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Royals get James Shields at a high cost

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Last night the Kansas City Royals made a huge move to improve their 2013 chances of being relevant and competitive by acquiring James Shields in a 7-player deal. This deal has immediate and future implications on both the AL East and Central, with impact talent exchanging on both ends.

The Royals finally get their ace of staff that they had been looking to find for some time. We had heard rumors that Royals Gm Dayton Moore had been looking into acquiring either Shields or Boston Red Sox lefty Jon Lester to solidify one of the worst rotations in the game. A deal comes of no shock, but the magnitude of talent certainly does. What this really does is give Moore a last ditch effort to save his own job and to keep the Royals in the hunt in 2013.

James Shields

James Shields (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

The official deal has Kansas City acquiring James Shields, Wade Davis and a player to be named later, or cash, which likely means the player to be acquired at a later date is not of any major significance since I can’t see Tampa forking over non-existent money. Shields has been one of the better starters in the league for some time now and will likely benefit from pitching in the weaker division. He has two more seasons of control at $9MM in 2013 and a 2014 team option at $12MM ($1MM buyout). Based on his line of production the contract is very reasonable and there is very low risk of him performing below his contract value. The interesting decision will be once 2014 is done and Shields enters his age 32 season as a potential free agent. At this point KC will have a ton of motivation to keep him around after shelling out so much talent to acquire him. This is all assuming Moore is still around in 2014, which likely relies on how the team performs in 2013.

Wade Davis is a big right hander who saw success as a starter in Tampa but eventually was relegated to a bullpen role. While in the bullpen, Davis saw his peripherals improve and the quality of his stuff also increased. There was a noticeable drop off in the sharpness of his curve as he became tired later in games, which inflated his numbers. If Kansas City gives Davis a chance to start, while in a bigger ballpark, there’s the chance that he adds some value beyond what a typical reliever provides. However, it’s certainly worth noting that Davis’ career high in WAR is 1.1 and that came in both 2009 (as a starter) and 2012 (as a reliever). There’s the possibility that he just simply can’t hold his stuff late in games and that he will be limited to a bullpen role.

One thing to note is the difference in defense behind both of these pitchers. We have seen Jeremy Hellickson defy the numbers and post peripherals that seem unsustainable, but much of that has to do with the excellent defenders behind him and the advanced fielding approach that Joe Maddon instills on the field. Tampa Bay had a 31-point defensive efficiency advantage over the Royals in 2012. Not to say KC’s defense is terrible (because it’s not), it just shows you how good they are in Tampa and how that affects the pitchers results.

In return for the two right handers, Rays GM Andrew Friedman landed one of the most polished and talented hitters in the minors in Wil Myers. Myers is a converted catcher who only was moved off the position to keep him healthy, and to let him get to the big leagues faster because of his ability at the plate. His numbers are certainly impressive, hitting .304 with 37 HR’s and a healthy .932 OPS. He could use some improvement on plate discipline, but all the tools are there to improve. Scouts love his raw athleticism and believe he can be an average outfielder who improves his on base skills while at the major league level. He instantly becomes the Rays top prospect and their right fielder in 2013.

Also coming along to the Rays are Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montgomery and 3B Patrick Leonard. Leonard is a guy who I haven’t seen just yet, but in his first pro season he posted solid on base and an ability to hit for power. Montgomery is a former top prospect who had a disastrous 2012. Prior to his showing in 2012 and complete loss of command, I drew comparisons to Boston Red Sox starter Jon Lester. Montgomery is a big, tall left-hander who touches the upper 90’s but had been working on taking a bit off to command the pitch a bit better. He works off the fastball, showing a solid change and a curve that stays up in the zone and doesn’t have real sharp break to it. There’s a possibility that Montgomery doesn’t recover and becomes nothing, but his raw talent is there and it’s an excellent flier to take because his upside is top of the rotation talent. Odorizzi is a major league ready right hander who has very fluid and easy mechanics but no true out pitch. If I had to draw a comparison, he reminds me a bit of Scott Baker. Four solid pitches, with good command but nothing that will blow you away. As others have projected, he’s likely to be a back of the rotation starter but I worry about his ability to get hitters out in the AL East. I’ve never been a fan of Odorizzi, particularly when I’ve seen him in the Futures Game due to his delivery being so fluid and easy that it looks easy to see the ball out of his hand. Regardless, he will be a low cost pitcher who will provide quality production.

Shields will be productive and likely Davis will be as well even if it’s in a bullpen role. I’ve seen other writers point out that prospects aren’t a guarantee, of course they’re not, but the point is to create a positive return on your investment and that’s exactly what Myers (and others) is likely to do for Rays fans for many years to come. Many feel that the Rays won this deal by a landslide and I am on board with this as well. When you can get this type of player, with this type of ability and with so many productive seasons ahead at almost no money it’s hard to lose. With the way that the Royals have handled their assets, they’ll have to win a lot of games in 2013 or be forced to watch their home grown talent produce for Rays fans while they sit at the bottom of the standings,  yet again.

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