I want to root for the Kansas City Royals. Really, I want to.
As someone who writes about prospects for a living, I like when teams build a strong nucleus from within, develop young players, and become competitive the “right way,” which of course just means they did it by not trying to out-spend the Yankees (I’m looking at you Dodgers).
The Royals were doing things the right way. The development wasn’t going exactly as planned with the majority of their top pitching prospects struggling with either with injuries or stagnated development. But they had a nice offensive nucleus behind Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez. Wil Myers was scheduled to join that group at some point during the season, and while there are a few questions about his game, he has the potential to possibly be the best of the bunch.
But this entire off-season, we’ve heard rumors of the Royals shopping Myers for a front-line starter, with the main targets being James Shields of the Rays and Jon Lester of the Red Sox, both of whom had just two years of team-control remaining as compared to Myers’ six.
The Royals finally pulled the trigger on a deal with the Rays late Sunday night, but the deal turned out to be even bigger than expected.
The final tally saw the Royals get Shields and Wade Davis, a young starter-turned-reliever who the Royals are going to try in their rotation. Heading to the Rays is not just Myers, but the Royals top pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi, their former top pitching prospect Mike Montgomery, whose development had stunted over the past year but is still talented, and third base prospect Patrick Leonard.
Somehow, Rays GM Andrew Friedman convinced Royals GM Dayton Moore to give up additional top prospects in addition to Myers.
With just a Myers for Shields/Davis trade, the Royals would be giving up six years of a potential star for two years of Shields and four of Davis. With Myers potential, that move seems somewhat lopsided in the Rays favor, but not excessively so. If the move made the Royals instant contenders in the American League, then it’s basically just up to philosophical opinion as to whether it’s worth giving up Myers for a chance to go for it.
But this trade doesn’t make the Royals good enough to compete. They’ll be better than they have been and this move likely gets them over the .500 mark, but not by enough to challenge the Tigers for the AL Central crown.
The Royals still have significant question marks. The additions of Jeremy Guthrie and Ervin Santana give them the potential of a strong rotation behind Shields, but both of them have serious question marks coming off of poor 2012 seasons.
So many things still have to go right for the Royals to compete in 2013. Guthrie and Santana need to both be at their best. Hosmer needs to rebound from a down sophomore season. Moustakas needs to continue to develop and not stagnate. Perez needs to stay healthy.
For the Royals to “go for it” and sacrifice a top prospect is not a bad strategy in and of itself, but for them to do it this off-season, when they are too far away for James Shields to make the difference, this moves proves to be near-sighted and lopsided.
Once again, the Rays have proved why they are a successful franchise and the Royals have proved why they are not.