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The Royals can win this trade even if Myers blossoms — and they can lose it even if he flops

Dec 10, 2012, 9:58 AM EDT

Wil Myers Getty Getty Images

Because it’s the Internet overreactions abound with respect to the Royals-Rays trade. Some people are saying this is the dumbest trade ever for the Royals, some saying that they won it. Some are totally overvaluing prospects like Wil Myers, acting as if he’s cant-miss, while some are totally discounting Myers and acting like James Shields is an ace when he is merely a good starter.

My view, as I’ve said a couple of times, is that I think the trade is a bad one for the Royals, and that’s the case even if Myers turns out to be nothing special. That’s because judging the value of this trade from the Royals perspective only with reference to Myers’ future is the wrong way to look at it. Even trades that involve a prospect that goes on to great things can be “won” by the team that traded them away, and even trades that involve a prospect that flops can be lost by that team.

Think back to the trade that is, erroneously, thought of as one of the worst of all time: the Tigers 1987 trade of John Smoltz to the Braves for Doyle Alexander. People slag on that one because Smoltz is probably going into the Hall of Fame someday and Doyle Alexander was out of baseball two years later, ending his career with an 18-loss season.

But the Tigers wanted one thing and one thing only from that trade: they wanted to win the AL East. And, despite trailing the Blue Jays by a game and a half on the day of that deal, they beat ’em out thanks to Alexander, who went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA after coming over, including a must-win game against the Jays in game 160.  The Tigers wanted to make the playoffs. They traded off the promise of a prospect (though a not particularly well thought of prospect) in order to do it. Sure, they would have been better off with Smoltz for the next 20 years, but they were trading for 1987, and to a team like the 1987 Tigers — veteran-laden, in win-now mode — 1987 was all that mattered.

Turning to the Royals: trading for James Shields and Wade Davis is a “win-now” move.  They believe that the AL Central is weak and that adding a couple of pitchers will put them in the playoffs. They could be right. I think they need way more than that — they were a 72-win team last season — but that’s the calculus. As such, if Shields and Davis put the Royals in the playoffs for the first time in 27 years, they have accomplished what they set out to accomplish, and that’s the case even if Will Myers turns into a perpetual All-Star. It’s a tradeoff of promise for present, and Dayton Moore is well aware that there is a chance that Myers could be something special. We can disagree with him making that gamble with this Royals team, but that’s what he’s thinking.

But it’s also the case that the Royals could lose this trade if Myers turns into the second coming of Ben Greive and is out of the league before he’s 30. They lose it if what they wanted — that playoff spot — doesn’t come to fruition.

Maybe it won’t matter a ton because in that case Myers wouldn’t have helped much either, but this trade isn’t merely a function of Moore valuing Myers vs. Shields. It’s about Moore getting the Royals to win a lot more games and make the playoffs. And that’s how, from the Royals’ perspective, it should be judged.

  1. thinman61 - Dec 10, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    This is a dumb move for the Royals. They made the trade in order to win now, without being strong enough to actually win now. They would have been better keeping their powder dry for a better shot at winning in a year or two. Their ammunition is now spent, and the opportunity cost they’ll pay for that is huge.

    • darthicarus - Dec 10, 2012 at 10:21 AM

      I give credit to the Royals for making the trade. They can’t always be in the “we’ll be ready in a year or two” phase when they haven’t made the playoffs in 27 years. Perhaps their young guys are just a year away, but they can’t predict that. Nobody thought Hosmer would lay an egg last year, but it happens. I would rather my team prove to the fan base that they have hope for the immediate future than a “plan” that involves waiting a few more years. What if Myers doesn’t pan out and/or one of the other minor leaguers they are waiting for fizzles out…then “one or two more years” turns into 4 or 5 as they wait for the next batch of draftees to go through the system & try it again.

  2. mojosmagic - Dec 10, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    Hearing this trade brought back memories of “Money Ball” when Billy Beane says “Mildred get me Ed Wade on the phone”. If I was a GM I would have the Rays number on call block.

    • thinman61 - Dec 10, 2012 at 10:33 AM

      And Dayton Moore on speed dial.

  3. echech88 - Dec 10, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    I think it is a dumb trade but you know what? Dumb trades have worked out before and I think it is at least cool KC is sort of going for it for a change.

    If the Royals are good it shakes things up which is nice. I like that there is a chance Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Oakland, Tampa Bay and especially the Nationals are all going to be in contention next year.

    Had Myers gone all Brandon Wood on the Royals the next argument would be that they were too conservative and never cashed in.

    That probably won’t happen…but why not go for it? If this trade makes them respectable, they might be an easier landing spot for free agents once Shields’ contract is up.

    • thinman61 - Dec 10, 2012 at 10:35 AM

      But that’s just it. The Royals are sorta going for it, and by doing so they forfeit their chance to really go for it in a year or two.

      • echech88 - Dec 10, 2012 at 10:57 AM

        But how is that a certainty?

        Alex Gordon was even more highly regarded than Myers and it has taken him 4 years to become a good player, albeit one who has fallen way short of his projection or “prospect fantasy”

        And then the other point: who do they trade for the stud pitcher in 2 years? How do you know for certain one “worth it” will be available or won’t be trumped by another team who is willing to trade THEIR Myers at that time?

        They overpaid for certainty

      • thinman61 - Dec 10, 2012 at 11:56 AM

        But the certainty was only worth the price if you believe the Royals were one James Shields away from contention. If, as many strongly believe, they’re quite a bit more than that from making a legitimate run at the playoffs then they wasted their trade chips. With certainty.

    • raysfan1 - Dec 10, 2012 at 10:57 PM

      Caveat emptor on the desire to “go for it.” That is what the Marlins did last year.

  4. foolmaker - Dec 10, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    If the goal of the trade was to make the playoffs in 2013, then it’s still a bad trade. The Royals are a poor team. Unless they pull something ridiculous like signing Hamilton, they’ve just sold the potential of having a great team, long lasting team for a short lived mediocre one. I could be a GM that trades away my farm system with the goal of winning 75 games the next season. Even if the team accomplishes that goal, the whole idea in the first place is still stupid.

  5. renorocker - Dec 10, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    I’m as diehard of a Royals fan as anyone and I’m torn on this move. It will be nice to have Shields fronting the rotation and helping the young players push towards the playoffs. As far as Myers goes, he has yet to take a single at bat in the majors and he struck out a ton in the minors and that will only get worse as the year progresses. Let’s not knock this trade. As Royals fans lets just be glad that they are trying. That in itself is something new.

    • echech88 - Dec 10, 2012 at 10:36 AM

      I am not a Royals fan but as someone who roots for some really bad teams in other sports, I can at least get into the idea of making the move to “go for it” when you’ve been bad for so long and at least have an opportunity to give your fans something tangible. The Orioles and A’s of last year make it at least possible to dream.

      Rays won the trade on paper, there is no question, but there is no guarantee that someone like Shields would be able to fall into KC’s laps the ideal moment Myers and the rest of the guys could all potentially be peaking and we know they won’t be signing the best pitchers as free agents.

      Basically they paid a premium for something they really, really wanted and needed to even hope to be competitive. They just did it with prospects instead of money like the Dodgers or Yankees would.

      • byjiminy - Dec 10, 2012 at 11:33 AM

        Unfortunately the 2012 Orioles and A’s represent the Rays side of this trade, not the Royals side. In fact this really reminds me of the Mariners trading Adam Jones and four others for Eric Bedard, that one veteran pitcher who would finally make their perpetual sad-sack team competitive. That felt just the same at the time, too.

      • byjiminy - Dec 10, 2012 at 11:39 AM

        It also reminds me of the Nats’ trade for Gio Gonzalez. That so far has worked out to be almost the best-case scenario for the Nats — Gio was even better than expected, and they did make the playoffs — and they still lost that trade. Milone is already producing in the majors, for much less money, and they still have Peacock and A. J. Cole on the way, which could be three fifths of a successful rotation for many more years and much less money than Gio alone (not to mention the catcher Norris). Nice to see the Nats winning now, but it takes a big-pocketed owner to stay on top that way, while the A’s have a much brighter future, without even taking a hit in the present. This Royals trade is Billy Beane — in reverse.

      • albertmn - Dec 10, 2012 at 1:58 PM

        Even if Myers had stayed in KC, and turned into a really good player, what makes everyone think that would have made the Royals any closer? As someone mentioned above, it took Gordon 4 seasons to become useful and find a spot. What is to say it wouldn’t have taken Myers 3-4 years? And, if it took that long, what is to say that one of the other players they are now counting on wouldn’t have either gotten hurt, too expensive, or regressed? We have heard they Royals were a year or two away for 4 years or so. What good is being a year or two away, if you never take that next step and lose the other guys because you can’t sign them or have to trade them before they get too expensive (and still don’t have pitching)?

  6. missthemexpos - Dec 10, 2012 at 10:25 AM

    You gotta love the Hot Stove Season of baseball, so many what ifs, and before you know it spring training for another season has arrived.

  7. sleepyirv - Dec 10, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    This is something of a false choice.

    “The win now vs. win later” debate shouldn’t be based around the question “Does this move help the Royals win now?” Since obviously any move of prospects for experience players is a “win now” move. The question needs to be, “Does this move get enough for the prospects being giving up? And is the haul enough to get us to the playoffs?” I think the answer to both of these questions is no. While the Royals may make other moves, this is a trade that should only be made when you have your team and it’s just short of being a playoff team.

    As for the Alexander-Smoltz trade, giving up a HOFer for a playoff chance may make sense, were the Tigers really unable to have use different, non-HOF players to make this deal?

    • weaselpuppy - Dec 10, 2012 at 1:49 PM

      the point is at the time, Smoltz was maybe the #6-10 prospect in the Tigers organization, power arm with control issues….the fact he made himself into a HOF is a creditto him and the Braves development organization….as he’s really the ONLY example I can remember ( and I was there in 87 thinking I hated the deal only because Smoltz was a hometown Detroit guy) of a hardthrowing wild low A guy for a veteran starter trade ever resulting in a HOF resume….out oh, a few hundred of these trades,,,,

  8. normswifevera - Dec 10, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    I don’t think the Royals were a James Shields away from contending either, but you can’t talk about their 2012 season without pointing out how affected they were by injuries. Their pitchers were having Tommy John like elbow injuries were contagious and key everyday players like Perez and Cain missed a lot of time too.

    They’re almost surely a better team than their record showed last year. How much better is up for debate. But their pitching ugprades this offseason improve them even further. Their opening day starter from last year may be, at best, their 5th starter now.

    And the suggestion commenters are making that they killed their farm system is absurd. Their system is still plenty stocked, which is why they can make a move like this.

    • holdthebeans - Dec 10, 2012 at 4:06 PM

      You are correct. We are a ways from Bruce Chen starting opening day. With Santana and Shields on top and Guthrie/Chen/Davis even Hochever if he can ever put it together they are in a much better situation than last year. Myers bat in RF would not put us in the playoffs next year. Santana/Shields/Guthrie’s arms might. Actually our best prospects have been on the big league club the last couple years with Perez/Hosmer/Moose/Cain. Add in Butler to that lineup and we will score runs. I like it and could care less what they know it all so and so got ripped off folks have to say. They don’t know as much as they think they do.

      Don’t forget about Bubba kicking around in the minors too.

  9. celauritz - Dec 10, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    I think the royals are more likely in “Don’t piss off your fanbase” mode. They have to show that they are willing to try to make the playoffs. I think they win even if they don’t make the playoffs in the next couple years because they told the fans that they are going for it. Their starting pitching has been atrocious for years and the people they keep putting on the hill stuck longer because they were Royals and not on any other team. This move shows that they want to put quality on the hill to go along with the youth in the field. It might be a winning combination, but it doesn’t fully matter if it is.

    • byjiminy - Dec 10, 2012 at 11:44 AM

      funny because if I were in the Royals’ fan base, this would piss me off

      • byjiminy - Dec 10, 2012 at 2:18 PM

        p.s. just to clarify, I meant this TRADE would piss me off, not this post!

        As a Twins fan, I actually agree with the writer. When the Twins still had Johan Santana and Joe Mauer, there were several years when it seemed like just upgrading from awful to average at a few other positions might have pushed them to the top. It always seemed like the owners were always satisfied to be “competitive” and be playing “meaningful games” late in the season, rather than spend that extra $10 million to try to win it all.

        Likewise the Royals were always known for being a few years away from being competitive, but always trading away their best players when they finally arrived. I’m happy to see their farm system finally pay off, and that they have enough assets to field a good young team and still have enough left in the minors to fill in the holes via trade. Clearly, their rotation needed help, and they didn’t gut their current team to get some.

        I just don’t think now was the time to make this trade, if ever: a potential cheap star, for two years of kinda costly pitching. If they were one piece away, maybe. But when you’re still starting Chen, Santana, Guthrie, and Hochevar, I don’t know. I wish them, well, I really do. But for a team that’s spent decades waiting for a rebuild to finish, I don’t know if the payoff is enough to start draining the system.

  10. dluxxx - Dec 10, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    Ah yes, those ’87 Detroit Tigers. That trade worked out great for them. I mean, that WS title was worth losing Smoltz….

    Signed, A Twins Fan.

    • Francisco (FC) - Dec 10, 2012 at 11:03 AM

      20/20 hindsight is a great thing isn’t it. Smoltz was a not very good AA pitcher at the time. I think it had more to do with Atlanta pitching coaches unlocking that potential. It’s almost like blaming the Pirates for losing Bautista.

      • dluxxx - Dec 10, 2012 at 11:22 AM

        Yeah, I know. I was just mentioning that although getting to the playoffs is great and all, it didn’t garner the Tigres a WS title. I think Craig just was just waiting to bring up the Smoltz trade, and saw this as a good opportunity. :)

      • Francisco (FC) - Dec 10, 2012 at 11:26 AM

        You make it sound like the Tigers not only traded Smoltz at the time but also Craig’s fandom.

  11. sportsguygerald - Dec 10, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    Royals had to give up something to get something. If they think adding a couple of pitchers that might give them a chance to win an additional 15 games that would get them in the playoffs, then it would be worth it. Myers may turn out to be a very special player or he might turn out to be Bye Bye Balboni. It’s a big crapshoot when it comes to prospects, only time will tell. At least the Royal fans can have hope that the front office is trying to put a playoff contender on the field now. Will it work out that way? Who knows, but it’s better than what they put out on the field last season

  12. geoknows - Dec 10, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    Here’s the deal that nobody is bringing up: Yes, the Royals won 72 games last year. Yes, on the face of it, James Shields and Wade Davis won’t change that number by much. You know what will REALLY change that number? The young guys have to live up to their potential. That means Moustakas and Hosmer have to show better than they did last year. If that happens then the addition of Shields and Davis could potentially be huge.

    On the other hand, if it doesn’t happen, then the Royals weren’t going to be a great team for several years anyway. If Moustakas and Hosmer bust, it matters not whether Wil Myers was in the mix.

  13. tashkalucy - Dec 10, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    A good trade for both teams.

    Myers may be Longoria’s help and protection for the next 10 years. Rays can build around that.

    Royals had to contend this year – with the Indians sucking, the Twins still righting themselves since Terry Ryan and company came back, and the White Sox with a new GM and possibly willing to take a step back – now is the time for the Royals to go after the Tigers hoping they have a few major injuries, and at least getting into the wild card race.

    The Royals have one of the better young position playing line-ups in all of MLB. THey have some youung pitchers in the minors, but can’t afford to wait at this point. Shield and Davis, combined with Guthrie and Santana may not get them to compare to one of the elite starting staffs in the NL, but it is adaquete to compete in the AL Central.

    Trades are only one component of building a ML team. At this point it’s important that the Royals establish themselves as bonafide contenders to players and their agents alike around MLB. If they can do that in 2013, then quality free agents are going to take signing with the Royals seriously – as they will for the rest of this off-season.

    Sure the Royals overpaid. But it was time to try to cash in on the work they’ve put into the farm system for 5 years. KC MLB fans are quality and have been suffering for decades. This is a real chance for them to contend. To ask them to wait till some young pitchers come up through the farm system and learn to pitch in the major leagues while their young players free agent clocks are ticking is a bit crazy -s*** or get off the pot.

    And as I said last year (and was reamed for it) – the Yankees and Red Sox are heading downhill quickly. The Blue Jays and Orioles are on the way up, and now the Rays assure that they stay in contention for the foreseeable future…….good trade for both teams!

  14. orangecisco - Dec 10, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    I’m a Yankee fan and I’m just not sure why everyone is jumping all over the Royals for this. James Shields is an ace and one of the best big game pitchers in baseball. And Wade Davis is a 27 year old pitcher that has pitched well in the American League East since his promotion 3 years ago and will almost certainly start with a sub 3.5 era in that division. I am very excited about this trade as a Yankee fan. The Rays unloaded major leaguers for a prospect who at most projects to be maybe as good as Wade Davis at his highest projection and the a power hitting OF prospect. Even if Myers starts and is good right away there is no way the Rays are a better team this year after this.

    • tashkalucy - Dec 10, 2012 at 11:49 AM

      The price of established starting pitchers is high.

      As far as the Rays losing a few established players, no probleemo. They will finish ahead of the Yankees this year. They question is, how many other teams in the AL East will as well.

      • orangecisco - Dec 10, 2012 at 1:54 PM

        It has become quite a mediocre division so you may be right. But the Rays lineup is pathetic even with the new ‘superstar’ and now they just lost 300 innings of quality pitching. Not exactly quaking in my boots.

  15. thebadguyswon - Dec 10, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    It seems tilted to the Rays. But if the Royals head back to the playoffs, it was probably worth it.

    And I agree people are vastly overblowing Myers’ value. Good player; let’s not put him in the Hall of Fame yet.

  16. savior72 - Dec 10, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    My guess is Myers becomes an Elite player and the Royals still don’t make the playoffs. Close, but no cigar.

  17. skids003 - Dec 10, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    Craig, you should have been a politician. You make an argument both ways, so you can’t be wrong either way. Very smart.

  18. byjiminy - Dec 10, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    Some of the Royals-side arguments do seem rationale, and give me hope this might work out. But then you look at the numbers again and it’s hard to swallow:

    Wil Myers in 2012:
    -37 homers in 133 games
    -AAA numbers: 24 homers in 99 games
    -2nd youngest player in Pacific Coast League
    -named Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year

    Royals rotation behind Shields, 2012 ERA’s
    -Santana: 5.16
    -Chen: 5.07
    -Guthrie: 4.76
    -Hochevar: 5.73

    It’s possible the Royals would have been better NEXT YEAR just by promoting Myers and Odorizzi, with Myers more than making up for the difference between Shields and Odorizzi. It wouldn’t be that shocking. But even if Shields wins the Cy Young next year, they still don’t have a competitive rotation.

    • albertmn - Dec 10, 2012 at 2:08 PM

      The last 20 Minor League Players of the Year. Quite a few really good players. But, a few busts, and some that have had success have had issues as well. So, nothing is guaranteed.

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

      • raysfan1 - Dec 10, 2012 at 11:11 PM

        True, nothing is guaranteed, but i wouldnt call any of these guys a true bust. Most are or have been at least solid major league players, which is what the Rays are looking for. Three have had HoF quality careers. I’ll take those odds.

  19. jl9830 - Dec 10, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    “In their biggest move in years, the Royals acquired Shields on Sunday. The Royals now have what the Tigers have in Justin Verlander…They have a No. 1 starter. “- John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press.


  20. mrobinson14 - Dec 10, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    As an Indians fan, this is taking the ubaldo deal to another. If I’m a royals fan, I’m pissed.

  21. trevorb06 - Dec 10, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    This move will need to be judged based on the Royals making other moves during the off season. The AL Central is so damn weak right now. The Twins already basically bowed out by trading Span and Revere and told the world they’re in rebuild mode. The Sox aren’t anything to write home about. I’ll give the Tigers the best review right now because they’ve got a decent team (especially for the AL Central, put them in the East and we’d have a different story). The Indians… ha… please.

    If they Royals have some of their young guys really perform this year behind the vet presence of Butler they could have a run at the playoffs.

  22. stlouis1baseball - Dec 10, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    If I understand you correctly…this trade will either work out or it will not work out. Right?
    If so…thank you for clearing that up Mr. Obvious.

  23. jkaflagg - Dec 11, 2012 at 11:59 PM

    Per the new financial guidelines established by the Dodgers, a good #2 starter like Shields is worth $24.5 a year… in that sense, he’s quite a bargain !

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