The big trade rumored to be coming during the winter meetings in Nashville finally happened, it just needed a few more days to bear fruit.
Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore pulled the trigger on one of the biggest deals in club history, sending prospects including outfielder Wil Myers, right-hander Jake Odorizzi, left-hander Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard to the Tampa Bay Rays for right-handers James Shields and Wade Davis.
The Royals, who have not made the playoffs since winning the World Series in 1985, want to contend in a winnable AL Central. They have a core of young and talented players, but have been weak with starting pitching. The Rays, who wanted to maximize Shields' trade value before he turned free agent and have pitching depth to burn, were on the lookout for a great deal. And GM Andrew Friedman probably got one.
But the Royals have more at stake. Here are eight reasons the trade is bad for them.
1. Fear window
Though he is due $9 million in 2013 and a $12 million team option in '14 — very reasonable — Shields will be a free agent after that and the Royals are a small-market team, if you hadn't heard. If they are to make use of his skills and what he represents, they'll have to make the playoffs in the next two seasons. They have not done so since 1985. Kansas City has finished with one winning record this millennium, in 2003.
2. Letting go of greatness
Myers hit .314/.387/.600 with 37 homers with 140 strikeouts in 591 plate appearances at Class AA and AAA. He's a blue chip prospect who turns 22 on Monday. Myers might turn into Ryan Braun. He also might turn into Josh Willingham, which would be OK for the Rays. Or he possibly could flame out like Joe Charboneau. If he's like Braun, Royals fans will rue his loss for 20 years. And then into eternity after he retires.
3. Supporting cast
Assuming that Shields will do his part is one thing. But will Eric Hosmer mature? And Mike Moustakas? What about Lorenzo Cain? Can Salvador Perez hit something like he has over a full season? Who is going to lead off? And what about the other pitchers in K.C.'s rotation? They were horrible in 2012. Moore assumes a lot about the other members of his franchise, which won 72 games last season.
4. Shields isn't an ace
Shields has pitched 14 complete games, has six shutouts and has 448 strikeouts over the past two seasons. That's all great, but his career 3.89 ERA is barely above-average in quality, and he's logged 1,454 2/3 innings, which is a little concerning. He's not as good as David Price, and he probably won't be as good as Matt Moore going forward. The Royals are getting the Rays' third-best pitcher.
5. Wade Davis
I think the Royals think they got the better of the exchange of Davis for Jake Odorizzi, but Davis has been much better in relief than as a starter. The Royals don't need more relievers. They need someone to pitch better than Luke Hochevar, Ervin Santana and Bruce Chen. They might have accomplished that, but is Davis that much better than Jeremy Guthrie?
6. Out of their depth
Overall, the Royals traded three of their top 11 prospects, and four of their best 18, as ranked by Baseball America. They have a loaded farm system, so it's OK to deal these guys. But are they getting enough back to justify the deal?
7. What could have been
Given the makeup of the Royals roster, the idea itself of trading Myers makes some sense. The team needs pitching of any kind. The Royals reportedly pursued other pitchers for Myers, such as Brett Anderson of the A's, and were turned down. By adding a pitcher with a more favorable contract, they would have maximized Myers' trade value. If such a deal weren't possible, or ready, then they should have held on to Myers until it was.
8. Who do you trust?
It's not like Friedman hasn't made mistakes before. Pat Burrell, for example. And he will mess up again. But between him and Moore, who has the better track record? Moore probably has bought himself some time with this trade. He will have been in control for eight years by the time Shields' contract runs out.
Granted, there's a lot about this deal we don't know. Conventional wisdom says it can take years to analyze a baseball trade properly. Admittedly, we're left to guess until then. Casting your lot with Friedman is the safer bet.
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