But, except for Butler and Soria each having a fine year, shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt making vast improvements and unheralded lefty Bruce Chen winning 12 games, not much went as planned on the field. Greinke slipped backward, and injuries struck. Among other things, long-time favorite David DeJesus' season ended in July against the Yankee Stadium wall, and Meche's shoulder got so bad that he moved to the bullpen from the rotation.
By mid-May, things had deteriorated so much that Trey Hillman was dismissed as manager in favor of Ned Yost, but while there were improvements down the stretch of the season, the club still finished last.
Yet Kansas City got a huge baseball boost when the Royals were awarded the All-Star Game for 2012, anointed in a personal announcement by Commissioner Bud Selig. Soria, their own All-Star this season, notched 43 saves, second most in the American League.
The Royals dealt DeJesus and accomplished their goal of retooling the outfield at the Winter Meetings in Florida. A Greinke trade was the talk of those meetings, but that didn't happen until Dec. 19, when he was sent to Milwaukee in a six-player swap.
The Royals' top 5 storylines of 2010:
5. An ever-changing outfield
When the season began, the Royals had a revamped outfield: newly signed Scott Podsednik in left field and Rick Ankiel in center, with DeJesus moving to right and Guillen becoming the designated hitter. Before the year was over, all four were traded. The 2011 outfield shaped up with former third baseman Gordon in left field, Melky Cabrera in center and Jeff Francoeur in right, the latter two signed during the Winter Meetings.
4. Soria's big season
Soria turned in one of the finest seasons ever by a Royals reliever, notching 43 saves in 46 chances. In 66 games, he had a 1.78 ERA with 71 strikeouts and just 16 walks over 65 2/3 innings. He also set club records for a reliever with 36 consecutive saves and 23 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. A Rule 5 draft selection in 2006, Soria also made the American League All-Star team for the second time.
3. Yost takes over as manager
Two seasons of losing and a bad start to a third one led to the dismissal of manager Hillman on May 13. Yost, hired as a special advisor in the offseason, took over, directing the club to a 55-72 record over the remainder of the season, as the Royals finished 27 games out in the division. Hillman compiled a 152-207 record in his two-plus seasons. Yost, former Milwaukee manager, made such a positive impression that he was given a two-year contract extension through 2012.
2. Kansas City awarded All-Star Game
After years of promises and teasing, the Royals finally got the official word on June 16, when Commissioner Selig came to KC to announce that the Midsummer Classic would be played at Kauffman Stadium on July 10, 2012. The only other time the Royals played host to the All-Star Game was in 1973, the year the stadium opened. Since then, the event has expanded to include a Future Game, a Workout Day, a Home Run Derby, a Red Carpet Show and a FanFest.
1. Greinke shipped to Milwaukee
Greinke won the American League Cy Young Award in 2009 with a marvelously meticulous season, but the magic wore off in 2010. His record slipped to 10-14, and his ERA leapt two runs per nine innings to 4.17. Because he was just two years away from free agency and expressed disillusionment over Kansas City's lack of progress in the standings, the Royals decided to entertain trade offers from those willing to part with top young players. The Brewers came calling, and off went Greinke -- with Betancourt thrown in, too -- for four players, including ballyhooed shortstop Alcides Escobar, who the Royals feel will help them become a contender by 2012, if not before.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.