Kansas City made a splash Sunday night, acquiring James Shields and Wade Davis from Tampa Bay for a package of prospects headlined by 22-year-old slugging phenom Wil Myers and pitching prospect Jake Orodizzi. The Royals, whose starters own the American League's highest combined ERA since 2004, needed pitching. There's no questioning that.
But the price Kansas City paid wasn't just high, it was exorbitant. They're getting, at most, two years of Shields and potentially missing out on six years of Myers andor Odorizzi, most of which will come at an inexpensive price. Myers, who turns 22 Monday, hit 37 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A last season with a .987 OPS and is regarded as one of the premier offensive prospects in baseball.
Odorizzi, considered the best player Kansas City received from Milwaukee in 2010's Zack Greinke trade, posted a 3.03 ERA with 135 strikeouts, 50 walks and 14 home runs allowed between Double-A and Triple-A. He was one of Kansas City's top two pitching prospects, a guy who maybe could've begun contributing in the majors as early as the 2013 season.
The Royals also gave up struggling former top prospect Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard, described as a sleeper by Minor League Ball's John Sickels. The Rays did well for themselves in this trade, that's for sure.
If those last numbers were reversed, perhaps this deal makes more sense. Davis saw success out of Tampa Bay's bullpen in 2012 but didn't blossom as a starter over three prior years in the Rays' rotation. If Davis remains a reliever, he'll be an expensive one -- Davis will earn 2.8 million in 2013 and 4.8 million in 2014 before options of 7 million, 8 million and 10 million kick in through 2017 (although the first two club options don't have buyouts). Chances are, though, he'll slide in to Kansas City's rotation as their No. 3 or No. 4 starter.
But the real get here for Kansas City is Shields, and getting him puts an immense amount of pressure on the Royals to win in the next two years.
Shields can do his part -- he was a Cy Young candidate in 2011 and a solid No. 2 starter in 2012 -- but the rest of the team will have to take a step forward. Improvements from the team's highly-touted young corner infielders would be a good start.
Eric Hosmer's OPS dropped from .799 in his rookie year to .663 in 2012, but if he regains the elite hitting track he was on 12 months ago it'll provide a massive boost to the Royals' lineup. And if Mike Moustakas can begin to develop as a solid hitter, he'll be one of baseball's more valuable third baseman given his already-outstanding defense.
Alex Gordon and Billy Butler are two of the better players at their respective positions, while Salvador Perez looks like an excellent young catcher. The Royals' problem hasn't been its lineup, though -- over the last four seasons, their offense has rated in the middle of the pack -- it's been the rotation.
A rotation of Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Davis, Ervin Santana and Bruce Chen is hardly bad. But for the Royals to be more than mediocre in 2013, they'll need Guthrie to sustain some level of the success he had after being acquired last summer and Santana to show his bad 2012 (5.16 ERA, league-leading 39 HR allowed) was an anomaly. Having Davis take a step forward and trend more toward being a middle of the rotation starter instead of a back-end guy would be big, too, if he does start.
The Royals have an impressive stable of power arms in their bullpen, too -- but that won't do them any good if their starters can't hand the ball over with a lead.
Kansas City's window to win wasn't in 2013 before this trade. Maybe 2014 was when they took a step forward, with a few more top prospects getting comfortable in the majors.
It's been a long rebuilding process at Kauffman Stadium, though, one that has been underway for seemingly decades. They're loaded with prospects, and while Myers and Odorizzi are blue-chippers, maybe could afford to trade them for more win-now pieces.
The point is, on the surface, Kansas City didn't capitalize on the value of Myers and Odorizzi, mainly Myers. Trading him for two years of a starting pitcher north of 30 was a bold move, and one that's led to a pretty vitriolic response from a fan base starved for success.
Think about that. A move that's designed to bring success quickly has rankled a fan base that's dealt with the longest playoff drought in baseball.
The window to win in Kansas City is cracked open. But whether it's wide enough for the Royals to squeeze through remains to be seen.