Breaking Down the Royals/Rays Trade

Who spells the name Will with only one “L”? That’s probably why the Royals made the deal. Kid is too pretentious, he’s obviously a future diva. “Call me Will…one L”

By Andy Hercules

I’m sure you’ve heard by now. The Kansa City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays have completed a blockbuster trade. Tampa Bay

Portrait of Kansas City Royals prospect Wil Myers

Portrait of Kansas City Royals prospect Wil Myers

ships All-Star starting pitcher James Shields and elastic set up man/long relief/starter Wade Davis to the other populated Missouri city for prospects William “Wil” Myers (OF), Jake Odorizzi (SP), Mike Montgomery (SP), and Patrick Leonard (3B).

It’s weird reading about a blockbuster trade including the Kansas City Royals. It’s even weirder when the Royals are on the “win now” end of a blockbuster because the Royals are pretty terrible. Yea, I’m a Cardinals fan so I’m a little biased…but I’m not really exaggerating. If you’re under the age of thirty, the Royals have done absolutely nothing in Major League Baseball since you can remember remembering things.

That’s part of why this trade is so significant. Rarely do we see MLB clubs–regardless of financial positioning–trade their most highly touted, cost controlled prospect. And while these prospects may be viewed as “some guys who might not even reach the majors” to a large majority who don’t follow the minor leagues, all of them have Major League upside, and one has MVP potential. So how did the Royals get to this position? Are they really contenders?

Times have been changing in the past few years. Royals GM Dayton Moore injected new life into the annual blunder that begins every April at Kaufmann Stadium.

Let me break it down.

In 2011, the Royals unanimously had the best farm system in baseball (similar to the Cardinals now) which Moore helped

Pitcher James Shields #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays

Pitcher James Shields #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays

build mainly through the draft. They had a three-headed hydra of elite hitting prospects in first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman, Mike Moustakas, and outfielder Wil Myers that was bolstered by a deep group of young starting pitching prospects with upside.

Well, like most pitchers, almost all of those prospects has lost their luster. A couple of them were viewed as top 50 prospects just two years ago, but not anymore. One was shipped to the Rays in the deal. But those hitters I mentioned? Two of them you probably know. The future faces of the franchise, corner infielders Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer; both who celebrated their first full seasons in MLB last year. The third, Wil Myers, is the hyped “superspect” going to Tampa Bay that has most people without a front office job in baseball scratching their head. And it’s easy to see why, here’s Myers 2012 triple slash (Avg/OBP/SLG): .314/.387/.600 very, very impressive to say the least. And for people who want basic numbers, he did that too: 109 RBI, 37 home runs, in 134 games.

Myers is a top 3 prospect in the minors along with Oscar Taveras (St. Louis Cardinals) and Jurickson Profar (Texas Rangers). Myers is the best or second best outfielder in the minor leagues depending who you talk to either ahead of or behind Oscar Taveras (Taveras is better if you want my opinion). He’s an elite prospect. Not just great, but elite. Most prospects have a high chance of fading out, but Myers is not one of them. Baseball America named Myers the 2012 Minor League Player of the Year. He’s in good company; take a look at their minor leaguers of the year since 1990:

1990 Frank Thomas First baseman AA Chicago White Sox
1991 Derek Bell Outfielder AAA Toronto Blue Jays
1992 Tim Salmon Outfielder AAA California Angels
1993 Manny Ramirez Outfielder AAA Cleveland Indians
1994 Derek Jeter Shortstop AAA New York Yankees
1995 Andruw Jones (1) Outfielder A Atlanta Braves
1996 Andruw Jones (2) Outfielder AAA Atlanta Braves
1997 Paul Konerko First baseman AAA Los Angeles Dodgers
1998 Eric Chavez Third baseman AAA Oakland Athletics
1999 Rick Ankiel Pitcher AAA St. Louis Cardinals
2000 Jon Rauch Pitcher AA Chicago White Sox
2001 Josh Beckett Pitcher AA Florida Marlins
2002 Rocco Baldelli Outfielder AAA Tampa Bay Devil Rays
2003 Joe Mauer Catcher AA Minnesota Twins
2004 Jeff Francis Pitcher AAA Colorado Rockies
2005 Delmon Young Outfielder AAA Tampa Bay Devil Rays
2006 Alex Gordon Third baseman AA Kansas City Royals
2007 Jay Bruce Outfielder AAA Cincinnati Reds
2008 Matt Wieters Catcher AA Baltimore Orioles
2009 Jason Heyward Outfielder AAA Atlanta Braves
2010 Jeremy Hellickson Pitcher AAA Tampa Bay Rays
2011 Mike Trout Outfielder AA Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2012 Wil Myers Outfielder AAA Kansas City Royals

You can say it’s a small sample size, but out of the 22 players named Baseball America’s player of the year since 1990, almost all of them became regulars, a majority of them became All-Stars, and some became superstars.

Personally I don’t think Wil Myers will reach the superstar level. He has holes in his swing, and last year he struck out more than once per game. Not good. His contact rate will naturally drop in the majors while his K rate likely increases or stays similar. That is a major issue he will need to adjust to, but I believe he can.

So is Wil Myers for James Shields a good trade? One for one? Maybe… but probably not…eh maybe…but that’s not the deal.

Mike Montgomery #65 of the Kansas City Royals

Mike Montgomery #65 of the Kansas City Royals

Kansas City also shipped over two pitchers in Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery who could fill the back of a rotation in a year or so and a super raw, but talented 3B prospect. Tampa Bay also included pitcher Wade Davis, who will probably be used as a starter.

Royals prospect Mike Montgomery was a top 20 prospect just a couple of seasons ago (think a lesser Shelby Miller). He’s a lanky left-hander who has lost his luster due to arm issues as well as velocity fluctuations that throw up caution flags. In the long run, Montgomery may not even end up a starter, but Tampa Bay’s sure to try him there. Odorizzi on the other hand was not homegrown. He was part of the package sent from Milwaukee to Kansas City for Zack Greinke last year. The well-built right hander is viewed as a rock-solid number three starter. He posted a 2.93 ERA with an 88/40 K/BB in 107 innings in 18 Triple-A starts in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast league. Odorizzi has a higher floor than Montgomery at this point due to durability and consistency. Their ceilings are similar, with Odorizzi  more likely to reach it. The Royals for some reason decided to generously add 3B prospect Patrick Leonard into the deal. I don’t know much about him, but he’s is a young corner infielder with lots of raw power, but too far away to truly project.

Royals get the players we do know, James Shields is very good, and he’s reliable. He’s been 2nd in the majors in IP through the last two years behind only Justin Verlander, and 16th in ERA in all of baseball through those two years. He’s not a true number one starter though. He throws 200+ innings pitched every year, but in 2010 he did it with a 5.18 ERA, then followed that up with a watershed 2011 season in which he threw 11 complete games (3 more than all his other seasons combined) and finished with a 2.82 ERA.

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Wade Davis

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Wade Davis

 

Wade Davis was a failed starter in Tampa Bay due to command/control issues as well as Tampa Bay’s insane pitching depth, but has turned into a very effective reliever/setup man. Kansas City will undoubtedly try him in the rotation, and he could turn out to be the next James Shields for them or be forced back to his valuable bullpen roll. But if Wade Davis can become an effective low end #2 or high #3 starter, this trade looks a lot better for Kansas City in my eyes.

My opinion:
Tampa Bay made a smart, necessary move. They’re a small market team who has to always be one step ahead to stay competitive. The pitching is so goddamn deep the club could do this to set themselves up for a cost controlled future all while not missing much of a beat this year. I think the Rays will take a small step backwards, but not too noticeable. Look for a similar type deal with a bigger return next off-season involving David Price.

For the Royals, GM Dayton Moore obviously seems to believe their window to win is now. After 27 years of no playoff baseball, I see the rush to improve. The point of baseball is to win games, to both make money selling out games and signing lucrative TV contracts. Forget having the coolest, youngest prospects.

 Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals talks with owner and Chief Executive Officer David Glass (C) and general manager Dayton Moore

Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals talks with owner and Chief Executive Officer David Glass (C) and general manager Dayton Moore

 

But I still disagree with the move. The Royals’ past failures are controlling their future. Last year, their pitching sucked, and the fact that most highly touted pitching prospects fail clouded his judgement. Maybe Moore felt he was never going to see the day as a GM that his prospects came to fruition. Either way, James Shields and Wade Davis will not make a big enough difference to push them into the postseason without trading away more of their young talent for another impact player, or an impact player on another team having a season altering injury (like if something happened to Miguel Cabrera, or someone on the White Sox like Paul Konerko).

Trading four legit prospects, all cost-controlled for at least six years for 2 years of a 31-year-old James Shields who is not even a true ace along with Wade Davis who is a good reliever but a question mark as a starter seems shortsighted to me. In my opinion, Dayton Moore is worried more about his job than the Kansas City Royals Franchise. He did a disservice long-term to Royals fans who have stuck with the team since 1985 when they not only won their last World Series, but made the playoffs. I do not view Myers as the next Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, but even if he tops out with a couple of All-Star appearances isn’t a cost controlled hitter like that still more valuable for an up-and-coming franchise as opposed to two years of a 31-year-old pitcher? Not if you’re trying to win now. Everyone knows pitching wins in the postseason. But the Royals haven’t been there in 27 years. The time to win is not right now, not when most of the heart of your lineup is under 24…and thats not even mentioned that their young corner infielders and supposed faces of the franchise completely underperformed in their first big league season together.. Not everyone is Buster Posey, and expecting such is unwise.

Starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi #49 of the Kansas City Royals

Starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi #49 of the Kansas City Royals

As a Cardinals fan, here are 2 ways to view it. How would you feel if The Cardinals moved Trevor Rosenthal, Oscar Taveras, Joe Kelly and Carson Kelly for James Shields and Wade Davis? Me? I would be furious. But how would I feel if they moved Adam Wainwright and Mitchell Boggs for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard?

Well, I would be furious.

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