Wil Myers for James Shields Rumor Gains Steam

The rumor that started before the Winter Meetings gained some steam on Wednesday night when Ken Rosenthal sent out this tweet:

 

No further explanation of what “critical stage” means. No further explanation of if an offer had been made.

Myers at the plate. (Photo: Minda Haas)

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.

October 2, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher James Shields (33) throws a pitch against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Or Shaun Marcum. Or Ryan Dempster. Or trade a smaller batch of prospects for Bud Norris. Or Jonathan Niese.

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.

Topics: James Shields, Kansas City Royals, Tampa Bay Rays, Wil Myers

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  • Brian J.

    I agree with everything you said in this article.

  • LastRoyalsFan

    Mike, you hit the nail on the head with this one. I understand that Wil Myers’ trade value will likely never be higher than the present. However, some prospects are best utilized to actually play the game rather than serving as trade chips. I maintain that six years of an outfielder with elite offensive potential is better than two years of a solid starter.

    Judging by the offer the Royals reportedly made to Dempster they were willing to raise payroll to as much as $80 million. If they are willing to spend there are any number of options available on the free agent market. If they can’t get to the level of Anibal Sanchez I like the idea of pursuing Shawn Marcum. While not at the level of some of the others he would be a solid upgrade to the rotation and reportedly would like to come home to KC.

    Dayton Moore needs to take a deep breath and do a reality check. He has many options on the way to bolster the rotation in 2013 and beyond with Odorizzi, Smith,and potentially others competing for opportunities. 2014 opens up even more options with Duffy and Paulino hopefully back plus potential opportunities for Lamb, Montgomery, Zimmer and possibly even Ventura. Trading off a prospect of Myers’ caliber for two years of a good pitcher is simply foolish.

  • Zack Daddy

    I am very passionate about the Royals, and I just don’t know which way to lean. The first 5 years of Gordon were frustrating. The first few years of Butler were frustrating. Hosmer hasn’t lit the night on fire in his first year 1/2. Moose, either. Potential, yes. So, trading Myers for Shields makes some sense to me. I am not endorsing it, but Myers is truly an unknown. Shields a known.

    2014…Shields, Guthrie, Duffy, Paulino, Jake-O
    OF…Gordon, Dyson/Lough, Cain…or who knows (Santana, Hochevar, Chen all come off the books to spend bigger. FAs more likely to come if they see a big commitment to win in 2013 and 2014)

    • Stillroyal

      Yes, Shields is a known, that’s why he isn’t worth Wil Myers.

    • Michael Engel

      If the Royals were really close, like 81 wins in 2012 close, I might be more inclined to like the deal. If Shields was three years younger maybe. If this, if that. There are a lot of things that have to go right for Shields to truly be the difference maker. Guthrie has to pitch like his 14 starts in KC. Santana has to at least get close to his old form. Chen and Hochevar can’t implode early. The bullpen has to be strong again (I think they will be but…), Hosmer and Moose have to wake up. Sal has to keep it up. Gordon and Butler can’t fall back and Escobar has to be in the same production area.

      The more variables in play, the more opportunities for something to go wrong, and while I do think Guthrie was a decent signing and I’ve always kind of liked Santana, I can’t ignore the risk there.

      As far as Myers being an unknown – that’s only true as a big leaguer. In 2009, he hit. In 2010, he hit. In 2011, he struggled with fluke injuries. A cut that turned into an infection and other small things. Nothing of long-term concern. In the AFL in 2011, he was among the best players in the league. In 2012, MiLB player of the year. Don’t overthink it. Wil Myers is known well enough.

  • jimfetterolf

    Royals can afford Sanchez while keeping Myers for 900 games. The payroll numbers tossed out by the team are distractions, mid-$90s this year are easy with a small loan to the team by David Glass against next year’s $50m improvement in payroll space.

  • Stillroyal

    This is a great article. Trading Myers is dumb. Trading him to the Rays for anything less than Price or Moore is insane.

    Myers 21 year old minor league comps look as good as some of Baseball’s all-time greats. Not that it’s a guarantee but if we are willing to pay $13 mill a year for Dempster’s 36 year old carcass, then why not keep Myers, trade Frenchy, Chen and Hoch and spend the money to enter the Greinke sweepstakes?

  • Eric Akers

    It seems to me that Dayton’s entire focus up to this point has been for the long term. He always preaches about what the Braves do, which is to stay focused on the path to an organization that is able to produce quality players from the minors. Doesn’t this seem to go against his entire philosophy? Short term gain at the expense of long term prosperity. Wouldn’t it make more sense to trade Gordon than Myers at this point?

    I am just wondering, is DM really ready to change his philosophy for a team that won only 72 games last year, is he just trying to play the market, or are these discussions really just entry level talks to get a foot in the door?

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