The Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays have agreed to what amounts to be a seven player trade, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, and multiple other sources. Kansas City will receive a pair of right-handers in James Shields and Wade Davis, along with a player to be named later, from the Rays in exchange for outfielder Wil Myers, right-hander Jake Odorizzi, left-hander Mike Montgomery, and third baseman Patrick Leonard.
Kansas City’s desire to add an “impact arm” to their starting rotation has long been public knowledge, as has their apparent willingness to include Myers in such a trade. However, fans of the Royals (and of the game) have long been questioning whether the team was pursuing the right options considering what they were reportedly willing to give up. They’ve been linked to Shields, Boston’s Jon Lester, and New York’s R.A. Dickey in the past few weeks – all solid pitchers but none that qualify as the true ace that could drastically change the Royals’ rotation. Also, none of these options are under contract for an extended period of time, further making the team’s apparent willingness to deal their top prospect appear questionable. Each scenario has had its obvious benefits and flaws, but the resounding belief in many circles is that the Royals would need to part with more than just Myers in order to complete a deal. Nearly two weeks ago, however, I argued that Myers was essentially being undervalued and his inclusion in a such a deal would not be a wise move on the part of the Royals.
Hoping to compete as early as this coming season, the Royals have now revamped nearly their entire starting rotation this winter. Shields and Davis will join Ervin Santana (acquired in an earlier trade from Los Angeles) as new faces in the Royals rotation, joining Jeremy Guthrie (re-signed after joining the team last July in a trade from Colorado) and Bruce Chen. It’s a certain upgrade from their starting rotation of a year ago, though far from a sure thing moving forward. Shields is not an ace (as former S2S Editor Wally Fish discussed last week at KC Kingdom), Santana is coming off a terrible season in which he led the Major Leagues in home runs allowed, and Davis was so inconsistent with the Rays that he’d end up in a bullpen role for much of the 2012 season.
Perhaps more concerning that the uncertainty surrounding Kansas City’s rotation next season, the amount of potential talent that the team agreed to give up in this deal is astounding.
Myers is widely considered to be among the game’s top prospects, exhibiting strong defensive abilities in center field with some (including Kings of Kauffman’s Michael Engel) comparing his offensive talents to that of Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun. Odorizzi has twice been ranked among the game’s Top 100 prospects by Baseball America and is coming off a 2012 season in which he went 15-5 with a 3.03 ERA in 145.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, not to mention starting the All Star Futures Game and making his MLB Debut with the Royals in September. Montgomery has failed to live up to the high expectations that have come with his career, but is still young and could learn to meet his potential. Leonard hit .251/.340/.494 with 14 HR in his first professional season this past year, as a 19 year old in the Rookie League.
As many have pointed out on Twitter amid the shocked and disappointed reactions, there is never any certainty when it comes to prospects. It’s possible that none of the players heading to Tampa Bay will develop into the pieces they are expected to be. It’s also possible, however, that the trade looks incredibly lopsided in just a few short years. Tampa Bay received roughly 25 years of team control for the players in this deal, while Kansas City will get just 7 (as Shields will reach free agency after the 2014 season).
Time will tell how this deal is viewed in the annals of baseball and Royals history, but at least initially, it would appear to be a significant “win” for the Rays.