The rumor that started before the Winter Meetings gained some steam on Wednesday night when Ken Rosenthal sent out this tweet:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 6, 2012
No further explanation of what “critical stage” means. No further explanation of if an offer had been made.
Wil Myers is a top five overall prospect. He’s a potential superstar in the middle of the order. Yes, he’s just a prospect, but that “just” is a pretty darn good prospect. That seems to be the main idea behind why some are fully in support – not just accepting, begrudgingly or otherwise – but actively hoping for.
Why the outrage? Well here’s my take. Myers, once he debuts, will have at least six seasons of team control. At least two of those will be very cost-effective seasons before he reaches arbitration. If the Royals time it right (waiting about two or three weeks), they can get five months of Wil Myers in 2013 and six full years after. Most scouts and evaluators see Myers as a middle of the order bat, capable of 25-30 homers. He’s always been considered one of the best at judging the strike zone in the minors, and, at 21 years old, could have the best sense of the strike zone on the team, second only to Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. He can hit for power and for average.
That’s a very good player.
True, he may never reach that potential. He may struggle early and take some time to develop as a big leaguer. That’s part of the risk and can’t be ignored. He struck out 140 times last year, well above his prior high in a season. He’s new to the outfield and may become an average big league right fielder at best. He’s not a speedster though he runs well. A good amount of his value is in his bat (though not quite like Billy Butler, and there’s still a chance Myers can be a good outfielder and steal 10+ bases a year).
Now James Shields is a very good pitcher. He’s been one of my favorites for a long time. I snag him every year in rotisserie baseball leagues because he throws a lot of innings, strikes out a lot of batters and doesn’t walk too many. I’m not saying he isn’t good. He definitely is.
But the problem is that Shields is under contract for only two more years.
The Royals won 72 games last year. James Shields doesn’t take them to 88. He may not take them to 84. He would improve the rotation, but it’s not as if the Royals were two games away and needed one more arm to push them over. They’re still working on the rebuilding and development side. Definitely on the upswing, but not there yet.
Some say it’s worth making the move if your team wins a World Series or gets into the playoffs even. While that would be amazing and I couldn’t be upset about it (that’d be crazy), again, it’s not as if Shields takes this team over and makes them challenge Detroit right away. There’s a chance, sure, but it’s still a flimsy proposition. Myers doesn’t make that difference up either, but here’s the key part of the move that I don’t like.
2013: Royals see improvement with James Shields in the rotation. Jeff Francoeur plays right field. Wil Myers (potentially) challenges for Rookie of the Year
2014: Jeff Francoeur is gone. James Shields sits atop an improved Royals rotation, a year older and 230 innings farther along. Wil Myers is (potentially) still rolling. The Royals have ______ in right field.
2015: Jeff Francoeur is gone. James Shields is gone. Wil Myers is gone.
The Royals give themselves a two year window to “win now” with Shields in that case, and maybe it works. Fantastic if so. But the alternatives aren’t too bad out on the market either. The Royals were connected to Anibal Sanchez again this afternoon, almost as strongly connected to him as they’ve been all offseason. If the Royals can take on Shields’s salary of an additional $9 million right now, why not take on Sanchez at $14 or 15 million? Adding Shields puts the Royals at an estimated $75 million. Is that so far from $80 million? Okay, then find a way to move Luke Hochevar or Bruce Chen and that’s $4.5 million right there – back at the same level you would have been with Shields.
Or sign Brandon McCarthy for $10 million over two years if he’s interested. You have the same improved rotation for a two year window, but keep Myers.
There are other options.
If the deal was to take on Matt Moore, the loss of Myers is okay, because Moore is signed through 2019 if all options are exercised. It’s feasible to say that Myers could be signed to an extension at some point that could put him in a similar position of buying out his first two years of free agency. The Royals also give themselves more shots to cash in on the trade. With Shields, they’d only have two seasons to make it happen. With Moore, they’d have more opportunities. And if the Rays don’t give him up? Fine. Don’t answer the phone when Andrew Friedman calls back.
The kicker, though, is that Bob Dutton and Jon Heyman both think that it would take MORE than just Wil Myers to get James Shields. There’s no idea of how much more, but to me, even the idea of more is getting absurd. Even more reason to pass.
There can be a tendency to overvalue prospects. I like Jason Adam. We’ve talked to him on the podcast often and he’s a good kid. But many other teams have a tall righty who throws 92-93 with good makeup and who projects as a #3 or #4, so making him untouchable is a bit silly. Every team has that live armed pitcher they hope can be a starter but may be a better back-end reliever. But we might overdo it on the Yordano Ventura hype. It happens. The curse of familiarity, maybe. We know the names, we follow their progress and it gets us thinking of better days. But they’re both top 10 prospects in the organization and they do have value.
But when a prospect is truly elite. When every expert and publication puts that player at the top of their prospect lists, when the stats and scouts agree, that player isn’t just a prospect anymore.
According to Jeff Passan, Royals officials are meeting right now to discuss the ideas. We’ll see how they decide.