How James Shields Can Change My Mind


I went through all the stages.

There was denial (“No way they’d trade six years of Wil Myers for two of James Shields“), anger (“This is a HUGE mistake!”), bargaining (“Well maybe they didn’t give up that much more. Maybe it was just Myers and a lower prospect.”), depression (“This sucks.”) and finally acceptance (“Fine. I like Shields. It’s done. I can’t change it. Bring on 2013.”)

Despite that cycle, I still think the Royals paid full retail and left a tip in their acquisition of Shields. I like the return. I don’t like the price. But Shields is good – and I’ve always been a fan – and he instantly changes the Royals rotation from a bunch of schlubs last year to a true rotation that can make some noise.

December 12, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore (left), newly acquired pitcher James Shields (center), and manager Ned Yoast display Shield

But, again, I still don’t like the price. After 2014, the Royals won’t have Myers, will have to go find a right fielder (David Lough isn’t much of a full time option, though there’s a place for him; I’m not comfortable with Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain occupying center field and right, mostly due to Dyson’s inconsistency and Cain’s injury history), and Shields won’t be around. The Royals will have Wade Davis and a PTBNL left to show for the deal, while Tampa can have Myers approaching his prime, a developed Jake Odorizzi and a (possibly) rebuilt Mike Montgomery. all four at least four seasons past 2014.

I’m willing to keep an open mind, though.

First, the Royals have to make the playoffs during the Shields window. One of my issues with the trade, despite some national and local media proclaiming otherwise, is that it doesn’t make the Royals an instant threat and it doesn’t give them some flexibility down the line either. Matt Moore would have been locked up through 2019 potentially. David Price would be around until after 2016. Both would have had the same impact Shields had on the rotation, but they would have given the Royals some wiggle room so that they didn’t have to find a 16 win improvement in one season or, have to write off 2013 as the leadup to contention and make 2014 the *real* contending year.

It’s just complicated for me to buy into that. But, if they do it. If the offense turns around and the pitching is strong, it’s not impossible. Just improbable. Marc Simon of ESPN looked at last year’s performance and laid out a scenario by which the Royals could make such an improvement. A LOT has to go right. But it’s possible. Jeff Zimmerman of Royals Review plugged in projections from Bill James’s Annual and determined that 94 wins could be possible if everyone does as James projects. I think Jeff will tell you that James usually has very optimistic projections every year, and I believe I saw somewhere that while the Royals would win 94 games in that scenario, Detroit would win 101. So there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. And all my belly-aching and frustration with trading a top five overall prospect would be dashed if the Royals made the playoffs. I’d gladly eat crow.

So that’s one way Shields can change my mind.

Shields also told the MLB Network that he’d be open to negotiating an extension. That would change a lot of the perception of the trade. Since one of the biggest gripes is that Shields is only a two-year team member, adding some years wipes that out. Many will point out that the extension would start once Shields had turned 33 it’s more of a risk, but Jeremy Guthrie Signing: Outrage and Context” href=”” target=”_blank”>I don’t mind the Jeremy Guthrie signing, so I’m not going to make that same complaint. Some pitchers are capable of throwing 200 innings year after year, and while it does create apprehension about impending injury, they’re pitchers, and pitchers can get hurt if they throw four innings in a season or 204. It’s the risk inherent in the position. If he were to sign an extension and turn the trade from two years of Shields to, say, five years, that’s a lot closer in value, and extends the window with Shields at the top of the rotation (assuming nobody else leapfrogs him, he stays healthy and the Royals don’t make other acquisitions).

That the Tigers were heavily pursuing a deal makes it all the better. By getting Shields, the Royals improve their rotation and odds of reaching the top of the division and also keep him from going to Detroit, which doesn’t improve them and extend the gap between the two. To then extend him would add more value that the Tigers didn’t get and enable them to use their target against them.

Another way I can change my mind about the deal comes down the road. Teams are now seeing that the Royals are serious about bringing in the pieces necessary to compete. That can work out to bring other players towards Kansas City. If the Royals do make this deal work and it turns them into a perennial contender, we can point to this move – and all the angst included – as the turning point. This happens to teams looking to break through. The Tigers signed Ivan Rodriguez in 2004 after a 43-119 season and they improved by 29 games to 72-90. Two years later they won the wild card with 95 wins and lost the World Series. Signing Rodriguez was seen as the Tigers proclaiming that they were ready to play.

The Royals tried to make this kind of statement to an extent early in Dayton Moore’s tenure, signing Gil Meche to a five-year $55 million deal that was laughable to most at the time. In the first two years, Meche was a combined 8.5 bWAR player and was playing well in 2009 until Trey Hillman let him throw a complete game on 132 pitches, then kept sending him out there with a sore shoulder and within two weeks he was back to throwing more than 120 pitches. He was never the same. To that point though, he had proven the critics wrong, and had he been healthy through the life of his contract, maybe the Royals would have won more, maybe they extend Zack Greinke. The Meche signing would look like Dayton Moore’s Stand.

That’s what this Shields deal can be. The time when the Royals said “enough” and wanted to play with the rest of the big boys.

I’m past the point of complaining about losing Myers. It’s done. The next step is waiting for 2013, cheering on the team, and hoping that the moves made this offseason pan out as the front office hopes.