Are the Royals Good Enough to “Go for It”?
Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore apparently thinks that his team is good enough to win within the next two years. That has to be the case after Moore traded one of the best prospects in baseball, Wil Myers, with RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montgomery, and 3B Patrick Leonard to the Tampa Bay Rays for two years of RHP James Shields and RHP Wade Davis.
For whatever reason, the Royals looked like they were going to go with Jeff Francoeur in right field in 2013, despite Myers ripping 37 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012. Was Myers expendable at the cost of playing Francoeur, who, after posting a .665 OPS in 2012, is in the final year of his contract in 2013?
While Kansas City has Wade Davis under contract through 2017, one has to wonder if he is really a starting pitcher. Davis posted a 2.43 ERA over 54 appearances and 70.1 innings, posting an 87:29 K:BB pitching only out of the bullpen in 2012. Prior to last season, Davis was 25-22 with a 4.22 ERA in 64 career starts, posting a 254:138 K:BB in 388.1 innings for the Rays.
While James Shields has a 31-22 record and a 3.15 ERA over the last two seasons, posting a 448:123 K:BB in 477 innings, Davis will be the wildcard in this deal, especially considering the amount of young controllable talent the Royals gave up in the deal.
Beyond the trade is the makeup of the current Royals roster. Is it championship caliber? Can the Royals compete with the Tigers, who have reloaded the pitching staff by re-signing Anibal Sanchez, teaming him with Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, and Max Scherzer to form one of the top pitching staffs in baseball, while still packing the Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera punch?
The Royals will need more than a couple of dynamic seasons out of Shields and Davis to make it work. Moore acquired Ervin Santana from the Los Angeles Angels, while committing $25 million over three years to journeyman Jeremy Guthrie. Can Shields, Davis, Santana, Guthrie, and Will Smith, Luke Hochevar, or Bruce Chen be enough to become a contender?
The answer will lie in the bats of the young stars on the Royals roster. Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, and Eric Hosmer have shown glimpses of superstardom, while mixing in a lot of inconsistencies. Shortstop Alcides Escobar looks like he is heading towards becoming a star, while catcher Salvador Perez looks to be on the same track. Designated Hitter Billy Butler is the leader of the team and all he does is hit. If the team gets a little consistency out of Moustakas, Gordon, and Hosmer, while hoping that Lorenzo Cain stays healthy in center and Francoeur looks like a baseball player again (like he did in 2011 when he posted an .805 OPS), the Royals may have enough to compete.
However, the Royals are a small-market team. If the team is able to create extreme revenue with a new TV contract, then this type of trade makes sense, but it is unlikely that the team will have the cash to re-sign Shields after the 2014 season, if he is even worth re-signing at that point. Is that worth the seven years of Myers, Odorizzi, and Montgomery?
The Royals have positioned themselves well by acquiring a lot of veteran arms to upgrade their rotation; however, Davis, Guthrie, and Santana aren’t models of consistency. If each of their starters reach their peak levels of performance, they could very well become a true force in a weak AL Central. They will need a lot of help from their young position players, though.
The Royals will be good enough to compete with the Detroit Tigers if Mike Moustakas hits like he did in the minors, if Eric Hosmer hits like he did in his rookie year, if Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez continue hitting like they did in 2012, if Lorenzo Cain and Jeff Francoeur do anything, and if Billy Butler keeps hitting like the All-Star that he is.
Those are a lot of if’s.
Because of all of those if’s, the Royals are going to regret the trade of Myers, Odorizzi, and Montgomery. While we’ve seen many Brandon Wood, Brandon Larson, and Corey Patterson-types get hyped and fail, we’ve also seen the Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Miguel Cabrera-types get hyped and exceed expectations. For a team who can’t land the top free agents, dealing away all of that potential for two years of a reliable arm and five years of a wildcard is and will be a huge mistake.
Some teams just need to remember who and what they are. With so many teams banking on revenue streams increasing, MLB could have parity like the NFL in coming years…but they could also have owners who are shy to spend due to the market limitations. Kansas City has been shy to spend for so many years that they can’t be counted on to start anytime soon. They weren’t close enough to a championship to make a deal like the one that they did with the Rays.