Monday, December 10, 2012

Around the division: Kansas City Royals

James Shields has
exceeded 200 innings
in each of the past
six seasons.
Back in September, I published this post suggesting that the Twins could trade Chris Parmelee for James Shields. A few days later I said: No, Shields is going to cost a lot more than that.

The reconsidered view proved more correct: The Kansas City Royals on Sunday traded four top prospects for Shields, Wade Davis and a player to be named. They also acquired a great deal of social media mockery.

They earned every bit of that mockery.

It isn't that Shields and Davis are bad pitchers, by any means. It's that this was a horrendous overpay on the part of Kansas City. Wil Myers is one of the very best prospects in the minor leagues, fully ready to step into the middle of a major league lineup. Jake Odorizzi is a nearly-ready starter. Mike Montgomery's luster has faded after a pair of disappointing seasons in the upper minors, but he remains too talented to count out. Patrick Leonard is further away, but talented.

This was a deal of desperation on the part of the Royals front office. Dayton Moore has been in charge for seven years, and the Royals, despite building an impressive stack of prospects, have not reached .500, much less reached the playoffs, under his regime. The basic problem: The young starting pitchers have failed to develop, and the Kansas City rotation last year was as much a mess as Minnesota's.

Wil Myers was Baseball
America's minor league
player of the year in 2012.
And so Moore, who is widely perceived to be running out of time, has spent the offseason scraping up immediate rotation help. He claimed Edwin Santana on waivers, signed Jeremy Guthrie to a three-year contract and gave Tampa Bay the heart of his farm system for Shields and Davis. (Davis had started for the Rays in previous seasons but spent 2012 in the bullpen, where he was much better; it's unclear what the Royals have in mind with him.)

This improves the Royals; they figure now to be a .500 team, maybe a little better, perhaps a wild-card contender. I don't think that two years of James Shields justifies giving up Myers' career. I don't think Davis justifies giving up Odorizzi's career. And that's not counting the Montgomery and Leonard lottery tickets.

Moore may have figured he needs to achieve at least .500 in 2013 much to keep his job. Or, to be charitable, he may have a different sense of how close his team is to a true breakthrough. If he really thinks his team is now a World Series contender, he's pretty close to unique. This looks like a desperate move by a desperate GM, and desperation is seldom productive.

As a Twins fan, this trade pleases me. Terry Ryan is assembling a crop of prospects -- Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Alex Meyer, Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, J.O. Berrios and others -- worthy of comparison to the Royals farm system of a few years ago; this trade may well mean that when Ryan's prospects are ready in a couple of years, the Royals won't be an obstacle. At least, they won't be as formidable an obstacle as they could have been.


  1. Great trade for the Rays unless the Royals win a playoff series in the next two years. It cements Tampa's position in the tier of the east for the next few years too. I think they are the league favorites no too--if Longoria stays helathy.

  2. Damn, I need a proofreader: top tier and favorites now.