In a continued effort to improve a rotation that ranked as one of the worst in baseball, the Royals have acquired James Shields, Wade Davis and a player to be named later in exchange for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard. Let’s start with those principles before we get into what the Royals gave up. James Shields is the biggest big league name in this deal and he will be the guy who headlines the Royals rotation. He has the classic pitcher’s build standing at 6’4″ and 215 lbs and has been the definition of a workhorse over the last six seasons averaging 222 innings per year in that time with a high of 249.1 and a low of 203.1. Shields went 15-10 last season with a 3.52 ERA in 227.2 innings striking out 223 batters and walking 58. He strikes a good amount of guys out and limits his walks while limiting hits. I think he’s probably more of a number two, but he’ll do an admirable job as the Royals ace in 2013.
Wade Davis is a little less cut and dry. He is another big bodied pitcher who appears to be able to handle quite a workload. His first 64 big league games were spent in the rotation where went 25-22 with a 4.22 ERA over 388.1 innings. His stuff isn’t as good as you’d expect for a guy his size as his fastball sat in the low 90s while in the rotation. He struck out a shade under six per nine while walking more than three batters per nine innings. In an effort to get the most out of his ability, the Rays shifted Davis to the bullpen where he excelled with a 2.43 ERA in 70.1 innings allowing just 48 hits and striking out 87 batters. He saw his velocity spike about two miles per hour. He’ll start with the Royals, so hopefully his velocity increase will stick with him as Zack Greinke’s did after his stint in the bullpen.
In Wil Myers, the Royals gave up their top prospect for these two. Shields is under contract for 2013 at $9 million with a club option in 2014 for $12 million. Davis is under contract through 2014 for a total of $7.6 million with three club options for $7 million, $8 million and $10 million through 2017, so they’re getting a potential of seven seasons for Myers, six seasons of Odorizzi, a disappointing Montgomery and a far away third base prospect. Myers, of course, was the 2012 Baseball America Player of the Year and put up video game numbers in the minor leagues this season. To give him up had to be difficult for the Royals, but they felt it was worth it to go for it in 2013.
I said the other day that I wouldn’t want to trade Wil Myers for James Shields simply because I don’t think Shields gets the Royals to the playoffs in 2013 and probably not in 2014, so the upgrade just isn’t worth it. Even with this trade being expanded to include Wade Davis as another piece of the Royals rotation, my gut says this is a job saving attempt for Dayton Moore and he’s hurting the long-term future of the club by dealing one of the best bats in the minor leagues. That said, the fact that Davis is included at five seasons for a bit over $30 million if all the options are picked up is at least a little bit helpful and gives the Royals a more competitive rotation than they had yesterday.
Right now, it looks like the rotation will stack up with Shields, Guthrie, Santana, Davis and a competition both in spring training and in the off-season depending on who gets traded among guys like Luis Mendoza, Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar, Guillermo Moscoso, Will Smith and anybody else you can think of. So the rotation is better, and that’s difficult to argue. They have a guy who will take the ball everyday and give you innings which allows the Royals to save their talented bullpen so they aren’t burned out by mid-August. I imagine this team will hover around .500 or so and could find some lightning in a bottle and get to 85 or 86 wins, especially if one or both of Paulino and Duffy come back strong.
Ultimately, the 2013 season will be defined by how the offense progresses. Let’s not forget that this is a unit that finished 12th in baseball in runs scored. With James Shields, the Royals have a pitcher who I think is someone you can count on every fifth day to keep you in games, which is something they didn’t have at any point in 2012. I imagine they’ll look for some salary relief by trading both Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar. There will be a market for the former, but the latter might be more difficult to move with his arbitration case pending.
Losing Myers hurts. As Clint has talked about and I’ve agreed with on many occasions, he has a shot to be something really special. I know the argument that prospects are no sure things, but man oh man does Myers look like he’ll be something special. It’s going to hurt to see him perform for the Rays when we had him so close to being a potential superstar with the Royals, but like I said above, the Royals felt that he was worth giving up to get two rotation upgrades.
The second principle piece reportedly going back to the Rays is one of the team’s best pitching prospects, Jake Odorizzi, who was acquired in the deal for Zack Greinke prior to the 2011 season. Odorizzi was fantastic in the minors in 2012 and struggled a little in his two big league starts in September. He struggled with pitch efficiency in the minors and many reports indicated he didn’t really have an out pitch which would have made it difficult for him to succeed at the big league level. When I saw him, I saw a starter who could be a number three guy. I don’t think I mind giving Odorizzi up in this deal, but I don’t like giving him up in tandem with Wil Myers.
Mike Montgomery will do well with a change of scenery and the opportunity to pitch on a club so decorated in their ability to develop pitchers. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see him excel in the Rays organization and become a good big league starter, possibly in 2013. After so much hope for Montgomery, it was absolutely time to move on from him. He’s another guy I have no problem giving up.
Patrick Leonard was a fifth round pick in 2011 and put up solid numbers in his first year in the rookie league last year hitting .251/.340/.494. He’s got a long way to go, but has some potential.
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