinke trade
In December 2009, one year after he won the American League Cy Young Award, Greinke was traded along with Yuniesky Betancourt to the Brewers for Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress. Kansas City was coming off a 67-win season and desperately needed an influx of young talent. What's amazing is that this trade almost didn't happen. The Royals made a lot of progress on a trade with the Nationals, but Greinke made it clear he would not waive his no-trade clause to go there. At the time of the trade, it was unclear who the best piece was coming back to Kansas City, but general manager Dayton Moore took a chance on athletes, and in doing so he acquired Cain, the 2014 AL Championship Series MVP, Escobar, the 2015 ALCS MVP, as well as Odorizzi, who was used in the trade with the Rays that brought back Wade Davis and James Shields. That one trade laid the foundation for this great Royals team.
2. Hiring Dayton Moore
That Greinke trade wouldn't have happened without Moore at the helm. He was hired in 2006 to bring some of the scouting and player development acumen he picked up while working in the Braves' front office. With a philosophy built around relationships, loyalty and a team approach, Moore built one of the deepest farm systems in history, and then parlayed that into the juggernaut you see now. This is a team that can beat you with pitching depth, defense, speed, contact hitting and even power. It does not have a glaring weakness, and Moore is the man responsible for putting this group together.
3. Drafting Alex Gordon
If you're going to pick in the top five of the Draft, you have to make it count, and the Royals had an impressive run of top-three picks that began with Gordon, the No. 2 overall pick in 2005. In the subsequent three years, they drafted Luke Hochevar No. 1 overall in 2006, Mike Moustakas No. 2 overall in 2007 and Eric Hosmer No. 3 in 2008. And one common thread among all of these guys is that none of them was an instant sensation. Kansas City had the patience to stick with these guys as they struggled in the Minor Leagues and early on in the Majors. Gordon had to switch from third base to left field, Hochevar moved from the rotation to the bullpen, Moustakas struggled to hit lefties and Hosmer dealt with vision issues in the low Minors. Many in the game doubted that these guys would pan out, but the only people who didn't waver were the folks who were developing them and the front office who drafted them. Their patience has been rewarded.
4. The Salvador Perez extension
In today's game, every organization needs a productive Latin American program, one that consistently adds impactful talent to the organization. No player represents the Royals' Latin American program better than Perez, who they signed out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old for $65,000 in 2006. After a solid debut in 2011, hitting .331 in 39 games, Kansas City gave Perez a five-year, $7 million extension with three club options that might be the best bargain in baseball. Other products of that Latin American pipeline are Yordano Ventura and Kelvin Herrera, both signed out of the Dominican Republic. Like Perez, Ventura was signed for a bargain bonus ($28,000), and he also received a club-friendly contract after his rookie campaign. He signed a five-year, $23 million deal before last season that includes club options for 2020-21.
5. Hiring Ned Yost
Yost was hired in 2010 to replace Trey Hillman, and he spent the next four years slowly nurturing a young core of players. His patience, belief and humility eventually showed itself in 2014, and again this season. With Yost and Moore paired together, the Royals have an outstanding combination that has been able to adapt consistently to the ever-changing challenges of the game. As you can see, Kansas City is a complete organization where each area of the baseball-operations department impacts its current roster. It is an organization that is blessed with continuity, and it is led by humble quality people who truly understand what an organization should represent.
Dan O'Dowd is an MLB Network analyst and MLB.com columnist who served as general manager of the Rockies for 15 years, building a National League pennant winner in 2007. Prior to his time with Colorado, he worked in the front offices of the Orioles and Indians. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.