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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.

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