I come to praise the Shields-Davis trade, not to bury it
If there’s a fan base pessimistic about everything, it’s the Kansas City Royals fan base. Not being in the playoffs since 1985 and not having a winning season since 2003 does that to you. And with all the other misfortunes the Royals experienced over the years, you can’t blame fans for being pessimistic.
So when the Royals traded top prospect Wil Myers, pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery and infielder Patrick Leonard for Tampa Rays starters James Shields and Wade Davis, a lot of Royals fans, bloggers and pundits panned the trade. They claimed the Royals gave up too many prospects and traded potential long-term success for short-term gain. They believed the trade smacked of desperation, a cynical move by General Manager Dayton Moore to try to keep his job.
But what were the Royals supposed to do? Look, the Rays weren’t about to give up David Price or Jeremy Hellickson for Myers, Odorizzi, Montgomery and Leonard. And I doubt adding someone like Eric Hosmer and/or Billy Butler to the deal would change things. The Rays aren’t rebuilding and they have no reason to give up Price and Hellickson. The Rays had room to give up Shields and Davis and still keep their strong, young, starting rotation.
I have to admit I was a little disappointed the Royals gave up Odorizzi. But Odorizzi projects as a number three or four starter, like Davis. And Davis has four years of Major League experience and is a free agent until 2016. If Davis works out as a starter, he could be the key success to the trade. And if he doesn’t fare well as a starter, he can go to the bullpen, where he succeeded with the Rays in 2012.
Making Montgomery a part of the trade made sense. This is the guy some thought would be a part of the Royals 2012 rotation. Instead, Montgomery ended up in AA Northwest Arkansas and struggled there. It’s likely he wouldn’t be with the Royals anytime soon and a change of scenery might do him some good.
The Royals only get two years of Shields, but if he pitches as expected, the Royals have an ace they haven’t had since Zack Greinke. If you’re into statistics, Baseball Reference says Greinke is statistically similar to Shields, who’s going to make $9MM in 2013. Greinke will make $19MM in 2013.
Heck, the Royals will pay Ervin Santana $12MM in 2013 and he’s projected as the number two or three starter. Looking at it that way, Shields is a bargain, even if the Royals pick up Shield’s $12MM 2014 option. If the Royals do well in 2013 and 2014, perhaps Shields signs a multi-year deal with the team. It could happen.
And think about what the Royals didn’t have to give up. Players like Danny Duffy, Felipe Paulino, Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and pitching prospects Kyle Zimmer and Yornado Ventura. The Major League team is still intact and when Duffy and Paulino return, they will be a part of the starting rotation.
But what about Jeff Francoeur? Yes, he had a terrible 2012 and it might be a stretch if he crawls back to being league average next year. But even if Myers stayed with the Royals, it’s likely he wouldn’t be on the Opening Day roster. Despite what some think, the Royals needed front line starting pitching over a right fielder like Myers. And if worse comes to worst, there’s always David Lough or Jarrod Dyson, right? And by the time Francoeur leaves, there’s a chance Bubba Starling will take his place.
Sure, the Royals could have gone the free agent route and got a Anibal Sanchez, Shaun Marcum or Ryan Dempster. But would the Royals sign them for $9MM a year like they got Shields? And honestly, Shields is a better pitcher than Sanchez, Marcum or Dempster. If anything, the Royals might have been better off trying to sign Sanchez, Marcum and Dempster over Santana or Guthrie.
It’s true losing prospects like Myers, Odorizzi, Montgomery and Leonard hurts, but remember, they’re prospects, not proven Major League commodities. Of course, Shields could blow out his elbow and Davis might be the second coming of Luke Hochevar. But baseball is a game of risk and the Royals aren’t going to win by playing it safe and relying solely on their prospects.
Remember all the bold moves the Detroit Tigers took last year? They made it to the World Series. Sure, it’s a long shot the Royals will be in the World Series next year, especially with the Tigers in the division. But the Royals have to make bold moves if they want to succeed.
And don’t forget this trade brings the Royals payroll up to $80MM. Love him or hate him, David Glass is spending money and Dayton Moore is making an effort to improve the team.
It won’t take long to see if this trade works out for the Royals. If it blows up, Moore will be gone and the team could be wandering in the baseball wilderness for several more years. But if it succeeds, it could be the start of a new era of winning baseball for the Kansas City Royals.