Best deadline deal ever: Royals

Throughout July we're going to present 30 deals in 30 days: the best trade deadline deal ever made by each team. We've covered the AL East and NL East so far and are now on the AL Central.

THE TEAM: Kansas City Royals

THE YEAR: 2004

THE SITUATION: The Royals really don't have any positive bombshell deadline deals in their 40-plus-year history (no ... Jermaine Dye for Neifi Perez in 2001 doesn't make the cut), so here's the closest thing to it: GM Allard Baird and star center fielder Carlos Beltran couldn't agree on a long-term deal as the soon-to-be free agent played out his one-year, $9 million contract in 2004. The switch-hitting 27-year-old Beltran had compiled an .876 OPS with 36 outfield assists from 2001 to 2003, and agent Scott Boras was sure to land his client a nine-figure deal on the open market. After a brutal doubleheader loss in early June dropped the team to 21-36, Baird told everyone within earshot that Beltran, who was hitting .270/.353/.523 at the time, was available and that the team was building for 2005.

THE TRADE: On June 24, Beltran was dealt to the Astros as part of a three-team trade. In return, the Royals received Mark Teahen and Mike Wood from the Oakland A's and John Buck and cash from the Astros.

THE AFTERMATH: With this trade, Houston lined up a formidable outfield of Beltran, Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman. Beltran hit only .258 for Houston, but slammed 23 homers and drove in 53 runs in 90 games as the Astros went 54-36 to snag the wild card by one game. Beltran put on a hitting display in the playoffs, with eight homers and 14 RBIs while batting .435/.536/1.022 in 12 games. He then signed a seven-year, $119 million deal with the Mets.

Teahen, Baseball America's No. 85 prospect prior to 2005, came up to the majors with some hype, but compiled only a 97 OPS+ in five years with the Royals before getting dealt for Josh Fields and Chris Getz in 2010. Wood, a righty with limited ability to miss bats pitching in the tough PCL, went 11-19 with a 5.28 ERA and 4.8 K/9 in three seasons with Kansas City. Buck, a 23-year-old catcher with a .300/.368/.507 line in Triple-A New Orleans, hit .235/.298/.407 in six years with the Royals before losing his job to Miguel Olivo.

Since Beltran left, from 2005 to 2012, the Royals had 25 different players start at least one game in center field, with only five starting more than 100 games there.

-- Diane Firstman, Value Over Replacement Grit