Thoughts on the Royals-Rays trade

While the Yankees and Mets continue their – so far – quiet offseasons, I thought I’d take a quick look at the recent blockbluster trade between Kansas City and Tampa Bay.

Heading to the Royals are pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis, both of whom played for the Hudson Valley Renegades early in their professional careers.

Here’s a story I did last year, when I caught up with Shields, who recalled his time with Hudson Valley:

Long story short, Shields developed into a front-of-the-rotation starter. Davis had become a valuable bullpen piece for the pitching-stacked Rays last year, but the Royals plan to make him a part of their starting rotation. I was under the impression that Davis’ success in the bullpen was a result of pitching fewer innings, allowing him to throw at maximum velocity. We’ll see how that works out for the Royals.

Still, Kansas City gets a legitimate No. 1 pitcher in Shields to go along with a talented and up-and-coming lineup full of promising young players.

What about Tampa Bay’s haul?

The biggest get for the Rays is slugging outfielder Wil Myers, who has yet to play a single game in the major leagues. Myers, however, was one of the stars at the 2012 futures game in Kansas City and had a terrific year in the minors: .314, 37 home runs, 109 RBI in 134 games between Triple-A and Double-A. He should give the Rays a power bat in the outfield and beef up the lineup with B.J. Upton fleeing to Atlanta in free agency.

Tampa Bay also picked up pitching prospects Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi, both of whom had been highly-rated in the Royals’ system until recently. The Rays hope their pitching people can get those two back on track.

Third baseman Patrick Leonard was also part of the deal, heading to Tampa Bay. He hit 14 home runs in 62 short-season games this past season.

Derek Jeter (2) leads off first base as Tampa Bay starter James Shields looks for a sign from his catcher during a July 10, 2011 game at Yankee Stadium. (Will Montgomery photo/Times Herald-Record)

Royals GM Dayton Moore has taken plenty of heat for the deal, see here for details, but I think it’s way too early to offer any sort of verdict on the deal.

Kansas City certainly gets stronger in the short term. The Royals have made the postseason only once during my liftetime…and just barely at that, last playing a playoff game in 1985. Could a Shields-Davis duo in the rotation help Kansas City clinch a playoff spot? It’s certainly possible, especially if the Royals’ young sluggers all continue to develop as well.

Tampa Bay…well, it’s much harder to measure the impact of the trade for the Rays right now. I’m not sure if Myers is the every day right fielder out of spring training, but he’ll certainly be hitting not far behind Evan Longoria at some point during the 2013 season.

Who won or lost the trade? We know know that until Montgomery and Odorizzi get a shot. If one of those two develops into a competent major league starter – or both become useful pieces in the bullpen – the Rays will have done well for themselves. That, of course, remains to be seen.

What we know for now is that this trade shows how two small market teams think. Kansas City is in an all-out, win right now mode. It’s hard to blame them for that.

Tampa Bay, on the other hand, is taking a gamble that it has the starting pitching depth in its system to survive post-Shields. If Myers is the hitter we think he is, then the Rays get a second power threat behind Longoria. The Rays are also gambling that their minor league staff can resurrect the once-promising careers of Montgomery and Odorizzi. If that happens twice, then this will be a steal of a deal for the Rays. If one of those pitchers sticks, then it was a trade that helped fill a need in the lineup. If neither pitcher makes an impact in the majors, the Rays may have hurt their chances at winning in 2013 but still built toward the future with Myers.

For Kansas City, the deal will be much easier to judge. If Shields starts to fall apart or suddenly hits the decline phase of his career – and there is no reason to think he will, but with baseball, you never know – this was yet another major blunder the franchise has suffered through the last 25 years. Yet if Shields wins game seven of the World Series next October against Clayton Kershaw in Dodger Stadium, I think Royals fans will live with watching Myers play his career in another uniform.

Time will tell.

Your thoughts on the trade? What exactly are the Mets and Yankees up to? Let me know on Twitter: @THR_Montgomery.

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    Will Montgomery

    Will Montgomery covers boys' soccer, girls' basketball, boys' and girls' swimming and diving, boys' lacrosse and baseball (including the Hudson Valley Renegades) for and the Times Herald-Record. Prior to joining the TH-R in November ... Read Full
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