Revisiting the James Shields trade Roundtable: Is it a good trade, or not?

RoyalsTigers JFS 7-12-14 0401

Since the December 9, 2012 blockbuster trade that brought James Shields to the Royals from the Rays, there has been a lot of talk on whether it was a good deal, or if it was worth giving away the organization’s top pitching prospect (Jake Odorizzi) and position player (Wil Myers) and their six years of MLB control for two years of James Shields plus Wade Davis. There were others in the deal as the Royals got Elliot Johnson, who was no longer on the roster by August, and former pitching prospect Mike Montgomery – who has yet to pitch in the majors – and minor league third baseman Patrick Leonard, but essentially the major players in this deal make this deal a two for two.

I have been pretty outspoken on this deal being a good one – even during a recent 8-start skid where Shields ERA was near 6.00 and he was the worst starter in the rotation. “Big Game” Shields (9-5) lowered his ERA 28 points with two strong starts to end the first half, allowing two runs and 10 hits in 14 innings, striking out 18 and walking just one, and since Jeremy Guthrie returned to being Jeremy Guthrie and is again the worst starter. Irregardless, Shields entered the All-Star break with a 3.65 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP over 20 starts (130 2/3 innings), is 10th in the American League in strikeouts (110), with just 27 walks (he has walked two or less batters in 18 starts).

Yes, Wil Myers won the American League Rookie of the Year last year, batting .293/.354/.478 with 13 HR, 53 RBI and 91/33 K/BB in 88 games, but he has struggled this year (.227/.313/.354, 5 HR, 35 RBI, 91/25 K/BB) and is currently on the DL. Meanwhile, Shields is 22-14 as a Royal and he has better ERA (3.33 – 45 points lower), FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), HR/9, WAR, winning percentage and opponents batting average than his career norms, the exact same hits per 9 (8.9) and K/9 (7.7) and just slightly below WHIP (1.228-1.250) SO/W (3.58-3.22). He has been damn good here – using Baseball Reference’s similarity scores, Zack Greinke is the most comparable pitcher…he ain’t too shabby – and where would the Royals be without him? They would be WORSE with Myers out in right field and someone else (Luke Hochevar or Odorizzi) on the hill. Even though Myers and Odorizzi have four more years after this one and Shields will more than likely walk into free agency this offseason, this was still a necessary trade that the Royals had to make. Why? Because, Winning. After 10 consecutive losing seasons, the Royals had their first winning one (86-76) since 2003 last year and counting this season, are 134-122. Of course, Shields has not done it by himself, but, he has been a big part of it. The Royals needed pitching and they went out and got it. Royals fans bitch and moan that they never make a deal, then when they do, they bitch and moan. The Royals went out and got better. These two years, Shields > Myers and the Wild Card of the trade, Wade Davis > Odorizzi once Wader moved to the pen. The bum starting pitcher from a year ago is now the best relief pitcher in baseball and better than the best closer in baseball, teammate Greg Holland. The Wade Davis Experience has been dominant and with the “Shake and Bake” duo closing out games, the Royals are virtually unbeatable when leading after 7.

It’s a good deal. Myers was Rookie of the Year last year, big deal. What has he done this year? Odorizzi will never be more than a middle to the back end of a rotation guy and Myers will be just above-JAG (just a guy), but nothing special. He may make an All-Star game or two, but wont standout. It sucks to get rid of prospects. But, if you’re smart about it and selective, it can work out. This one worked. Dayton Moore picked the right prospects to trade. You have to give up something to get something. I don’t get how Royals fans can’t figure out that we would have been worse without making the trade. Not that we’re anything special now, but we wouldn’t have been in the hunt this year or last year without the trade. Do you think A’s fans care that they routinely give up their top draft picks nearly every year and other prospects in deals? No. They win, but they don’t always make the playoffs. So those years that they didn’t, it was a waste? No, because they got better. All organizations do it, and the Royals should do it more. People don’t want to trade the farm because they’re worried about the future, but at the same time they want to make deals to improve the team. Which is it?

Now what do some others think? See after the jump.

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Bucky (@kcbrian44 ) says: Shields ERA was good in 2012 (3.52), but keep in mind he was in the AL East. Every team in that division could score better than the Royals. That has changed. There are actually two teams scoring less than the Royals are now in the AL East. The statistical part of Shields is easy to see and people can arrive at their own conclusions. However, the part that people chuckle at is the mental part. More on that later. KC makes the trade because their rotation was abhorrent in 2012. The ace was Jeremy Guthrie (3.16 for the second half of the season) along with Bruce Chen, Hochevar, Luis “the Mexican Mullet” Mendoza and others (Jonathan Sanchez, Will Smith, Felipe Paulino Vin Mazzaro, et al.). Add in the much-criticized trade for Erwin Santana and the Royals had a decent rotation (Shields, Santana, Guthrie, Davis and Chen/Mendoza). This, in turn, allowed Hochevar to find his footing in the bullpen. Davis was obviously a flop as a starter, but everyone knows how he has turned out in the bullpen. Even comparing his best year in Tampa Bay in relief, he has become truly dominant (WHIP 1.095 to 0.782). With Greg Holland, they have shortened games. We can’t forget about Johnson – he blew (.179 AVG) – but, Myers has struggled this year with production and injury. Who knows how he will turn out but most would still say he will be a good but not great player. Let’s admit this, though, Jeff Franceour nor David Lough made us forget that we have a hole in right field. The Royals have to be hoping that by 2016 that Jorge Bonifacio, currently the No. 3 prospect in the organization, can take over that position (currently hitting .229 with 4 HRs at NW Arkansas). When Tampa Bay made the trade, they thought they had more starting pitching than it has turned out (injury and ineffectiveness) they have. Still, the Royals hope they have their own internal replacement for Myers and he still might do that. Odorizzi has been a solid starting pitcher for Tampa Bay, but I see nothing more than a solid starter. Here’s the part of the trade that is starting to scare me a little, Montgomery is starting to look like a good prospect again. He is at Triple A and having a much better year. He has the third best WHIP in the International League at 1.10, an ERA of 3.10 and a K/BB rate of 2.63. It looks like he has found his way. It is more than a little frustrating that he found his mojo with another organization, which leads many to believe that the Royals’ minor league pitching coaches suck. The last piece of this is Patrick Leonard and he is now 21 and playing at High A. He is having his best year with a .288 AVG, .376 OBP, 12 HRs and 36 RBIs. However, he was not one of their Top 20 prospects going into this year, though that might have changed now. Leonard would have been in competition with Hunter Dozier and it seems that still would favor the Royals with Dozier blowing through a difficult High-A tour in Wilmington at the age of 22.

Those are statistics and easily seen. What cannot be seen is the effect James Shields has had on the Royals. Who knows the general effect on the team, but it appears he has had a large impact on Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura. As we all know, Moore’s regime has not had a conveyor belt of starting pitchers arrive from Omaha. There is obviously an issue there. However, Duffy has made quantum leaps this year as he has calmed down to show what he can do. Dave Eiland could perhaps be part of it, but Duffy is very similar in personality to Shields. Duffy has learned how to manage his emotions to become arguably our best pitcher. Ventura also looks like he has some volatility to his persona and he also has matured quite a bit already this year. Without Shields, it would be possible that we would still be struggling to find a good starting pitcher from its system. With Shields likely to be gone after this year, he has left a legacy that could impact the Royals for as many years as Tampa Bay will benefit from Myers and Odorizzi – if not more.

Sarah (@Sarah_Davis98) says: “That was a bad trade for the Royals. Dayton Moore gave up way too much, and we definitely lost that trade.”

These were the words that I stuck by for about four months. From one perspective, you see that we gave up two top level prospects for an ace, what we then thought would be a decent starter and a useless utility player. From another point of view, you see that we gave up an outfielder with a good arm, but decent to average offensively at best, a very average, middle of the rotation pitcher, and some guy that has been in the minors for seven years, and hasn’t even sniffed the major league field. I could see how some people, including myself, could view this trade to be very one-sided. Shields is only under contract until the end of 2014, and Moore is unlikely to shell out the money in order to keep him. Davis is eligible to become a free agent after the 2016 season, but is due for a raise next season. Johnson? He didn’t even make it through the whole season last year before he was designated for assignment last year. On the other hand, the Rays have both Myers and Odorizzi under contract until the end of the 2020 season. At this point, there is no telling when Montgomery’s contract would be up, and there is no telling whether Montgomery will play on a Major-League baseball field.

“Two years of James Shields, four years of Wade Davis, and not even a full season of Elliot Johnson hardly seems fair for what we gave up.”

I said that exact thing at the beginning of the 2014 season. At the midway point, my opinion has changed, and for the better. While Shields has been very average this year, he has been a workhorse for the Kansas City rotation (led the American League in innings last year – 228 2/3) and a leader on and off the field. At the beginning of the 2014 season, I was dead-set on designating Davis for assignment. Last year (5.32 ERA), Davis was definitely an unwanted commodity among the Kansas City fan base. Fast forward to the All-Star Break of the 2014 season, and the fans are complaining, and with good reason, that the best set-up guy in the MLB is not going to the All Star Game. How does a 5-2 record, 1.13 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 62 strikeouts (14.2 K/9) in just 39 2/3 innings sound? Myers had a great rookie year, to say the least, and was voted Rookie of the Year though he only played in 88 games. Myers also recorded four outfield assists last year, and did not commit any errors at all. This year, in 53 games, he’s made three outfield errors, and has already recorded four assists. Although it is tough to factor in injuries to any trade, Myers has had little playing time over a year and a half with Tampa Bay. Odorizzi spent the first part of his career with Tampa Bay in the minor leagues. In 2013, Odorizzi only made seven appearances (four starts) for the Rays. In 2014, Odorizzi is a very average pitcher (5-8, 4.01 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 116/39 K/BB, 10.3 K/9, 3.5 BB/9).

Dayton Moore acquired James Shields and Wade Davis in hopes to boost the Royals rotation, and push Kansas City into the playoffs. The Boys in Blue missed the playoffs by just 3.5 games last year. At the break this year, Kansas City is 6.5 games out of the AL Central lead, and just 2.5 games back of the second American League Wild Card spot. Although it would be better to decide the winners and losers of this trade at the end of the year, at this point I would put Kansas City in the winners bracket due to the performances of Davis and Shields. Not only have they had more playing time at this point in their tenure for Kansas City, they have also been better competitors than Myers and Odorizzi have been in their short careers for Tampa Bay.

Greg (@ConradMcGorkin) says: I love the Shields trade. Myers is hitting .225/5/25 and he would suck just as much here. Big boys play to win, not perpetually rebuild. Even if we miss the playoffs, at least we tried.

Justin says: So far, it’s been a big win for the Royals. It will be a grand slam if we make the playoffs. But, ask me again in give years. If Myers is an All-Star and raking 30-plus homers a year and we never make the playoffs with shields…well, then, that’s a different story.

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Josh says: Two years of basically being a .500 team doesn’t make for a great trade unless you’ve got really low expectations. I just have higher expectations. You have to keep Shields AND win for it to be a great trade.

Coop (@cooper110) says: It wasn’t worth it. Where did it get them? They went for it, and that is admirable, but in hindsight, it didn’t work. A third-place finish in the AL Central last year and an unknown one this year is a failure. It was making the playoffs or bust. Now we have to watch Wil Myers be studly for the next five years. Rany Jazayerli took some heat, but he was right. Myers will be a multiple-time All-Star.

1,737 Comments

  1. KC Oracle (@KCOracle)

    Bad trade. Brian’s analysis fails to take into account that the Royals also assumed $30 million in salary for Shields and Davis over two years. So the Royals really gave up Myers, Odorizzi, Montgomery, and Leonard, plus whatever additional players would have been signed with the $30 Million.

    Shields has been good, not great. Davis was lousy last year and great as a one inning relief man this year and, presumably, will be a very highly paid and very effective one inning guy over the next couple years (absent a smart trade). Odorizzi, on balance, may be more valuable at a much lower price.

    The prediction about how good Myers will be is just guesswork at this point. Odorizzi too, for that matter. So the trade cannot be fully judged for a few more years. But if you are judging at the time of the trade, or now, bad trade.

    RF has been a huge hole last year and this year. Also, Moore’s account of the trade indicates the determining factor in making the trade was that the Royals had a sufficient number of other prospects. That is very flawed thinking. The existence of other prospects does not affect the trade value Myers. If you have two $100 dollar bills, the second one does not affect the value of the first one.

    The A’s trading prospects is far different. They trade when their team is in first place or close to it, in order to cement playoff prospects. The Royals trades as a 72 win team hoping to become competitive.

    If Shields pitches great and Royals make playoffs, then one can live with results of trade, even if it was a bad one in terms of comparative value at the time.

  2. KC Oracle (@KCOracle)

    I did not even know that Montgomery and Patrick are playing well. If one or both of them turn into valuable players, then the trade will be an even worse fleecing of the Royals.

    One last thought on Myers. Even if he bombs, which I doubt, the primary issue was his value at the time of the trade. It was very high. Moore gave up too much, got too little, and assumed too much salary.

    I also always question when people argue one player, in this case Shields, makes other players better. No way to prove that, or even give much in the way of examples of players doing that magic from one team to another. Here, if you somehow give Shields credit for Duffy and Ventura (or others), then does he get blame for those who did not do well? Is he at fault for Davis being a bust as a starter?

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