Dave McCarty, whose career got a boost after trade to Royals, dies at age 54

Dave McCarty was nine years removed from being the third overall pick in the 1991 MLB Draft when he considered quitting baseball.

McCarty was at spring training in 2000 with the Oakland A’s, his fourth team in as many years. The previous three seasons had seen McCarty appear in just eight games in the majors.

But a trade to the Royals that spring changed everything for McCarty, who died Friday at the age of 54. The Associated Press said he suffered a cardiac event in Oakland, California.

McCarty had just a .226 average and 10 home runs in 278 games over his first six big-league seasons. But Royals scout John Wathan was impressed with McCarty’s defensive ability.

The Royals traded for him to be a defensive replacement for first baseman Mike Sweeney.

“I’m pretty good over there. I pride myself on my defense,” McCarty said at the time. He also played in the outfield, which offered the Royals more flexibility.

The Royals ended up being happy with his bat that season. McCarty hit .278 with career-bests in home runs (12) and RBIs (53) in 103 games.

Years before the word analytics became used in baseball, McCarty realized he needed to make a change in this swing path while in the minor leagues in 1999. He made an effort to hit more balls in the air and put that into practice with the Royals.

“In the past I almost aimed for either that one-hop grounder through the infield or on up to a line drive,” McCarty told former Star sportswriter Dick Kaegel in 2000. “I had my sights set like that, so all I did was raise my sights a little bit.”

McCarty’s numbers dipped in 2001 and he was released the following year. After a stint with Tampa Bay, McCarty returned briefly to the A’s. In 2003, he signed with the Red Sox and played his final three seasons in Boston.

That included helping the Red Sox end their long championship drought. Boston beat the Cardinals in 2004 for its first World Series title in 86 years.

If not for the trade to Kansas City, McCarty might have missed the chance to be part of that special moment in Boston. McCarty was contemplating a change that spring as it looked like the A’s would send him back to the minors.

“I was at the point where I was ready to retire and do something else and not have to be away from my family,” McCarty said in 2000. “My wife is an attorney, and I’ve got my degree (in economics), so we could do well not playing baseball.

“It wasn’t for the money that I kept battling. It was just I felt I had something to prove. I love the game too much, so I was willing to have those 4:30 wake-up calls, bus rides and all that kind of junk.”

McCarty was drafted by the Twins and also played for the Giants and Mariners. He had a .242 career average with 36 home runs and 175 RBIs in 630 games.

That included 214 games with the Royals, that was the most of any franchise in his career.

“We mourn the loss of former Royal Dave McCarty,” the team said in a statement. “We send our deepest condolences to Dave’s family and loved ones.”