First off, Iâ€™d like to thank the Royals for finishing off the Wil Myers trade late on the night before I left town for a business trip. Real helpful, boys. Before the weekend, I actually figured something big would happen on Monday when I would barely have computer access.
But enough whining, on to the actual trade.
Like many Royals fans, I was shocked when I first heard the news of the trade. Sure, the rumors had been flying since midway through the winter meetings last week, but discussing trading Wil Myers in the abstract was very different than hearing that it was indeed real.
After thinking about this trade for a while, Iâ€™ve decided that while I donâ€™t hate it, I am a bit disappointed. I think the Royals gave up too much overallâ€”not just Myers, but Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery. I think this trade was based on an overly optimistic view of where the team is, and I understand that itâ€™s painful for Royals fans to see promising prospects dealt away when weâ€™ve been trained to value them like family members.
I can kind of understand giving up Myers. If you want quality pitching, trading for it will be costly. I can also understand giving up Montgomery. He still has good velocity, still has excellent secondary pitches, is still a left-hander. But for whatever reason, it wasnâ€™t working for him in this organization. Sometimes, you just have to take a chance that a player like that will not figure things out after heâ€™s traded. And if it does, you just might have to tip your cap to the team that helped him unlock the potential.
Itâ€™s giving up Odorizzi that makes me scratch my head a bit. The Royals made quite a bit of noise recently about not blocking young pitchers. They also made a lot of noise about their ridiculous $70 million â€œsoft cap.â€ So why would they deal a starting pitcher with promise who also will be cost-controlled for the next three seasons before being eligible for arbitration? Itâ€™s true that Odorizziâ€™s likely ceiling is as a number three starter. That means league-average, and there is value in that.
Giving up two of those three players is understandable, even if I donâ€™t especially like it. Giving up all three hurts, especially in the long run.
Letâ€™s be clear, though. The Royals got a very good pitcher in James Shields. They got a promising and potentially very good pitcher in Wade Davis. You can hate this trade all you want, but you canâ€™t deny that Shields is the best Royalsâ€™ starter since Zack Greinke (not as good as Greinke, of course, but still quite good). Shields is
two yearsÂ one year removed from a top-three finish in the AL Cy Young Award voting, has posted an ERA+ over 100 in five of his six full seasons, and only an oddly inflated .344 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) in 2010 kept him from a sixth. His walk rate has been 2.3 per 9 innings in each of the last three seasons, while his strikeout rate has been above 8 per 9 innings in those three seasons. Heâ€™s not an ace, but Shields is a workhorse (over 200 innings pitched in each of the last six seasons) who is also a solid number two starter (which of course puts him at the top of the Royals rotation). Although he is under contract for only the next two seasons (he has already indicated an interest in signing an extension), the Royalsâ€™ rotation now has its bell cow, at least for a while.
Davis has shown promise as a starter in two full seasons, and was nails as a relief pitcher last year. While the bullpen is obviously the Royalsâ€™ biggest strength, you can never have too many relievers. Early indications are that he will be given a chance to win a starting spot, though. If he does, and youâ€™re counting at home, that is a rotation of Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, Bruce Chen, and Davis. Note the absence of Luke Hochevarâ€”a clear case of addition by subtraction. If Santana and Chen can rebound a bit from rough 2011 seasons, thatâ€™s a pretty good rotation. Not the best in the AL Central, but Iâ€™d say itâ€™s the second-best behind Detroit. If Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino can adequately recover from their Tommy John surgeries and contribute, the Royals might suddenly be in the highly unusual position of having too many quality starters.
Of course, the key word in the above paragraph is â€œif.â€ This is where I start to question this trade. Last week I discussed trades of top prospects and concluded that, if a team is really close to title contention, trading a prize prospect for the final piece can be a good idea. However, I have a hard time buying that this team, which won 72 games last year, has what it takes to win 90 games in 2013, even with an upgraded rotation. For one thing, that sort of turnaround would depend on Santana and Chen having seasons more like their 2011 years than their 2012. It would depend on Guthrie maintaining his effectiveness from last season. More than anything, it would depend on bounceback years from Eric Hosmer and Jeff Francoeur, plus continued offensive improvement from Mike Moustakas. Other questions in my mind: Lorenzo Cainâ€™s ability to stay healthy, the whole second base situation, and whether Salvador Perez can play a full season and still hit like weâ€™ve seen him do. To me, these things have various odds of working out in the Royalsâ€™ favor, but very seldom in sports does everything go right for a team, especially in baseball. Are the Royals better than they were on Opening Day 2012? I would say yes. But I would also say they are not better enough, and now theyâ€™ve traded a piece that could have replaced their weakest link on the field, Jeff Francoeur. They would have been better off jettisoning Frenchy and Hochevar and using that money and whatever else they could scrape up to go after Anibal Sanchez or Edwin Jackson.
Finally, Iâ€™d just like to say that I totally understand the disdain for this trade. The Royals have conditioned us to expect the worst out of whatever situation arises. So predictions that Myers would win multiple MVP awards in Tampa while Montgomery and Odorizzi take turns winning Cy Young Awards make sense, even though they are surely a little bit tongue-in-cheek. The Royalsâ€™ front office deserves whatever scorn you want to heap on them, since they have not put any team better than 75 wins on the field in six full seasons. I do believe Myers will be a successful major-leaguer, and Odorizzi will be a useful piece. Iâ€™m still not sold on Montgomery, but there is at least a chance heâ€™ll turn into another useful arm.
But sometimes you have to take a chance. It is true that by not developing their own pitching better, the Royals brought this deal on themselves. However, sometimes you have to try to win games at the major league level. This fanbase deserves success, and this move gives the Royals a slightly better chance at it, at least in the next two years. Sure, it reeks of Dayton Moore sacrificing the long-term to save his job, but on the other hand, any success he experiences is going to be enjoyable for us as fans. If this works out, the 2013 and 2014 seasons will be the best summers weâ€™ve had in many years. If it doesnâ€™t work out, the Dayton Moore haters will get their wish, and a new GM will come in, with a highly-talented farm system still in place. I donâ€™t want to be preachy or give the impression that I endorse this trade, but I will say that no one knows how it will play out, and there are reasons to believe that this team can succeed.