In an excellent analysis, the Los Angeles Times has shown how a small-market team like the Royals could build a national champion.
There were a lot of smart moves, but at the core was the draft.
From 2005 through 2008, the first picks of the Royals were outfielder Alex Gordon, pitcher Luke Hochevar, 3B Moustakas and 1B Hosmer.
The Marlins had a bunch of first round picks during those years for various reasons involving free agent compensation (I think). They were Chris Volstad, Aaron Thompson, Jacob Marceaux, Ryan Tucker and Sean West (2005), Brett Sinkbeil and Chris Coghlan (2006), Matt Dominguez (2007) and Kyle Skipworth 2008.
You might recall you saw Coghlan in the playoffs with the Cubs. What did the Marlins get in return for that trade? Well, there wasn't a trade. The Marlins granted him free agency in 2013.
Now, the LA Times noted that the Royals picks were at the very top of the draft, because the Royals had finished at the bottom the year before. The Marlins highest pick was Skipworth, sixth overall in 2008, a high school catcher that received a $3.2 million signing bonus.
Skipworth's only appearance in the Show was in 2013 -- when he made four plate appearances with the Marlins, getting one walk and no hits. After the 2014 season, he became a minor league free agent. He was signed by the Reds. During 2015, he struggled at AAA and AA.
In eight minor league seasons, he batted .214 with a total of 93 HR.
The Royals also did some smart things. In the Latin American signings, they got catcher Perez, the World Series MVP, for 65,000 pitcher Yordano Ventura for $27,000.
After their World Series lost in 2014, the Royals decided they couldn't afford to retain pitcher James Shields, designated hitter Billy Butler and outfielder Nori Aoki. They went into the free agent market to get Edinson Volquez, Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios as replacements. Total cost: $48 million, same as the Dodgers spent on Brandon McCarthy, the LA Times reported.
Meanwhile, the Marlins signed free agent Michael Morse for $16 million for two years. He didn't make it to the end of the season.
When the Royals had starting pitching woes, they traded three young pitchers for Johnny Cueto, who threw a WS shutout. The Marlins sent a young prospect to the Reds for Latos, who also didn't make it to the end of the season.