Matt Ryerson-US PRESSWIRE
Royals GM Dayton Moore may have made one of the most bone-headed mistakes of his career last night, trading uber-prospect Wil Myers to the Tampa Bay Rays for pennies on the dollar. But does it put Kansas City in position to contend for the AL Central next year?
By now, you have likely heard about the late Sunday night deal that sent Kansas City Royals outfield prospect Wil Myers and two other prospects to the Tampa Bay Rays for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis, and a player to be named later. You have also probably heard at least one prominent columnist tell you how horrible of a deal it is for the Royals.
But if you came here to read something about how "prospects are just prospects" and expect me to write something in favor of what Dayton Moore did, you might want to click elsewhere.
Don't get me wrong, I'm happy that this happened. But this is an awful deal for the Royals on all accounts, one that will have profound effects on the rest of the division for a number of years.
For those unfamiliar with Myers, he is as close to a "can't miss prospect" as exists in baseball now that Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have shed their respective prospect labels. While Myers started out as #28 on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list at the start of the 2012 season due to injury concerns from the previous year, he rocketed up the rankings to #3 by the middle of the season. At the end of the season, he was named Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year, an honor so accurate at predicting future success that only one winner since 1993 (Rocco Baldelli) is no longer an active major league player.
Meanwhile, sitting at #22 on the 2012 preseason list mentioned above is left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery, one of the other players that Kansas City is sending to Tampa. A disappointing season in which he was 5-12 with a 6.07 ERA between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha -- as a 22 year old, mind you -- left Montgomery off of the midseason top 50 list (linked above) and had Montgomery outside Baseball America's top 10 prospects list for the Royals organization for the 2013 season. Right-handed pitcher Jake Ordorizzi, the third player in the deal, was ranked #68 on the 2012 preseason list, #29 on the midseason list, and #5 on the Royals' 2013 organizational list. Outfielder Patrick Leonard is the fourth player Kansas City sent the Rays' way, but is just filler at this point.
Simply put, if Myers wasn't enough to send Royals fans over the edge, two other promising arms should be.
In return, the Royals received Shields, who will be 31 at the start of the 2013 season and is only under a guaranteed contract for one more season. He has a $12 million team option for the 2014 season, a relative bargain for a player that has put up 17.0 bWAR in seven seasons (including 6.9 over the past two). Shields should continue to pitch well, barring injury. The concern that most Royals fans have, aside from the offense (or lack thereof) is that Shields will only be in Kansas City for two seasons at most.
While Wade Davis is under club control until after the 2014 season, his salary has been predetermined by the four-year, $12.6 million contract he signed with the Rays in March of 2011. His salary will be $4.8 million in 2014, then he has team options available of $7 million, $8 million, and $10 million for the 2015-17 seasons, respectively. For a guy who scouts now project as a mid-rotation starter, Davis' salary ramps up pretty aggressively.
So why does this matter? Unless the Royals are getting a whale of a player to be named later, this deal could divebomb into two mediocre years from both Shields and Davis before the former bolts for free agency and the latter is either an expensive back-end starter or also updating his resume. If Kansas City's coaches are able to fix whatever is ailing Davis' pitching motion, then they might end up with a decent starter for a number of years at a discount.
The problem for Kansas City, however, brings us back to Myers. Since the Royals were so stingy about bringing him up to the majors in 2012 -- a.k.a. they didn't do it -- Myers' major league service clock hasn't started yet. This means that the Rays still have six full seasons of Myers' services available to them. And since Myers was still not Rule V Draft eligible this year, should the Rays so choose, they can stash Myers in Triple-A for another season without losing a year of club control.
So how does this impact the Tigers? The Royals rotation gets a nice boost over the next couple seasons with both Shields and Davis added to a list that already includes Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, and what will likely be Luke Hochevar. Left-hander Danny Duffy will likely take Santana's spot in 2014 once he recovers from the Tommy John surgery he had in June of 2012. A solid rotation it may be, but it is nowhere near as formidable as a rotation containing Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Rick Porcello, and Drew Smyly, all of whom are under club control though the 2015 season or longer. Not to mention, this trade likely takes the Royals out of the Anibal Sanchez sweepstakes. If Sanchez re-signs with the Tigers, it's likely that this trade played a key role.
As for how this trade affects the Royals' offense, there isn't much to say. Right fielder Jeff Francoeur hit .235/.287/.378 last season, numbers that Myers likely would have surpassed had he been in the majors. As a team, the Royals were 12th in the American League in runs scored, 13th in home runs, and 10th in slugging percentage last season. There will probably be some improvement from Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas -- not to mention a full season of Salvador Perez -- but Myers' bat would have been a big addition to a lineup that struggled to score runs in 2012. A core of Hosmer, Moustakas, Myers, Perez, Johnny Giavotella, and Alcides Escobar -- all of whom are 25 or younger -- would have been an excellent lineup for years to come. Taking Myers out of that group puts a big hole in the middle of the order, one that likely won't be filled by a big name free agent anytime soon.
So rest easy, Tigers fans, and know that our divisional crown is in good hands with Royals GM Dayton Moore still at the helm. Dave Dombrowski can kick back and relax now, and bask in the fact that the Royals have hurt their franchise with this deal, one that will come back to haunt them for years to come. Or better yet, keep the pedal to the metal and go sign Sanchez. Either way, the Tigers are still the odds-on favorites to repeat as divisional champions in 2013.