When one of your division rivals make a big move, a common response is to think “oh crap.” I said that to myself last winter when the Tigers signed Prince Fielder, and I said it to myself for about one second when I heard that the Royals acquired James Shields. The reason this sentiment did not last longer than one second? Because I saw the rest of the players involved in the trade, and also realized that Shields is just one pitcher. Yes, he’s a very good pitcher, but I don’t think the Indians or any of their fellow AL Central opponents should lose much sleep over this deal.
Heading to Kansas City with Shields is pitcher Wade Davis, whom the Royals hope to convert to a starter. If they are able to successfully accomplish that, this trade looks slightly less awful to me (but only slightly). To surrender OF Wil Myers, RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montgomery, and 3B Patrick Leonard in this deal to receive two years of control for Shields and five years of control for Davis, just isn’t worth it. There are people that claim that prospects are never a “sure” thing and why hang onto them if you can get a player you know is good right now? This was the philosophy that drove the Indians to trade Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Matt McBride, and Joseph Gardner to Colorado for Ubaldo Jimenez. Obviously Shields is much more reliable than Jimenez, but I think the package that the Rays received far surpasses what the Indians gave to the Rockies. It was the same sense of desperation that drove both deals though – the team is in a “window” to compete over the next year or two and needs to go “all in.”
The major problem with this deal is that Kansas City wasn’t an ace away from the division. This was a team that went 72-90 in 2012 and finished 12th out of 14 American League teams offensively (ahead of just the Indians and the Seattle Mariners). The Royals finished 10th of 14 in AL pitching for 2012; even though they recently added Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie to the staff and will likely see improvement in 2013, I don’t see Shields as the “difference maker.” He can only pitch once every five days; the other days will be filled with the likes of Guthrie, Santana, Bruce Chen, and a Wade Davis that is converting from a bullpen roll. Since Shields and Davis can’t hit, this will do nothing to improve their weak offense. Sure, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas could have bounce back years and that would help. They’ll still have Jeff Francoeur in right field though, and while I love Francoeur, he’s not a very good baseball player. Statistically, he was ranked one of the worst in the majors last season. He was just keeping the spot warm for Wil Myers, but now Wil Myers is gone.
The person that really deserves applause for this move is the Rays GM Andrew Friedman. Supposedly, the Royals initially offered Myers for Shields straight-up and somehow Friedman turned that into Myers, Odorizzi, Montgomery and Leonard. If I were a GM and Friedman called me to make a trade, I’d hang up on him before he even finished saying “hello, how are you?” I would just concede that he was smarter than me, and somehow, someway, he was going to swindle me before all was said and done. I believe that my high opinion of Friedman is one of the reasons that I don’t have much faith in Russ Canzler. The Indians got him from the Rays for cash, when the Rays were desperate for offense and in need of a long-term first baseman. Friedman does not miss that often, and if he decided to just give Canzler away, then he may not find success in the majors. Sure, everyone can make mistakes; Friedman just seems to make fewer mistakes than most major league GMs. On the flip side of that coin, I don’t have a lot of respect for Dayton Moore as a GM. He had some good drafts (like Myers) but this deal just reeks of desperation. I joked last night on Twitter, that if you’re bad at your job, you can always take comfort in the fact that Dayton Moore is probably worse at his.
There are tons of opinions floating around on this trade, and many of the good ones are outlined in this post by Dave Schoenfield. I’m sure the universe did not need me to add my two cents, but I felt it was appropriate. I saw a number of Indians fans moping and/or stressed about this trade, and I don’t think there’s much reason for it. Unless the Royals win it all in 2013 or 2014 (which I don’t think they will), they’re going to regret this move down the road.