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Opinion: Royals couldn’t bank on ‘What if?’

December 10, 2012

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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.

Comments

Steve Jacob 1 year, 8 months ago

I thought it was a great trade. Shields at 2 years $24M is a bargain when you see what Greinke signed for. Myers is a great prospect, but Bubba iStarling isn't that far behind.

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parrothead8 1 year, 8 months ago

For once, I agree with Keegan. The only thing I have a problem with is the final statement about signing a free agent right fielder, mainly because I have a hard time seeing what options there are that would be much better than Francoeur. Sure, the guy isn't much of an offensive force, but he's a good defender with one of the best arms in baseball.

Let's operate in reality: the Royals aren't going to suddenly come up with $20-25M for a Josh Hamilton or a Michael Bourn. The rest of the free agent options aren't likely to cost any less or be any better than Francoeur. Myers was the best option they had for RF, and he's gone. The trade-off is that (hopefully) they have starting pitching that won't be allowing as many runs per game, and so the low offensive production they get from their right-fielder won't matter as much as it did last season.

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Bob Forer 1 year, 8 months ago

Francoeur is not a good defender. He covers very little ground, and.his glove is mediocre. But he does have one of the best outfield arms in baseball.

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parrothead8 1 year, 8 months ago

He may not cover as much ground as he did a few years ago, but I don't know what gives you the impression he has a mediocre glove. He only had one fielding error last season (four total, but three were throwing errors), and his arm masks any fractions of a second longer that it takes him to get to a ball hit his way. Runners barely ever even try to take an extra base on him, and that's worth a lot the pitching staff.

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riverdrifter 1 year, 8 months ago

The keys to success in MLB are: (a) a quality minor league program, (b) strategic free agent signings and (c) trades. The Royals traded prospects for proven players. I cannot remember the last time they were in a position to do so. Way to go!

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Matthew Herbert 1 year, 8 months ago

The real value in this trade that goes unmentioned in far too many articles I read on the matter is the changing perception amongst players. Before this trade occurred, the Kansas City Royals opened their wallets BIG TIME for Ryan Dempster only to have him publicly comment that he had no interest in playing for a team like Kansas City that showed no real commitment to winning. This comment is not isolated either - prior to his departure, Greinke made several similar comments about why he wouldn't sign long term with the Royals. Several other major league free agents haven't specifcally outed the Royals but have said "I want to play for a contender". If that's the attitude of free agents throughout baseball, Dayton Moore's biggest acquisition in this move is the realization of free agents throughout the league that the KC Royals are willing to trade off potential future superstars in order to win games, TODAY. The biggest payday for this trade may very well come in future years when free agents that previously wouldn't have considered the Royals, come here to play based upon our desire to NOT have the best farm system for yet another year in a row but finally have the best major league club.

I for one am more than willing to give up 27 more postseason-free years of KC baseball for ONE championship season. Who's with me?

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Bob Forer 1 year, 8 months ago

Me too. Just a few days ago the press reported that $70 million was the ceiling for payroll, not to mention the fact that Wil Myers, until the trade was finalized, was considered "off limits." In one fell swope Royals management demonstrated a willingness to both spend some money and trade away top prospects to win right now.

Both proponents and critics of the trade have made good points. The fact remains, however, that the one major impediment to a winning ball club was the lack of starting pitching, and until signing two free agent pitchers and finalizing the Shields deal, the rotation was looking horrid. With recent events, pitching is no longer THE problem.

Making the playoffs is certainly not a lock. But with a little good luck, the Royals have a chance--and a decent chance--of getting there in both 2013 and 2014.

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parrothead8 1 year, 8 months ago

I have to agree. As a long-time Braves fan, I'll say that I enjoyed watching my team win 80 kazillion division titles in a row, but I would have traded 79 kazillion of them to see them win more than ONE World Series title during that time...especially that '96 Series they threw away against the Yankees.

If this trade is the catalyst towards an eventual championship season, it doesn't matter what they gave up to get it.

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gorilla 1 year, 8 months ago

Yes, this trade will probably go a long way toward making the Royals relevant again. Connie Mack made the observation that pitching in 90% of the game. Those early Royals teams that became contenders in such a short time from their first season (1969) were built around pitching, speed, and defense. Hitting by Brett, McRae, Mayberry, Otis et. al. helped, but the core was pitching. Subsequent Royals teams with good to great hitting, (Damon, Beltran, Dye, etc.) that had lousy starting pitching finished last or and to fight hard to finish next to last.

Another old adage from baseball lore - mediocre pitching makes good hitting great.

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Bob Forer 1 year, 8 months ago

Perhaps the best example of what excellent pitching can do for you is the 1969 NY Mets. Sure they had Cleon Jones, who had a career year batting .340. But the rest of the team was mediocre at the plate--a collective team batting avg. of only 242 which ranked them 7th out of 12 NL teams. And their power was abysmal. Tommie Agee lead the team with 26 round trippers. The second highest Met,. Art Shamsky, only had 14 dingers.

But their pitching was out of this world. Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Gary Gentry, Tug McGraw, and Jim McAndrew. The combined team ERA of the entire pitching staff was an outrageously good 2.99.

The so-called "Miracle Mets" were no fluke. They won 100 games during the regular season and lost only once in post-season on their way to the World Championship.

Even if the Royals are only able to muster a wild card berth, their rotation could take them far, perhaps to the World Series. In short playoff series, very good pitching usually has an advantage over decent bats.

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