The Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays completed a huge swap of talent late on Sunday night, with the Rays sending starting pitcher James Shields, reliever (or potential starter) Wade Davis, and a player to be named later to the Royals for four prospects: Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard.
The motive for the trade seems obvious for the Royals: they need starting pitching, and they want it NOW. But in acquiring Shields and Davis, the Royals completely mortgaged their future by dealing Myers, the 2012 Minor League Player of the Year, and Odorizzi, arguably the top pitching prospect in their organization. The additions of Montgomery, once an elite prospect, and Leonard, who had an .833 OPS as a 19-year old in rookie ball, are just cherries on top for the Rays.
The Royals needed pitching, and in Shields, they get a guy who will be 31 this month that is under contract for just two more seasons at $10.25 million in 2013 and $12 million in 2014 (via a club option). Shields has six straight 200 inning seasons for the Rays, and has four four-win seasons for the Rays during his career with them. He's also coming off of the two best seasons of his career (in terms of ERA, FIP, and xFIP), and has an ERA more than a full run higher on the road than at Tropicana Field. He'll head to a much better hitters park in Kansas City, and one that will expound upon Shields' biggest weakness: his tendency to allow his fair share of homers.
The 27-year old Davis came up through the Rays system as a starter, but spent 2012 in the major league bullpen for the Rays. Perhaps not coincidentally, 2012 was the finest of Davis' major league career, as he struck out 87 hitters in 70 1/3 innings and pitched to a 2.43 ERA. Maybe the Royals will try to transition him back into a starter, but in the majors, Davis seems like he'd be a better fit long-term coming out of the bullpen.
Now, when evaluating the package heading to Tampa Bay in the trade, you have to remember that nothing is for certain, as these are all prospects. But the haul they're receiving looks like a more than fair value. Myers, who turns 22 on Monday, was the it guy in trade rumors all offseason when it came to the Royals and their desire to improve their pitching staff. In 2012, Myers hit a total of 37 homers split between AA and AAA for the Royals, adding a .300 average and a double-digit walk rate. For the season, Myers finished with a .987 OPS, mashing both lefties and righties and looking like a franchise cornerstone. The Rays will likely slot him in their Opening Day lineup, essentially taking BJ Upton's place after Upton signed as a free agent with the Braves.
Odorizzi is the next biggest name in the deal, and he was part of the trade that sent Zack Greinke from the Royals to the Brewers two winters ago. He spent the year between AA and AAA (just like Myers), and the 22-year old posted a 3.03 ERA in 145 1/3 innings, striking out 135 and walking 50. Many prospect analysts project him as a three or four starter, but that doesn't make him some sort of throw-in with consideration to this deal.
Montgomery's career has been a mess since a 2010 season that saw him post a 2.61 ERA in 93 innings. His command has faltered over the past two seasons, and he's been getting hit around the minor leagues like a pinata. But again, age is on Montgomery's side. He's just 23-years old, and maybe a new organization can find what's ailing him.
Leonard is the least-known of the particulars involved in this trade. A fifth round pick in the 2011 draft, he made his pro debut in the Appalachian League this season and OPSed .833 with 14 homers and 30 walks in 62 games. He still has a ways to go before he'll contribute in the majors.
The Royals are making a statement that contending in 2013 is more important than contending in years beyond those. Shields will likely be gone after the next two seasons, the Royals will be left with Davis and nothing else. Now, who knows what could happen this season? Shields could lead a revamped Kansas City rotation to the AL Central title and postseason success, while Myers could be just another overly hyped prospect that disappoints in the majors. But the general consensus right now is that the Royals made a ballsy, big move to try to move the thermometer this season, and that they need more than James Shields and Wade Davis to conquer the division. As for the Rays, they're doing what they do. Tampa Bay loses a starting pitcher and a reliever, and has prospects ready to step into those roles (Odorizzi, Chris Archer to name a pair). The Rays made a rational, well-informed decision by making this trade, while the Royals seemingly were dripping with desperation in their attempt to become relevant again.