One For the Money, the Rest is For Show

I’ve lost sight of this page in the previous months. Not for lack of things to write about, mind you. There was Kansas’ dream run through the NCAA tournament into the championship game.  Quite a few concerts which I failed to review, the best of which being Bruce Springsteen in Wrigley Field, where I saw two nights in a row – six and a half hours worth – of the most incredible performances I’ve ever seen. The Chiefs have had the most dismal, depressing and, given recent events, tragic seasons in the history of the franchise. I hated to disappoint the vast legions of my readers waiting on pins and needles to hear my thoughts on the ups and downs of the fantasy football season, but life does get in the way sometimes, especially of the things for which one does not get paid. But I digress.

Sometimes you feel so strongly about something you just have to get your words out somehow. Most people will stop listening five seconds into your monologue, but it still cleanses the soul. And most of the time, you are not alone in your feelings. Everyone within a three hour radius of Kansas City has a strong opinion of the trade that went down less than 24 hours ago. And everyone with a phone, a keyboard or friends will find some way to vocalize such opinions. So I guess I’m just joining the crowd.

To recap, the Royals sent prospects Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for James Shields, Wade Davis, and either a player to be named later, or cash considerations. If you click on each name, it will take you to their stats page on baseball-reference.com, where you will find their complete career numbers along with salary and contract figures. I thought that would be easier than copying it all down here. The numbers are only a small part of this piece anyway.

This trade is a terrible mistake on the part of the Kansas City Royals. General Manager Dayton Moore has bet the farm on this blockbuster deal, and it’s one of those situations in which we either hire him on for the next ten years, or he gets fired after the 2013 season. There really is no in-between. But this trade will mark the beginning of the end of his tenure as our GM. For many reasons:

First, he gave away our future. Wil Myers was the number one rated prospect in the Royals organization, and number three in the country. The kid is a future five-tool star who just happens to play right field. And the Royals currently have the worst, yet most loved, right fielder in all of baseball. Jake Odorizzi is currently the number one pitching prospect, who excelled in double and triple-A baseball last season and was poised to join the rotation in 2013. Mike Montgomery was at one point the number one prospect in the organization, but pitched poorly this past season, thusly delaying his call up to the majors. The potential with these three is unbelievably high. Sure, there are only a select few prospects who pan out in the big leagues, but potential always garners the highest intrigue. On top of all that, their potential seems very unlikely to bust, and was something we could’ve had control of for the next six seasons.

Second, we got a 32 year old pitcher who has thrown at least 203 innings every year for the last six years. The havoc that man has wrought on his arm will catch up to him, sooner rather than later. Suppose it’s August, the Royals are within five games of the division lead, and everything is looking up. But then boom, his elbow breaks down due to overuse. He is a workhorse on the same level as Justin Verlander, but without the effectiveness. Sure, we got Wade Davis as well, who, if you bothered looking at his stats, has been pretty darn good the last couple of seasons. At best he bumps either Bruce Chen or Luke Hochevar out of the rotation and earns himself a spot as a solid three or four starter. This has been the Royals’ fan’s dream for two years now. But dreams sometimes don’t come to fruition, as is likely to happen in 2013.

Third, and lastly, he costs way too much. As I said before, the Royals could’ve had control of three of their best prospects for six years and for very little money; comparatively speaking to most MLB contracts. What did we get with Shields? A man whose contract runs out in two years and to whom we owe 23 million bucks during that span. Suppose he does what we traded for him to do; becomes our number one starter and wins a whole bunch of games for us. Maybe even contend for the Cy Young. What happens next? One of two things: we let him go to free agency, to which we lose him because David Glass is the cheapest owner in the game and won’t pay to keep him. Or, we trade him midway through the 2014 season for, say it with me class, prospects.

Of course, I could be wrong about all of this. Maybe Shields goes 18-5 with a 3.00 ERA his first year here, propelling the Royals to 88 wins and a division championship, all the while increasing attendance and revenue – which in turn creates a higher payroll – for the most downtrodden club in the last two decades; besides the Cubs I suppose. Maybe Wade Davis does become that solid four starter behind Shields, Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie, who also pitch well in their own right. Maybe Hosmer and Moustakas come back from their respective sophomore slumps with a bang, and Alex Gordon and Billy Butler continue to do what they’ve done over the past two seasons. But here’s the problem I see with that scenario: it has more maybe’s than a Carly Rae Jepsen song. We can’t just cross our fingers and hope for all the pieces of the puzzle to magically fall into the right place. Yes, prospects are contingencies as well, perhaps bigger than the proven veterans the Royals attained, but they come at a far cheaper price. The “solution” Moore has provided here is completely throwing away the next six years while putting all the chips in the pot for this year. And you know what, it’s a welcome change. For almost three years Royals fans have had to listen to talk about our farm system, while the big league club loses at least 90 games every year and gets ignored by the rest of the country. This trade, for better or worse, put us on the map. It sends a message to the rest of the league that we’re ready to win, and we’re ready to win now. But what we hope to happen and what actually does happen are two very different things.

There are two ways this will work out: One, the Royals suddenly become the AL Central champs next year, propelling the franchise toward a bright future with success not seen since 1985. Glass finally opens his wallet and makes Kansas City a desirable place for the most highly sought after free agents and upper echelon talent. Or, two, Shields pitches terribly or we lose him to injury, forcing us to buy out his contract just to get rid of him while we watch Myers and Odorizzi become staples in the continuing success of the Rays, putting us right back where we were six years ago. For everyone’s sake, I hope it’s the former. Or else Moore joins Clark Hunt on Kansas City’s most wanted list.

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