Processing The Wil Myers/James Shields Trade

So many reactions. So many opinons. So much chaos.

James Shields. Photo Credit: Tim Heitman – USA Today

The Royals and Rays put themselves into the spotlight today after their Sunday night seven-player trade with Wil Myers and James Shields as the principle players involved. Everyone was talking about it. National writers, local writers, people on Twitter and Facebook. All of baseball. Reactions have ranged from apoplectic to ecstatic to hyperbolic. Some have doubled down on their dislike, some have started to accept the deal.

I’m honestly still sorting it out for myself.

To me, the trade hinges on two questions – 1) Is Wil Myers for real? and 2) Are the Royals actually close?

If both are true, then both teams come out strong in the trade, but in different ways. The Rays get to re-load their farm system with players with gobs of service time left who should contribute. The Royals get an honest-to-God #1 starter who can take the mound on opening day and who could, if it comes to it, start a deciding game at the end of the year.

If 1 is true and 2 is not, the Royals lose. Big time. Wil Myers, as Rany Jazayerli pointed out, had the most homers in the high minor leagues by a 21-year-old since 1963. While doing so, he also hit .300 and walked at an acceptable rate. Yes, he struck out a lot, but it was a conscious decision to get more power and production at the expense of some contact. Myers has been regarded as a great judge of the strike zone who’s almost too picky, so he got more aggressive and homered 37 times last year. Many thought he could be a 25-30 homer guy in the majors and had the ability to hit for average as well. That’s a great player (although it seems a lot more skeptics have crept out of the woodwork in the last 24 hours). If the Royals aren’t that close, then they just tossed away a potential All-Star for a shot at 81 wins. Remember, this was a 72 win team in 2012, so to get to the 88 wins that won the AL Central last year, they have to come up with 16 more than last year. I’m not sure that Shields does that.

Ho hum. More awards. (Photo: Minda Haas)

If 1 isn’t true but 2 is, the Royals win. I’m a believer in Myers, but can’t deny that I don’t know how he’ll hit major league pitching because he’s never faced major league pitching. While I don’t think it’s fair to say “well he’s just a prospect” because he’s not just ANY prospect. He was the Minor League Player of the Year. He’s hit at every level. But let’s say he flounders, or he only ends up in the .280 range with 15 homers per year. That’s still a player of value, but not a middle of the order hitter. Tropicana Field isn’t a homer-friendly park, so maybe that costs him five homers a year. If the Royals turn out to be one big pitcher away, things break the right way and they make the playoffs, most would consider it worth it after the long-term drought.

If neither are true, then it’s a wash. Everyone got up in arms over nothing.

On the surface then, both teams got quality in return and I think the Royals gave up more quality and quality players in a situation more friendly for their new teams. If Wil Myers struggles in 2013, the Rays have him for 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and (if they’re smart) 2019 and he can turn it around at any point there. The Royals have basically two years to get their value out of this trade. Shields is good, but he can’t do it alone.

Of course, the trade isn’t just Shields and Myers. The Royals shipped off their top prospect in Myers, a top pitching prospect in Jake Odorizzi, and a pitcher who twice was their top overall prospect in Mike Montgomery (along with Burlington third baseman Patrick Leonard) and got a speculative Wade Davis back, who they say they’ll put in the rotation. Odorizzi looked great in Wilmington and hit some rough patches in Northwest Arkansas and Omaha, but generally, he’s regarded as a middle rotation pitcher, which can have value, especially when he’s playing at the league minimum (or close) for three years. Montgomery gives the Rays immense upside to play with. He’s the lottery ticket. If he figures out his command, the Rays have a good left-handed arm at their disposal. They’ve turned out a lot of great pitching lately (which is what puts them in the position to trade Shields and Davis in the first place) and their philosophy is more in line with Montgomery’s throwing program as well.

That feels like a lot, and I think is what drove much of the “worst trade ever” discussion.

But it’s still not a great trade. I’ve said before that the Royals had options. They were in on Ryan Dempster, who has had success just as Shields has. They added payroll that bumped them up to an estimated $84 million, well over their reported $70 million cap. Why not sign another starter out there, even overpaying a bit, to allow yourself to keep Myers. I’d rather the Royals pay too much money than with too many prospects. When you consider that Shields only has two years left on his deal and is into his thirties, while the Rays get the full extent of their new acquisitions’ playing time (save a couple weeks of Odorizzi), and it’s troubling. This is the affordable talent the Royals were after when rebuilding the farm system.

Jeff Francoeur is going to be under heavy scrutiny after Wil Myers was traded. Photo Credit: Kim Klement – USA Today

Sure, the Royals could challenge for the playoffs, but there are so many factors in play. They have about two years to do so, unless a prospect really develops quickly. They’ll have to replace Jeff Francoeur in 2014 and the farm system’s next best outfield prospects are still in the lower levels (Bubba Starling and Jorge Bonifacio). They’ll have to roll the dice on a free agent or make another trade to replace Francoeur or hand it over to David Lough, who they’ve never seen to trust, or move Cain over from center field to play him in right with Jarrod Dyson in center. Those options aren’t ideal and create some question marks. The Royals second base situation is still murky. The other starters in the rotation have to be good as well. If Jeremy Guthrie turns into an average pitcher like he’s usually been or gets worse, if Ervin Santana gets hurt or doesn’t regain form, if Bruce Chen or Luke Hochevar continue to stink or Luis Mendoza turns back into a pumpkin, it won’t matter who’s at the top of the rotation. The Royals are also counting on Wade Davis to be a capable starter, when he found great success out of the bullpen last year after lackluster results as a starter.

The Royals also have to avoid significant injuries, regression from Billy Butler and Alex Gordon, continued struggles from Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. Salvador Perez has to stay healthy. And the defense has to be much more efficient (Rany cited a measurement that the Rays rated much better than the Royals at actually converting plays into outs). Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino can’t suffer setbacks and had better be strong when they return after Tommy John surgery.

That’s a lot of things that have to go right for the Royals. It’s a lot of things that have to go wrong, too. They’ll probably land in the middle somewhere, which just doesn’t feel like it’ll be enough.

But 2014, maybe that’s the good year. The Royals make a jump from 72 wins to 84 or so in 2013, then build off of that success in 2014. If that’s the case, they have to be in front or close by mid-season, or else Shields is a candidate to get flipped for more prospects. The Royals would be back where they’d started, but without Myers, without Shields, without Francoeur and two years farther into Hosmer and Moustakas’s service time. In that scenario, the Royals had better hope that Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura are ready because they’ll be the best chances for pitching success out of the system.

It’s a big gamble. It’s new territory. I could see the argument that we may value our own prospects more than necessary, but in the case of Myers and Odorizzi, they’re real prospects, regarded by many as real contributors in the future. It’s not overrating Orlando Calixte because most of the news on him will tout his abilities to point him out to everyone.

This trade improves the Royals rotation, but it doesn’t do enough. Even with Shields, the Royals are gambling on a lot to go right when so much has gone wrong for so long. The clock is ticking. I hope I’m pleasantly surprised.


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Tags: James Shields Kansas City Royals Wil Myers

  • Hunter

    I think a 2014 rotation of Shields Duffy Paulino Guthrie and Davis/Mendoza looks pretty good. Both Davis and Mendoza can move to the bullpen once Zimmer/Ventura come up. If we fill the RF and 2B holes I think we can make the playoffs in 2014. That’s of course depending on offensive progression and health, which is a lot to ask for like you said, but is still something to look forward to I think.

    • jimfetterolf

      I actually think Shields gets traded next winter with Ventura in the rotation, Guthrie traded at the ASB in ’14, with maybe the third rehabber, his name slips me, and Zimmer and Selman getting close. I look for Mendoza to be traded to Colorado, his ground ball rate a definite plus for the Rockettes. What the trade may do, beyond this year’s wins, is generate a surplus of pitching so we get to the Tampa ability to trade veterans in order to restock the farm, the key to sustainment. That was the hope before TJS wiped out three of our top arms and Montgomery went Jeffress.

      • Michael Engel

        You sure expect a lot of players to get traded. Gordon for prospects, Mendoza to the Rockies, Shields…Guthrie…Am I missing anyone from previous comments?

        • jimfetterolf

          Yep, that’s the Tampa/Oakland way, get to the point of trading for prospects. Rotation is going to get crowded this year, just do the math on the rehabbers and Ventura, plus the ones we already have, plus Zimmer and Selman within a couple of years.

          Mendoza is a good fit for the Rocks with his GB% and our rotation may not have room for him by the ASB. Shields is high value on a reasonable two year contract and unlikely to resign, Guthrie three years and getting a bit old. As guys come up or come back, those are the three obvious ones to return value in trade.

          In the case of Gordon he is old, expensive, and a left-fielder and a constant infusion of hot young arms is needed to keep the pipeline full. Can’t trade him now, but maybe next winter when his cheap contract looks even cheaper, and maybe not even then.

          • Michael Engel

            In the same paragraph you said that Gordon is expensive, then said his contract is cheap…

            I think once he’s at the end of that deal, that $12.5 million isn’t gonna look like anything considering TV money and inflation. If BJ Upton is getting 15 million a year already and is overrated, if an old Victorino is getting 13 million…yeah, he’ll be a huge bargain. I just don’t think they’ll have to resort to full scale house cleaning like that though.

            I’d be shocked if Mendoza returned any value. His track record is poor, and even in a good year last year, he was barely average as a starter. I’m just not a fan, and couldn’t convince myself he brings any significant return. Dunno about Guthrie. Have a hunch he’s going to be good again, but he could fall off quickly as he ages.

          • jimfetterolf

            “In the same paragraph you said that Gordon is expensive, then said his contract is cheap…”

            Expensive for a team with low payroll, dirt cheap for a team with high payroll. Thought that was obvious.

            “I’d be shocked if Mendoza returned any value. His track record is poor,
            and even in a good year last year, he was barely average as a starter.”

            PCL pitcher of the year in ’11, 1.8 fW last year in 25 starts, added a curve to his arsenal and turned into a solid starter with a 4.23 ERA and 52.1% GB, perfect fit for a Rockies team that just resigned Jeff Francis with similar comps. Francis was the #2 fW pitcher for the Rockies last year on 24 starts. Not talking getting Larry Walker in return, do see getting a young arm flyball pitcher who gets killed in Colorado, maybe they’ld like Nate Adcock, also a GB pitcher.

            Just kicking around possibilities for a situation I hope we have if the rehabbers get healthy. If two of three of Lamb, Duffy, and Paulino come back near full health things will get awfully crowded. And I expect Ventura to make a push this year.

  • jimfetterolf

    ” Remember, this was a 72 win team in 2012, so to get to the 88 wins that
    won the AL Central last year, they have to come up with 16 more than
    last year. I’m not sure that Shields does that.”

    Have heard no one suggest that Shields and Davis do that. The thought is that just without the major injuries last year the Royals were an 81 win team. The thought this year is that with reasonable health, a little maturity from the cornerstones, and the new pitchers, 88 wins is a reasonable target. Assuming the Royals keep the Sox’ number and just play Detroit even, that wins the Central. And all that with four pitchers with higher ceiling than Odozizzi and Montgomery also available over the second half of the year.

    As for Myers, nice looking prospect, but no one thought he’ld even start the year with the Royals much less be Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. I doubt anyone would have thought twice about trading Gordon for Shields and Davis and we know how many wins Gordon is worth and we can assume it will take a few years for Myers to equal Gordon.

    ” Why not sign another starter out there, even overpaying a bit, to allow yourself to keep Myers.”

    Maybe because Zack or Anibal turned them down? Sanchez’ numbers were doable, even Zack’s with some creative accounting. As they offered 2/26 to Dempster, we can assume they had already been told no by Sanchez and Greinke. You’ll note that the Shield’s trade happened after the Greinke signing and we also know the kind of prospects Texas was offering for Shields. Dayton Moore had reached the point where Shields was his last chance at a #1. Then he traded Odorizzi, whose stock fell after his last three games, and Montgomery, who was starting to look like the left-handed Jeffress and had been suggested as a trade toss-in a few weeks ago, for Wade Davis, so got 40% of next season’s rotation for one good prospect and some filler.

    Trades and ballplayers aren’t predictable, but seems a fair enough one so far. Myers may be Mickey Mantle, he may be Clint Hurdle. That’s why they’re called prospects.

    • Michael Engel

      They didn’t think Myers would start the year only because of the logistics of service time and getting an extra five months on top of his six years of control.

      • jimfetterolf

        And the fact that his defense and ability to hit a breaking ball needed some work. RF at the K is a little bigger than Werner’s and Myers would see a steady diet of inside change and outside slider in the bigs as his Omaha home runs became fly outs on the warning track. You’re a pitching guy, how would you pitch Myers? He has a lot of potential, but we’ve seen how big a step up it is. I think Perez and Falu are the only two who made it look easy. Hosmer and Moustakas had spells, but their weaknesses were identified and exploited by major league pitchers, as were Gio’s, who had quite a bit higher BA than Myers at Omaha.

        Whatever the reasons for Myers not being up, he won’t be up, so doesn’t help win games the first few months, so we have have two decent pitchers in the rotation instead of Myers in Omaha. Looks like a big improvement to me. I visited the Tigers page, MCB I think, and they, not surprisingly, are a little more concerned now than before the trade when they wanted Shields.

        • Michael Engel

          Considering that Francoeur looked awful most of the year in right, I think they were going to be fine with Wil out there. I’ve yet to see a scouting report that he couldn’t hit a breaking ball, only that he chased the breaking ball too much during minimal slumps in Omaha. Nobody is worried about that.

          I’d challenge him inside with hard stuff, not soft stuff. Make him prove his hands are fast enough to catchup with 94 on the inside. Myers would have been up by the end of April in KC and likely after about two weeks with Tampa. It’s only service time. There may be questions just like any player who hasn’t stepped in a big league game yet, but the consensus is that he’s ready for the opportunity, even if he doesn’t blow it up right away.

          I like Shields. I like Davis. I’m getting to the point where I’m past worrying about how much the Royals gave up and looking towards 2013, but that doesn’t change my opinion that they gave up too much and it’s a loss if they haven’t made a playoff in the next two years (and have no Myers left). I like the return. I don’t like the price, though.

          • jimfetterolf

            “. I’ve yet to see a scouting report that he couldn’t hit a breaking
            ball, only that he chased the breaking ball too much during minimal
            slumps in Omaha.”

            I followed the box scores and game day for a lot of the Omaha games, so I’ll stick with my opinion. Given his bat speed and desire for homers, breaking stuff is the obvious attack.

            For the rest, agree. Trades and signings always have risk and minor-league numbers aren’t infallibly predictive, as our last several saviors have reminded us. We’re competitive and should contend and have become a much more attractive team for FAs. Would have been nice to save Myers, but the alternative was probably to trade Gordon, who is productive and on a cheap three years left.

  • Brian J.

    The Royals had David Lough in the outfield at the end of the season

    • Michael Engel

      Yes. And he could have been up at various points in 2011 based on Triple A performance. They could have looked at him then in September that year but didn’t. Ended the year last year with some time but even after Lorenzo Cain got hurt (9/13), he only started 7 of the 14 games he appeared in the rest of the season. He’s a part-time player. Good guy. Not the answer in right after Francoeur.

  • Eric Akers

    Just looking at comparable trade offers. Texas offered Olt (the number two overall prospect I believe) for RA Dickey and were turned down.

  • Eric Akers

    On another note, does this trade make KC a more desireable place for free agents? Before Grienke was traded, he complained about the time it takes for prospects to develop. I agree, that I think none of the guys would be producing this coming year. Odorizzi takes time to adjust. I think Myers would be okay, but I do not expect an Evan Longoria type debut. Would these guys all devlop in time to make a run with our current core of players? The players obviously prefer this. Do they all play perform as well knowing that we are waiting on Myers and some other guys to develop in order to contend, thereby wasting their time until that happens. That is why Grienke left.

    I think this trade gets us closer to contending in 2014 than waiting on Odorizzi, Lamb, Zimmer and Ventura. I am hoping that Davis is a big help. I am looking at decent production from him that replaces Hooch’s up and down production (mostly down it seems).

    What this does is give us time to allow the guy like Lamb, Ventura, and Zimmer to come along when they are ready. Previously, it seemed like we had to get several of these guys up at the same time in order to produce a good roatation, and it just wasn’t going to happen.

    I don’t mind Odorizzi, Montgomery, and Leonard leaving at all. I don’t know about Leonard, but the other two were losing my confidence. I was big on Monty, but then two years of terrible regression. Odorizzi wasn’t progressing like I hoped at AAA. He averaged just under 6 IP per appearance and walked too many and his WHIP was too high. I could see him becoming a number 3 at best. I don’t like to lose them, but if they had to be thrown in, so be it.

    Also, Detroit was apparently trying to get Shields as well, which may have increased the bidding. Neither team wanted the other to acquire Shields.
    Considering these factors, I think it was a good trade. We are trying to go for it, and I like it. Even if it doesn’t work, I think we will have changed players’ views on the Royals. We are not just in a state of constant rebuilding mode. Maybe our guys play more focused, no more 12 game losing streaks that we have every single year. I think 2014 could be the year for us, and we will be a threat in 2013.

    • jimfetterolf

      Very good point on Detroit. I read that on MLBTR. That would have been a serious race changer for two years.