In the aftermath of the Kansas City Royals/Tampa Bay Rays trade on Sunday, most of the analysis has suggested that the Royals got the worse of the deal. Many believe that sending away Wil Myers in particular was too steep a price for James Shields and that this was a very poor move by General Manager Dayton Moore. These people, however, clearly have only the vaguest idea of what the Royals actual roster looks like and what will and won’t help the team down the line. If they did, it would be clear that this was an excellent move by the Royals.
The crux of the issue seems to be a dramatic overestimation of how much Myers would have actually helped the club in the future. To a large extent, this is nothing new. Many who are unfamiliar with the club have been erroneously saying for some time that the Royals were likely to deal away Jeff Francoeur in the offseason and have Myers start in right field next year. That was always very unlikely however and for much the same reason that he was expendable: the Royals have good hitting. Looking at the Royals batting order, there is nowhere Myers would fit in the middle order. Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and Salvador Perez are only leaving the 3-4-5 spots through injury and that means that Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas could have very good seasons next year and still hit at six and seven. Johnny Giavotalla will hit at nine next year, if he plays ahead of Chris Getz which he may not, despite being an excellent hitter in the making. If Myers were to come into the batting order then it would be somewhere in the 6-7-8 spot. It would be great to then have run producers from three to eight in the batting order, but there is a law of diminishing returns in play and it simply won’t help the club as much as people think.
What will help the club is the top-of-the-rotation starter that we have been after. For all the claims that Shields is a number two starter, he was only the number two in Tampa Bay because he was behind David Price. His actual numbers are that of an ace: in the last two years he has an ERA of 3.15 and 448 strikeouts in 477 innings. Compare that to the (rightly) sought-after Zack Greinke who put up and ERA of 3.63 and 401 strikeouts in 384 innings over the same period. Not only are they very comparable, but Shields managed those numbers in a league with the designated hitter and a division with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees; most of Greinke’s starts were in the National League and he had the benefit of pitching against the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs. Shields absolutely is a number one starter on any club where he is not sharing a rotation with a Cy Young award winner.
The other argument comes down to the fact that the Royals will supposedly only have Shields for two years, as opposed to having Myers for six. This is at least true, unlike a lot of the other arguments. But it still misses a couple of important points. The first is the obvious one that the relative impact of Shields for two years will likely be greater than the impact of Myers for six. Part of that is the reason above, of Myers not being someone the Royals really need. But also, after having Shields for two years the Royals could be in a very different position. The Royals have a real chance to compete this year and a couple of winning seasons will not only swell the coffers from increased attendance, but also make the Royals a more enticing prospect for other free agent pitchers. Money to spend plus a winning team is a powerful lure and the effect of Shields will probably last more than the time he is actually in Kansas City. The other point is that it is not a given that the Royals will lose Shields after two seasons! They certainly may lose Shields, but Kansas City is a good place to pitch. Jeremy Guthrie chose to stay; just ask him about the deep fences and sharp defence. For the same reasons the Royals will have a chance to get another starter they will have a chance to retain Shields.
Having Myers would not give the Royals that chance in a few years. There is a chance that Jake Odorizzi might, but it is only a chance and is much farther down the line. People do not seem to realise that this is the Royals chance. The pieces are in place with the hitting and defence; they may not be any more if the club waits a few more years to go for it. The Royals need a good starting pitcher now more than they need Myers down the line. Moore made the right call.