File in the box labeled “predictable” the outcry from Kansas City Royals jersey-buyers over general manager Dayton Moore including baseball’s No. 1 power-hitting prospect and the organization’s top-rated pitching prospect in the same trade.
Trace it to the optimistic nature of human beings. We convince ourselves the tomorrow we haven’t seen will be better than today. The unknown, untainted by unpleasant memories, forever trumps the known.
Just for fun, pretend trades were part of college basketball and imagine the outrage had Bill Self dealt freshman Josh Selby, the nation’s No. 1-ranked prospect, for Texas junior J’Covan Brown.
Angry words would have echoed throughout every bar in town and screamed from every corner of cyberspace: “Sure, Self can coach and recruit, but do you think he’s a very good GM? He just traded the next John Wall.”
Didn’t exactly turn out that way.
In time, Wil Myers might develop into one of the top power hitters in the game. At 21, he hit .314 with 37 home runs and 109 RBIs in 134 games of a season split between Double A (35) and Triple A (99). His pitch recognition might develop to the point he can strike out at a less disturbing rate than 140 times in 522 at bats. He’s an excellent prospect, all right.
The word “might” and “prospect” need not enter discussions about James Shields, the main player acquired by the Royals in the deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Moore entered the offseason with a lousy starting rotation that ensured a better shot at last place than first. He has built a bona fide contender to win the American League Central.
Shields has surpassed 200 innings in six consecutive seasons, made exactly 33 starts in each of the past five seasons and entered his prime in the past two, compiling a 31-22 record with a combined ERA of 3.15.
Left-hander Mike Montgomery didn’t show signs of developing for the Royals. The new start gives him a better shot, but still a long one. Jake Odorizzi was the Royals’ top pitching prospect. Wade Davis, acquired from the Rays, is a comparable talent. The Royals probably liked Davis slightly better; the Rays probably ranked Odorizzi slightly higher.
The symbolic shift this trade signals — from sellers peddling tomorrow to buyers serious about today — can’t be ignored. With so much young talent in the lineup — catcher Salvador Perez, first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, shortstop Alcides Escobar, left fielder Alex Gordon and designated hitter Billy Butler — Moore had to overhaul the rotation now. He did, re-signing Jeremy Guthrie and adding Shields, Davis and Ervin Santana in trades that didn’t subtract a major-leaguer.
Moore made the Royals relevant again. Now go sign a free-agent right fielder, Dayton.