Analyzing the Royals-Rays Trade

shieldsKC

Time to go to war, Royals fans.

Well, he finally did it.  Royals General Manager Dayton Moore (GMDM) pulled the trigger on Wil Myers, trading one of the game’s hottest prospects for a proven, ace-type starting pitcher.  It was probably inevitable, and I knew I probably wouldn’t like the outcome.

Why?  Well, it comes down to finances and availability.  Myers is controllable for 7 years at very affordable rates.  He’s also a big upgrade in the lineup and position players are more valuable compared to pitchers because they play everyday.  James Shields, obtained from the Tampa Bay Rays in return, is only on contract for 2 years and is expensive.

But what kills me the most is we had to trade not only our #1 hitting prospect in Myers.  We also had to surrender our #1 pitching prospect in Jake Odorizzi.  And our former #1 pitching prospect in Mike Montgomery.  Oh, and throw in promising lottery ticket Patrick Leonard to boot.  Sure, we got RHP Wade Davis in return for that package, but it still stings an awful lot to give up 7 years of cheap, control of Myers, Odorizzi, Montgomery, and maybe Leonard for 2 years of Shields and 5 years (maybe) of Davis.

Given time to mull the deal over, by week’s end I have actually come to embrace the trade.  Shields is THAT good.  Davis has the potential to also be a solid mid-rotation guy and probably has more upside than Odorizzi.  Doing some number crunching always seems to set my head straight, and the impact from acquiring Shields/Davis at the cost of Myers et al is staggering and could lead to the first playoff appearance since 1985.

Reasons to Hate:

wilMyersMyers is potentially a superstar in the making.  He’s the best pure hitter in the Royals system for years now, and he hit 37 homers in 2012.  He can immediately replace the black hole of suck in right field known as Jeff Francouer.  He can even play CF or 3B if you needed him to.  I have no doubt whatsoever he will flourish in Tampa, and the Royals will rue the day they let him go.

Odorizzi is slightly different.  I don’t feel so bad about letting him go for one very simple reason.  He doesn’t throw as hard as I was led on to believe.  He tops out at around 92, but is 88-91 most of the time.  The 2 starts he got in KC in September were disappointing to say the least.  Sure, he could compete and win a spot in the rotation for years to come, but he probably never will be better than a #3.

Montgomery is as frustrating a pitching prospect as I can imagine and really, when it comes down to it, the reason for this trade.  He was ranked twice as the Royals top prospect, which is saying a ton due to the talent KC had bubbling up through the system (Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Myers, etc.).  If he had not lost his stuff completely in AAA starting in 2011, he would have been the ace we had all wanted and needed, and we’re today not talking about his trade.

Leonard could blossom into a power hitting corner infielder and is young enough that you can dream on his 14 homers his first pro season and large frame to add more pop.  Many trades have a lottery ticket involved and this is precisely what Leonard is.  He probably won’t pan out, but if he does, he’s probably the biggest value in this deal.  Either way, Tampa Bay isn’t out anything taking him on and the Royals probably aren’t either.  But you never know.

Shields comes to KC not quite at the apex of his value, but darn near.  His 2011 when he finished 3rd in Cy Young voting, winning 16 games, throwing 249 innings and 11 complete games.  2012 wasn’t quite that, but he still had an ERA of 3.52 with 227 innings pitched and an increased K/9 rate of 8.8 vs. 8.1 the year before.  He’s a legit #1 starter, but not an “ace”.  I argue there is a difference.  His teammate David Price is an ace.  C.C. Sabathia, Clayton Kershaw, and Justin Verlander are too.  Shields is a #1 on most teams around the league though.

Davis has a gigantic question mark on his back coming into 2013.  He was just mediocre in the rotation for Tampa prior to being relegated to bullpen duty last year.  His 2 years in the rotation yielded ERAs of 4.07 and 4.45 and K/9 rates of 6.1 and 5.1.  His move to the bullpen was phenomenal (2.43 ERA, 11.1 K/9), but pitchers can rear back and throw when only going 1-2 innings per appearance rather than conserving for 6-8 innings.

Reasons to Like:

Myers has so much upside that I can’t really think of why I like this part of the trade.  Moving along.

jakeodorizziOdorizzi might top out as a #3 starter, but his velocity dip from what I thought he had to what he showed in September might be enough to be able to swallow his departure.

Montgomery more than likely will not be able to recapture the stuff that made him the Royals #1 overall prospect two times in his career.  He’s already 23 and he’s getting into the phase where prospects just don’t improve.  I’d rather he be in the system to find out, because when on, he can be a #1.  If nothing else, he might be a flame throwing lefty out of the bullpen, but he might just go down as another failed pitching prospect.

Leonard is a hard player to get a gauge on simply because he has exactly one pro season to draw from, and that was in the rookie-level Appalachian League.  He batted cleanup after Bubba Starling and hit 14 homers in short-season.  He also hit under .250.  The homers are impressive, but if Leonard is a bone fide major league prospect (probably isn’t), one would think he’d have a better hit tool.  Having said that, a lot can change over the course of 24 months.

Shields instantly gives the Royals’ rotation a legitimacy they have lacked since Greinke won the 2009 Cy Young.  Sitting atop the staff, Shields can possibly make everyone better around him, most importantly the bullpen.  He has averaged nearly 7 1/3 innings per start over the past 2 years.  Telling the relievers they only have to cover 1 2/3 innings on average is a huge boost.  His 2012 numbers were good and his 2011 numbers were great.  Can he continue to deliver as a 31 year old?

wd40Davis’ 11.1 K/9 rate in the bullpen is either a product strictly from moving to relief or partly that and a new-found pitch or mechanics.  If he can go from the 5.1 K/9 in 2011 while starting to say, 8.1 (halfway), he’s instantly a stud.  He’ll pitch nearly all of 2013 as a 27 year old and he’s signed through 2017, but gets more expensive all the time.  His H/9 of 6.1 was staggering, with only a slight up-tick in BB/9.  Can he be effective for 180 innings versus 70?  If so, the deal became a little more palatable.

So Now What?

On offense, the hole that would have been filled by Myers in right field still exists.  In the interim, nothing changes as Francouer will continue to man the position and hit roughly 7th in the order with a line of .240 / .290 / .390.  The dude still has a cannon for an arm, but his range got shockingly worse in 2012.  I hope a new hitting approach and an offseason to condition better gets him back to his 2011 numbers (.285 / .329 / .476).

That promise that Myers could deliver though would have lasted until the 2019 season, when even Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar are still under contract, and probably one or both of Moustakas and Hosmer.  But in the here and now, the remaining members of the lineup need to produce at 2011 levels when they finished 6th in the AL in runs scored with 730.

Yeah, they finished with 676 runs scored last year, but for the 2 months when Perez and Lorenzo Cain were in the batting order (and Moose/Hosmer/Giavotella/Francouer struggling), the Royals were on pace for 722 runs scored.  Keep that in mind.

With Shields, Davis, Guthrie, and Santana now in the rotation and the possibility of having no Chen/Hochevar sightings after Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino come back from Tommy John rehab, the runs allowed by the pitching staff could be in line for an epic decrease.

The Royals staff allowed fewer runs in 2012 than in 2011, a decline of 18 runs despite giving back 11 on defense (earned runs vs. actual runs).  That could be the product of new pitching coach Dave Eiland, or maybe the bullpen, but certainly not the starting rotation, as Chen and Hochevar had massive regressions and Jonathan Sanchez’s 7.76 ERA made way too many starts (12).  So, if the 2011 defense shows up as opposed to 2012’s version, there were 29 runs saved.

Now add in Shields.  And Davis.  And Santana.  And a full year of Guthrie.  All that means pushing worse talent off the radar, like Sanchez, Will Smith, Everett Teaford, Vin Mazzaro, and limiting the starts for Chen and Hochevar.

Here are some assumptions for the pitching staff in 2013 and a sanity comment to check my optimism.

Name                          ERA                IP        Comment

James Shields               3.30                 230      Blend of 2011 and 2012 stats

Jeremy Guthrie           3.70                 205      3.16 ERA in KC in 2012

Ervin Santana               4.40                 195      3.76 ERA in last 11 starts in 2012

Wade Davis                 3.75                 185      Blended 2011 (starter) & 2012 (reliever)

Bruce Chen                  4.50                 110      3.77 ERA in 2011

Luke Hochevar          4.75                 90        4.68 ERA in 2011, 3.68 in 2nd half

Luis Mendoza               3.85                 85        3.83 ERA from 6/12 to end of year

Greg Holland                2.50                 65        Blend of 2011 and 2012, shaded more to 12

Aaron Crow                 3.35                 65        3.48 in 2012, 2.76 in 2011

Kelvin Herrera            2.15                 72        2.35 ERA as rookie in 2012

Tim Collins                   3.65                 65        Improved by 0.3 over rookie year, but faded

Louis Coleman              3.80                 51        3.71 ERA in 2012

Francisely Bueno          3.50                 35        LOOGY had 1.56 ERA in 2012

(Could be Donnie Joseph or another situational lefty like George Sherrill)

Using basic ERA formulas and a earned run to run allowed conversion of 6.42% (2011 actuals for KC), this translates to a runs allowed total of…

638

Yes, 638.  Even with a mostly negative view of every pitcher on the staff from 2011 and 2012, there is a saving of a whopping 108 runs from 2012.  This is also a staff-wide ERA of 3.95.

So, if we take the 730 runs scored from 2011 (no improvements, and right in line with Perez/Cain healthy lineup in 2012) and run it through a Pythagorean winning percentage model, it yields this win total:

91

This trade and the likely performance of the bullpen and offense is good for 20 real wins (finished 72-90 in 2012, 71-91 in 2011) and 17 Pythagorean wins (run differential called for 74 wins last year and 78 in 2012…the Royals were unlucky).  I’m not sure Myers on his own replacing Franceour would have delivered that impact over the next 2 years.

The scary thing is, many of the pitchers listed above could either:

A)    Improve from the projections by just duplicating last year’s successes

B)     Be replaced by better options (Chen/Hochevar by Duffy/Paulino)

Both options result in fewer runs allowed.

Looking Forward

Myers could be an All-Star type player in Tampa and will be under their control for 7+ years.  It will sting seeing him play at a high level in 4-5 years and know that Shields and Davis are likely long gone (unless an extension is reached with Shields).  So, it means 2013 and 2014 are the immediate window to win, rather than 2014-2016.

Butler and Gordon are together under contract until 2015.  Moose, Hosmer, Perez, Escobar, and Cain are all under control through that year, if not more.  Duffy and Paulino come back from TJ surgery and the outcome of their rehab will largely affect their level of success. Minor league pitchers are bubbling in throughout the system, but many of failed upon reaching AAA.  Pitchers like Kyle Zimmer (low A), Yordano Ventura (AA), John Lamb (AA – TJS), and Sam Selman (Rookie) have all flashed greatness at various stops throughout their careers.

The potentially massive impact to runs saved this year due to a frankly legitimate rotation probably outweighs the risk of letting Myers go before he ever dons a Royals uniform.  But the Window of Opportunity is now only open for 2 years.  If Kansas City gets the aforementioned young pitchers to blossom into something special, it gets opened a ton more.

The intangibles that Shields, Davis, Guthrie, and Santana bring to the organization are also important.  From all accounts, Myers was kind of a goof and may or may not have taken everything seriously or been a good teammate.  We just don’t know.  But what is known is Shields is a proven leader on and off the field.  He’s 31 and has the championship pedigree that could positively influence the rest of the clubhouse, including the young hurlers already there or soon to be.

This is something that cannot be overlooked.  Championship-level teams have something more to them than just baseball stats.  They have both chemistry and a collective attitude conducive to winning.  The Royals may have bought all 3 with this trade.

Where are the wins?

If the Tigers stumble to 88 wins again this year and Chicago is not as strong as they were this year, the Royals could capture the division.  Cleveland and Minnesota did nothing to help themselves in 2013 in deals, with both clubs losing valuable outfielders (Choo, Span, Revere).

The Royals were 10-8 against Cleveland and just 7-11 versus Minnesota.  What should happen in 2013 if things go as planned is raising that record against the dregs of the division.  Say KC goes 24-12 against those two instead of 17-19.  Not that big of a stretch, but it is just a little to turn a .667 winning percentage against any opponent.  There’s 7 wins right there.

Detroit took 13 out of 18.  To win the division, you have to beat the Tigers.  Let’s just hope to split with them, taking back 4 wins.  Just with 3 teams within the division, the Royals could make up 11 wins.  Chicago is where we have had success the past couple of seasons, winning 12 and losing just 6.  Figure to give back a couple wins and go 10-8, making a net divisional gain of 9 wins.  Already, that’s 81 wins.

How about other “bad” teams?  Well, Kansas City struggled mightily with Seattle in 2012, going 1-7 against their anemic offense.  It would surprise no one if the Royals came close to flipping this, maybe going 5-2, making up 4 more wins.  Toronto bested KC in 6 of 8 games.  With their roster overhaul, they will be tough, but may only split.  Give back 2 losses there.  Now we’re at 87 wins.  I’m not sure how good Boston is going to be either and we may not lose the season series in 2013, perhaps going 4-3, picking up another win, possibly 2 making 88-89 wins.

Interleague games happen more interspersed throughout the schedule in 2013 due to Houston shuffling over to the AL West from the NL Central.  Two or three series are sprinkled on the calendar most months (except July and September), with the NL East being the main grouping of teams.  The Cardinals are also on the schedule.

This doesn’t allow for much of a benefit in gaining wins over 2012, although the Tigers and White Sox play the same schedule, which is nice.  The Marlins and Mets are not really good and the Phillies were mediocre in 2012, but should bounce back.  The Nats and Braves ought to be salty.  Can they do better than 8-10 against the NL?  Probably.  Say they win the series 10-8, picking up 2 more wins.  Now we are at 90-91 wins, just like the modeling suggests.

Two Years Ago Today

The Royals made another monster trade 2 years ago involving a pitcher and a boatload of prospects.  Back on December 19, 2010, homegrown ace and 2009 Cy Young winner Zack Greinke was sent to Milwaukee for Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jeremy Jeffress, and Odorizzi.  It is interesting that Odorizzi finds himself involved in both of these franchise changers, but I digress.

How this trade worked out is a telling story to how the Shields-Myers trade might work out.  The Brewers were a heartbeat away from the World Series behind a powerful lineup and Greinke leading the pitching staff.  This past season, his final under contract, Greinke found himself traded to the Angels after turning down a 5 year, $100M extension (he got a much better deal with the free-spending Dodgers), netting the Brew Crew SS Jean Segura to replace the hole left by Escobar’s departure.

For the Royals, Escobar has blossomed into an outstanding shortstop with offensive potential, enough to bat 2nd last year and flirt with .300.  Cain flashed power and athleticism when healthy and is projected to man center field until Bubba Starling might unseat him, but at the earliest that would be 2015.  Jeffress never could find his command and was traded for cash to Toronto.

And that leaves Odorizzi, who advanced from the Low A Midwest League with Milwaukee to Wilmington, Northwest Arkansas, and Omaha in the Royals system before making 2 mediocre big league starts in September.  His floor and ceiling honestly aren’t that far apart; he projects to be a #4 starter, but should be a viable #5 for a long time.

To be fair, Myers is a much better prospect than Escobar, who himself was ranked in the low teens by Baseball America in his own right twice.  Cain was never a top prospect, mostly because he was a late bloomer (didn’t play baseball until well into high school) and Jeffress was a top prospect due to his 100 mph heater and sharp breaking curve, but like Montgomery, couldn’t translate his stuff to the game.

Since the Royals gave up a better prospect in Myers, one would expect more in return than Shields, who comps out nicely with Greinke.  And Wade Davis does that.  Should Davis capture some of the magic that made him a dominant reliever in 2012 and bring it to the starting rotation, the Royals could very well claim victory in this trade.

escobarEven though Escobar on his current trajectory could very well become the best shortstop in Royals history, his output will probably fall short of what Myers will do.  But Cain’s contributions will probably outweigh anything Odorizzi, Montgomery, and Leonard will provide over their careers in Tampa, making all of this easier on the soul.

If the Royals make the playoffs on the backs of these two trades (or another one yet to come from a still fertile farm system), I will not care one bit what Myers does in Tampa.  I have repeatedly said I would take a lifetime of 0-16 Chiefs teams in exchange for one playoff appearance by the Royals.  I think I mean that more than ever now.

So bring it on.  Let’s aim for October.

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~ by goetgre on December 20, 2012.

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