Tag Archive | "Desperation"

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.

Shields and Davis

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.

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Concluding The WAR On The Trades Of The GMDM Era

In the final piece of this series, we use the WAR data to finish taking a look at the trades that Dayton pulled off in 2010, and try to determine what all of this really means.

August 13, 2010: The Kansas City Royals traded Jose Guillen to the San Francisco Giants for a player to be named later and cash. The San Francisco Giants sent Kevin Pucetas (minors) (October 14, 2010) to the Kansas City Royals to complete the trade.

By this point in Jose Guillen‘s tenure with the Royals, they were just looking to get rid of him and unload a portion of his salary.  Guillen was in the last year of his deal, had (obviously) cleared waivers, and it was time for the Royals to get a look at some of the guys who had a chance to be part of their future.  And if they could get something in return, well all the better.  Along came Brian Sabean and the San Francisco Giants, who were in the middle of a pennant race and needed a bat.  Pucetas is a 27 year old career minor leaguer, who is unlikely to ever crack the Big Leagues.  However, this trade has to be considered a huge success for Moore considering their desperation to unload Guillen at the time.  It is telling that in Guillen’s almost 3 years with the Royals, he managed to post a cumulative WAR of -1.0.  That’s what $36 million of David Glass’ money bought the Royals in 2007.  Guillen did little after going to the Giants and was not even included on their playoff roster, which was the year they won the World Series.  I’m not sure if Jose has officially announced his retirement, but it is safe to say he is done.

Guillen: -0.7 WAR with Giants (2 months of 2010)

Pucetas: 0.0 WAR (has yet to reach Majors)

Royals win trade by 0.7 WAR

November 10, 2010: The Kansas City Royals traded David DeJesus to the Oakland Athletics for Justin Marks (minors) and Vin Mazzaro.

Yikes!  While DeJesus had a down year in 2011, he did not come close to falling on his face with the fervor that good ole Vinny Mazzaro did.  Royals fans likely have one memory of Mazzaro from the 2011 season and it is this:

IP     H     R    ER    BB   SO   HR   HBP
2.1   11   14   14     3      2      1        0

That was his line as he appeared in relief against Cleveland on May 16.  At least he didn’t hit anyone.  While Mazzaro did appear for the Royals a few more times before the 2011 season came to an end, it is that game and that game alone that Royals fans remember.  It is still unclear what exactly it was that Moore saw in Mazzaro when making this deal.  He showed very little in 2 seasons with the A’s, and managed to make that look amazing compared to what he did in 2011.  As for Justin Marks, he is a 24 year old pitcher who logged a 3.98 ERA in Wilmington, the Royals’ Single A affiliate last year.  Considering how much of a pitcher’s league the Carolina league is known to be, along with his age, it is unlikely he ever has any meaningful impact on the big league roster.  The Royals were shopping DeJesus at the time, and one would have thought they could have gotten more than they did.  So either the market was much softer for him than first thought, or Billy Beane somehow pulled yet another fast one on the Royals.  I would tend to believe the latter, considering that even after an extremely down 2011 season for DeJesus, the Cubs still decided to invest $10 million in him over 2 years to make him their Opening Day right-fielder.  After consistently putting up WAR’s in the 3’s with the Royals (with a 4.4 in 2005), he regressed to a 0.6 WAR in 2011.  I expect DeJesus to rebound nicely in Chicago.

DeJesus: 0.6 WAR with A’s (2011)

Mazzaro: -0.7 WAR with Royals (2011)

Marks: 0.0 WAR (has not reached majors)

A’s win trade by 1.3 WAR

December 19, 2010: The Kansas City Royals traded Yuniesky Betancourt, Zack Greinke and cash to the Milwaukee Brewers for Jake Odorizzi (minors), Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jeremy Jeffress.

Moreso than any other trade analyzed in this study, time will tell whether this one will work out in the Royals’ favor or not.  And if this trade ends up working out well for the Royals, the impact of it will trump the impact of all of the aforementioned failed trades combined.  But for fun, we will take a look at how it worked out in the 2011 season.

After Zack Greinke‘s 2009 Cy Young campaign, it appeared the Royals had their staff ace that would lead the starting rotation into the youth movement we are watching today.  But in 2010, Greinke was not the same.  At times he would show the stuff that made him so electrifying in 2009, but overall he looked disinterested.  Royals fans were in denial about it at the time, but looking back, it was very clear that with 2 years left on his deal, Zack no longer wanted to be in Kansas City.  So the Royals were faced with a decision: keep an unhappy Zack Greinke around in a clubhouse full of young impressionable players and worry about his negativity rubbing off on them, or trade him.  In hindsight, it is clear that trading Greinke was Moore’s only option.  It is even more clear after reading the following quote from Greinke.  When asked, in Feb. 2011, if he ever asked the Royals for a trade, Zack replied:

“I guess I kind of did right before the Trade Deadline last year because we were trading all our players. … When I signed, I was led to believe we were building around the guys we had, and we were getting rid of all of them,” he said. “So I sort of did then. Then at the end of the year, I sort of did again. And then during the offseason, I sort of did again. And then the media got the one where I think my agent must have said it somehow. … So I guess I sort of did about four times.”

Hence, in December of 2010, the Royals and the Brewers came to agreement on this deal.  Greinke proceeded to go to Milwaukee and pitch (and act) like Greinke.  First, he hurt himself playing basketball during Spring Training and missed the first month of the season.  Then he comes out in May and posts an out of this world K/W ratio while somehow managing to have an ERA hovering around 5.  Eventually though, he settled down and pitched like a Cy Young candidate the rest of the way for the NL Central Division Champion Brewers.  Betancourt, who was a throw-in in the deal after the Royals received Escobar in return, actually had a solid season for the Brewers in 2011. And now, ironically,he will wear a Royals uniform in 2012 albeit as a utility infielder.

As for what the Royals received in return, so much is tied up in the future.  But in just last year, it became clear that Escobar is something extremely special with the glove.  While he wasn’t useless with the bat, he is still a light hitter.  If this part of his game can continue to come around, you have yourself an elite ballplayer.  Cain came up for a quick audition at the end of the year and did fine.  The Royals clearly believe he is ready to take over as the everyday centerfielder, as they have traded away Melky Cabrera to the Giants to make room for an everyday role for Lorenzo.  Jeffress began the season on the big league roster, and while he displayed a very live arm and the ability to strike batters out, he struggled badly with his control and was sent down for the majority of the rest of the season.  It remainst to be seen what his role might be in 2012, but it is likely he begins the season in Omaha.  And after all of that, we have not even discussed the player who was stated to be the biggest grab in this trade for the Royals, 21 year-old righthander Jake Odorizzi.  Odorizzi spent last season split between Single A Wimington and Double A Northwest Arkansas.  He figures to begin this season either in Northwest Arkansas or Omaha, with a chance at a September callup to Kansas City.  So while the Royals clearly gave up a bit of production in the short term in this trade, the long term looks extremely bright.

Greinke: 1.7 WAR with Brewers (2011)

Betancourt: 0.7 WAR with Brewers (2011)

Escobar: 2.0 WAR with Royals (2011)

Cain: 0.1 WAR with Royals (23 September 2011 plate appearances)

Jeremy Jeffress: 0.0 WAR with Royals (2011)

Jake Odorizzi: 0.0 WAR (has not reached majors)

Brewers win trade by 0.3 WAR

So…what does all of this mean?

Strictly looking at WAR, Dayton Moore has clearly come out on the short end of the trades that he made in the years of 2006-2010.  Overall, these trades negatively impacted the Royals performance of the Royals through the 2011 season.  However, having reviewed all of these trades, it is very difficult to find one anywhere that set the fanchise back in the long term.  There are no atrocities such as Johnny Damon for Roberto Hernandez, Jermaine Dye for Neifi Perez, or Carlos Beltran for John Buck and Mark Teahen.  Granted, there weren’t any Damons, Dyes, or Beltrans on the roster when Moore took over.  But the point is that it is clear there was a strategy.  Until the Greinke trade, there is a very conservative theme to the trades that Moore has made.  And it is this Greinke trade that will be the biggest indicator as to whether Moore will be able trade effectively when he needs to.  When Dayton took over the job in June 2006, he stated this his primary mission was to rebuild the farm system so as to get to a point where the majority of the big league roster is homegrown talent.  It has taken awhile, but the Royals are now just about there.  Moore should be applauded for not taking his eye off of the ball.  The Royals are almost there.  “The Process” is almost complete.

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