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December 11, 2012

Overthinking It

The Royals, the Rays, and the Problem with Windows

by Ben Lindbergh

Note: If you've already listened to today's episode of Effectively Wild, some of this may sound familiar.

If you think about it, the Royals and Rays, the two teams that completed a massive prospects-for-pitchers trade on Sunday, are a lot alike. Both teams are among the have-nots of the American League, competing with payrolls in the mid-60-millions (last season). Neither one draws well—in the Royals’ case, because of all the losing and because Kansas City is small, and in the Rays’ case, because of all the past losing, the newness of the franchise, and the ugliness and location of the ballpark, where it’s almost impossible to catch a foul ball without some painful and/or embarrassing consequence. To compensate for the lack of revenue, both teams try to draft, develop, and extend homegrown players as an alternative to paying for wins from free agents, and both have had among the finest farm systems in baseball for the past few seasons.

There are, obviously, as many things that separate the Royals and Rays as there are things that tie them together, from the perception that the Rays are more stat-savvy to the way the word “process” is capitalized by people who write about the Royals to the Royals’ affection for Jeff Francoeur, which isn’t unrelated to the Rays’ lead in perceived stat-savviness. But in the areas that don’t change, or change very slowly—the ones that have more to do with institutional factors like market size than with which regime is running the team at any particular time—the Royals are the Rays without the recent success.

And that’s why it’s so fascinating that it was these two teams making this trade, instead of, say, a club out of contention shedding salary and restocking for the future. Both of these teams are attempting, if not quite expecting, to make the playoffs in 2013, and neither is at the end of its success cycle (if success cycles still exist in a multi-wild-card world). You’d think the Rays, who’ve overcome similar obstacles and a long run of losing, would be the model for the perpetual also-ran Royals. But while this trade is about the Royals returning to the playoffs, which would in one sense make them more like the Rays, it’s also about the Royals either giving up or dramatically reducing their long-term chance to be like Tampa Bay.

Thanks to recent research into prospect value and the expected return on draft picks and the greater availability of minor-league stats and scouting info, it’s possible to weigh the expected value of Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard—only one of whom has made his major-league debut—against the expected values of James Shields and Wade Davis over the next two and five seasons, respectively, and declare a winner that way. On our podcast last month, Sam Miller and I speculated that it’s precisely that unprecedented ability to assign values to unproven players which is prompting teams to consider top prospects potential trade chips instead of off-limits assets. Once you can quantify what a prospect is worth, you know what another team would have to give up to get him. Then you can break your prospect piggy bank and treat your young players like any others: available for the right price. Analyze this trade in terms of expected value, and the Rays come out ahead, which partly explains why much of the baseball internet has come down on Andrew Friedman’s side.

On the surface, the Royals side of this swap looks bold and ambitious. What could be bolder than trading baseball’s top prospect, or more ambitious than trying to send Kansas City to the postseason for the first time since Davis was in diapers? But as much risk as the Royals are incurring, they’re really playing it safe, increasing the odds of immediate gratification (if any gratification long-suffering Royals fans feel can be described as “immediate”) at the potential expense of sustainable success. This trade makes them more likely to reach the playoffs next season and possibly in 2014, too, depending on how quickly Myers comes into his own, but it seemingly lowers their ceiling in 2015 and beyond, even with Davis signed through 2017. The Royals won the prospect lotto, but instead of opting for the annual annuity that could have kept them in contention as regularly as the Rays, they chose to receive the lump sum and splurge. Even when they aimed high, they set their sights low.

What the Myers trade seems to suggest is that the Royals are counting on their competitive window to close, while the Rays, having finally jimmied their own window open and propped it there for the past five seasons, are expecting it to stay that way. “We are short-stacked relative to our director competitors,” Friedman said in September. “So I think that motivates and challenges all of us.” From the outside, it seems as if the Royals were intimidated, not motivated, by the burden of balling on a budget. Maybe David Glass wouldn’t pony up for Anibal Sanchez (and for what it’s worth, signing free-agent starters isn’t part of the Rays’ playbook), and maybe Dayton Moore knows that the non-Salvador Perez part of the core won’t sign extensions, dooming the current incarnation of the Royals to a relatively short shelf life as a competitive team. Regardless of those conditions, though, it looks like the Royals have imposed some limitations on their own success, despite having already demonstrated a knack for keeping their pre-arb pipeline flowing. 

There’s nothing wrong, in the abstract, with using surplus parts to strengthen areas in need of an upgrade. Few teams go from fifth place to first solely by promoting prospects: one of the benefits of cultivating a strong system is the ability to leverage minor leaguers to put the last big-league pieces in place. The Royals haven’t shown the Rays’ talent for developing pitching, and they play in a more winnable division. Plus, as Jason Parks pointed out yesterday, it’s not as if the package the Rays received totally depleted the rich Royals’ system. And maybe Myers isn’t worth what his public prospect rankings would suggest, which seems plausible if, as Jeff Passan reported, the A’s really turned down a straight-up swap of Myers for the fragile left arm of Brett Anderson.

But whatever Myers is, he wouldn’t have been redundant on the Royals’ roster. Moore might not agree that Francoeur was last season’s least valuable player, but he’d probably agree that Myers is likely to be both cheaper and more productive than Francoeur by the end of 2013, when Frenchy will be a free agent. (If the best minor leaguer isn’t at least as good as the worst major leaguer, then there’s something wrong with replacement level.) The Royals’ roster is skewed toward position players, but as Sam pointed out on the podcast today, a run scored is roughly as valuable as a run saved, and the boost from [insert Royals rotation candidate here] to Shields might not be much bigger than the one from Francoeur to Myers, especially after this season.

Despite that, there is, I think, one way for the Royals to come out ahead here, though it’s not as simple as earning a single playoff appearance, as some have suggested. One playoff appearance with Shields could come at the expense of multiple playoff appearances with Myers, and as cathartic for Kansas City as that first trip back to October would be, Royals fans aren’t quite so starved for success that they’d all prefer one cookie now to two cookies in 10 minutes. To win this trade, the Royals have to beat the Rays at their own game.

In November of 2007, the Rays were on the edge of contention, though not everyone knew it: their regular-season record (like the 2012 Royals’) didn’t suggest a team about to take the next step. Those Rays, like the current Royals, had hitters: what they needed was pitching and defense. And so they dealt from a position of strength to address a weakness, trading Delmon Young and Brendan Harris (and Jason Pridie) to the Twins for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett (and Eduardo Morlan). Young, like Myers, had been the top prospect in baseball as a projected right fielder, and he’d finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting that season. Also like Myers, he’d just turned 22.

Kevin Goldstein, arguing for the Twins’ side of the trade the next day, took the position that Delmon was the best player in the deal and would make the Rays regret trading him. Joe Sheehan, taking Tampa Bay’s side, wrote this:

With this deal, the Rays have shifted from collecting talent to forming it into a baseball team, and this trade shows how seriously they take the process. Trading a player with the perceived value of Young is never easy, but with it they've leveraged a gap between that perceived value and what he actually is to make their team better.

It’s hard to see the same flaws in Myers that were evident in Young even then, though as R.J. Anderson pointed out recently, it’s somewhat worrisome that Myers is one of the only prospects of his caliber to be traded before ever taking the field for the team that drafted him. What we know is that the Royals now are at the same stage those recently renamed Rays were in late 2007: trying to turn a pile of prospect talent into a winning team at the major-league level. Whether this trade helps them accomplish that goal depends on whether Myers has a Delmon-sized “gap between that perceived value and what he actually is.” If Myers is the next Young—consensus top prospect turned replacement-level player—then the Royals will have out-Raysed the Rays, trading a flawed young player at the peak of his value, when his potential still seemed likely to pan out. Otherwise, by fixating on a brief target for contention, they may have failed to follow the Rays’ blueprint for small-market success. 

Thanks to Sam Miller for any podcast content retraced here.

Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

47 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

FrankL

From the Rays' perspective, however, wouldn't one argue that the acquisition of Montgomery (even with his faded star) and Odorizzi for Davis would mitigate the chance that Myers might turn more into Delmon Young than into a special player?

Dec 11, 2012 07:57 AM
rating: 1
 
timber

Even with the departure of Shields, I have difficulty seeing Odorizzi cracking the Rays rotation. They still have at least five better pitchers, more when you consider their minor league pitching prospects. Unless they have a sudden rash of injuries, or Friedman goes nuts trading pitchers away, I'm not sure how much of a fit he is for them - other than to help satisfy the "you can never have too much pitching" requirement.

Montgomery? Well...it will be interesting to see if they can fix him. At this point he looks like strictly a bullpen arm to me. He could be a nice cheap bullpen asset, though, but I'm not sure how much that would help mitigate the possibility that Myers becomes Young v.2.

Dec 11, 2012 09:06 AM
rating: 2
 
rrvwmr

Your confidence in the number of pitchers that are better than Odorizzi intrigues me. I'd probably slot him 4th behind Price/Moore/Hellickson and inline w/ Archer.

Dec 11, 2012 09:51 AM
rating: 0
 
timber

I'd rather have both Archer and Alex Cobb. Archer by a long shot. I also definitely prefer Taylor Guerrieri, although that is perhaps immaterial as he is still so young. Not sure about Alex Colome; I think that's closer to where Odorizzi slots.

Dec 11, 2012 11:14 AM
rating: 1
 
Nathan

It might mitigate the effects of a poor outcome from Myers, but not the chances of it.

Dec 11, 2012 09:43 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

I like that tie in to the Young trade and hadn't thought of it that way.

Dec 11, 2012 08:46 AM
rating: 6
 
DetroitDale

With the collapse of New York and Boston, The AL east appears to be anybody's game, and as loaded as the DRays are in pitching they have as good a shot as anyone, so they should be in "win now" mode, while the Royals window won't open up for al last another two years, when age catches up to the Tigers' stars, the prospects aren't yet their to ill the gap, and the pizza funded blank checks stop. However this trade shows the Rays and Royals each acting as if their in the other team's position.

Dec 11, 2012 09:13 AM
rating: 0
 
Nathan

I don't think the Tigers are unassailable in the AL Central. The Royals already had a good lineup and bullpen; if their starting pitching comes around, they're competitive.

Dec 11, 2012 09:44 AM
rating: 2
 
Ben Solow

This is just patently false, though. The Royals had an excellent bullpen, and a truly bad lineup. They had exactly 3 players average or better at the plate, and only Cleveland and Seattle scored fewer runs in the AL.

Dec 11, 2012 18:12 PM
rating: 1
 
Nathan

I meant that they already had a good projected lineup for next year. Hosmer, Mustakas and Perez do not project as below average hitters in 2013, though the first two had serious growing pains in 2012.

Dec 11, 2012 18:45 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Agreed.

Dec 11, 2012 20:33 PM
 
Ben Solow

Sal Perez is one of the 3 above average hitters I included (Butler and Gordon are the other two, of course). I'm just doing quick and dirty searches for projections, but Bill James has Moustakas putting up a .771 OPS and Hosmer at .784. Both would be huge steps forward and the average corner infielder in MLB hit for a .778 and .754 OPS (first and third, respectively) in 2012. Discount that because it includes a lot of Miguel Cairo at first base, for example (and utility players generally), and you can see that Hosmer and Moustakas are likely still going to be below average for starting corner infielders. I'm just not sure where the optimism is coming from that this Royals team can compete, especially when they're starting from 14-21 (depending on which win pct you use on the adjusted standings) games behind a Tigers team that gets Victor Martinez back.

Dec 11, 2012 20:41 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Hamrahi
BP staff

Maybe, just maybe, the Royals feel that Hosmer and Moose will be better than Bill James' projections. It's certainly not out of the question given that Hosmer had an OPS of .799 his rookie year, was the 3rd overall pick in 2008, and is still only 23. Heck, I have higher expectations for both of them. That's potentially 5 above average hitters then in the lineup. Is it super? No. It is cause for optimism. Absolutely.

Dec 11, 2012 20:50 PM
 
Ben Solow

I don't disagree that there's a chance of that happening, but you're talking about getting 15-20 wins better as a team, and that's just to be in the thick of a division race, not to guarantee yourself the division. Say Hosmer is worth 2 WARP (more than double his rookie year production) and Moustakas is worth 4 WARP (150% of this past year's production). Tack on an (optimistic) 6 WARP for Shields/Davis (hell, even suppose that's a 6 WARP upgrade), and assume that Jeremy Guthrie gives the Royals a full season of what he did for them last year (1.5 WARP). Let's even assume Salvador Perez is totally for real and gives them 3.5 WARP over a full season (doubling his 2012 output). We're now talking about an extra 12-13 WARP in the absolutely most optimistic of scenarios. That gets them between 50-75% of the way to the Tigers, without giving the Tigers credit for Victor Martinez.

The point isn't that it's inconceivable for the Royals to compete, it's that it requires a set of things to go right on the order of the 2012 Orioles. Obviously if you play enough seasons of baseball that will happen sometimes, as it did last year, but does anyone want to be in the position of hoping for that confluence of events? If Butler's power regresses at all, or Guthrie isn't a low-3 ERA starter, or either Hosmer or Moustakas don't develop exactly as the Royals hope they will be, or the bullpen regresses at all, or one of any number of things, they don't have a shot. It's not that all of these things need to go wrong, but if any one or two of them does, the Royals are out. It's not a 0% shot for them to make the playoffs, but I can't believe anyone would feel comfortable making that gamble.

Dec 11, 2012 21:21 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Hamrahi
BP staff

There's also a chance that Wil Myers winds up a bust (or even just average) like a long list of top prospects before him (mentioned dozens of times over Twitter), in which case, even if Shields isn't spectacular, or the Royals don't make the playoffs this year, the deal still has value. This isn't about winning a trade. It's about making deals that can help your team. Add to that the fact there could be dozens of things we don't know about these players, and I don't see how anyone can make an accurate assessment of how the deal will turn out. As I mentioned on Twitter yesterday, had the Royals made this deal just 8 months ago (and forget the service time issue for a moment), would anyone have been upset? Prospects and players suffer ups and downs, and I suspect fans would have been thrilled dealing a pre-2012 Wil Myers in a trade for James Shields. Has Wil Myers really become that much better because he had a great year in 2012? Maybe, but maybe not as well. We can speculate all we want, but we just don't know. Royals fans are pessimistic by nature, so I get it, and it's easy to dump on a team that has made some poor decisions in the past. But before we banish Dayton Moore to the abyss, we need to take a step back, analyze all the factors at play here and try to be a little objective and patient.

Dec 11, 2012 21:35 PM
 
Ben Solow

I'm actually neither a Royals fan nor a huge Wil Myers proponent -- I just don't get the rationale from Dayton Moore. Adding good players is a good thing, but I don't really understand the urge to be a mediocre team. It costs you in money, prospects, draft order and draft positioning, while returning a really small chance of making the playoffs. Is it even obvious that the Royals' chances of making the playoffs are higher now than if they'd replaced Jeff Francoeur with Wil Myers and hoped one of those pitching prospects panned out? Probably it's a little higher, but we're talking a really marginal gain in playoff probability in exchange for valuable commodities.

Were the Texas Rangers making this deal, I totally get it -- they also need pitching, have a good farm system, etc., and someone like Shields could make a significant difference in their playoff chances. But the Texas Rangers aren't making this deal. The Royals have essentially cemented themselves a 3rd place finish in the Central, with a small chance for more, at the expense of a few really valuable assets (money, Myers, high draft picks, large draft budgets, and other potentially useful pieces). This would've been a silly deal to make pre-2012 too -- you make deals like this when it's likely to make a difference in winning something. Unless we think that Dayton Moore really knows something more about the players involved than the Rays do, from an ex ante perspective (before resolving the uncertainty in each player's performance), it's hard to understand the rationale.

Dec 11, 2012 22:10 PM
rating: 0
 
Nathan

I think it's silly for the Royals not to try and win something now. They've been out of the playoffs for 20 + years, and everything they've been building toward since Moore took office is on the field now. Of course, things aren't perfect, and in particular a lot of their young pitchers got hurt, but now has to be the time.

What's the alternative? Trade Butler and Gordon for yet another round of prospects? At some point you have to take a shot at actually winning ball games. The Royals are just counting on the idea that their scouts are right about their young players' breakout chances, not Bill James. It's reasonable and necessary.

Dec 12, 2012 01:36 AM
rating: 0
 
Ben Solow

I just don't understand why it has to be this year. Anyone who isn't delusional thinks the Royals are still a giant dog to make the playoffs, although admittedly less of one than they were a week ago, and they've got every important piece under contract for the next 3 years (other than Shields, now).

If Pittsburgh traded Starling Marte, Jameson Taillon, and a couple lottery tickets for James Shields and Wade Davis, would people think that was a good idea? I'm not sure if it would be for Pittsburgh, and they're starting from way closer to the playoff picture than the Royals are.

The sad thing is that there's no way to judge the trade -- even if it doesn't work out for the Royals, I can't really claim that as evidence that it was a bad trade to make for the Royals, or vice versa. That'd be like claiming that lottery tickets are good investments for people who win the lottery but bad investments for everyone else (it's the same investment, only the uncertainty resolved differently for each person). The only thing we can do is disagree about the gamble the Royals are taking.

Dec 12, 2012 14:39 PM
rating: 1
 
Nathan

I agree that this trade can't be judged by whether KC makes the playoffs. I just think they are quite a bit closer than you give them credit for. The starting pitchers they had at the start of the off-season were taking them nowhere, but with a respectable rotation they have a legitimate chance to make the Tigers sweat.

Dec 14, 2012 12:04 PM
rating: 0
 
cdt719

I'm very bullish on the Royals hitters but don't really give them that much chance to compete. Shields' best season was worth 3 WARP, and I don't believe the Royals are close enough for 3 WARP to make a difference. If the Royals were in a somewhat better position I'd find the trade more pragmatic.

Dec 11, 2012 21:59 PM
rating: 1
 
Nathan

That FIP-based 3-WARP number isn't some kind of hard cap on his ability. Sheids has had outstanding seasons by ERA, and he's regarded as having excellent stuff. It's possible that MLB teams believe he's more than 3-warp pitcher, and the Royals expect him to add more than three wins per season.

Dec 12, 2012 08:46 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Just because the Royals expect him to be more than a 3 WARP pitcher doesn't mean he will be.. that's why we have statistics and projections.

Dec 12, 2012 10:09 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Hamrahi
BP staff

On the flip side, just because we have statistics and projections doesn't mean they're always right either. People, including us, can also project guys like Wil Myers all they want, but it's extremely difficult to really forecast what a minor league player will do. And thus the reason why it's impossible to determine winners and losers in trades like these. We're all entitled to our opinions, including the teams. That's totally fine, but it doesn't mean anyone is right before the players even take the field. Otherwise there would be no reason to play the games.

Dec 12, 2012 11:03 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

And that's basically why baseball is fun to talk about. People predict and project, go with their gut or go with stats and in the end, people will be right and others will be wrong with no real certainty that those who were right will remain right. For all we think we know about baseball, it just turns things into a lesser crapshoot than a coinflip.

Dec 12, 2012 12:16 PM
rating: 0
 
John Hilton

I agree with you as well. I am not sure why the Rays are trading away established players who are important for their team's success for prospects who may or may not pan out when their key opponents are the weakest they have been in years.

Dec 11, 2012 10:42 AM
rating: 0
 
tim270

Since when did Myers become the top prospect in baseball? He's referred as that three separate times in this article, and yet, not a single talent evaluator would say that. He's a fine prospect, but hardly transcendent. He's accumulated very good MiL numbers- in hitter's leagues, and he plays a non-premium defensive position.
Adam Jones and he put up virutally the same line at the same age in the same league. Adam Jones put up a 700 OPS his first year in the MLs. Did I mention Jones plays a premium defensive position.
There's things to like about this trade for both teams imo. That's why it got done. I just don't agree w the idea floated heavily on the interwebs that somehow the Royals sold their future down the river. They traded a good, not great, prospect for a very good ML SP, or, you know, the rarest and most valuable commodity in baseball. There's endless scenarios where they come out well ahead in this trade.

Dec 11, 2012 09:58 AM
rating: 7
 
BP staff member Joe Hamrahi
BP staff

In addition, many are discounting the Royals ability to continue to develop major league prospects for themselves. Last year, they had Gordon, Perez, Mooose, and Hosmer, all home-grown players starting for them. Were they all great? No, but they're all young and far from finished. Just because they traded Myers doesn't mean they can't develop similar players. With the exception of Perez, all the above players were recently top prospects in all of baseball. It's not inconceivable to think someone like Bubba Starling can become the next phenom. He certainly has the talent.

Dec 11, 2012 10:28 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

Gordon, Perez, Moose and Hosmer have all had a few warts.. and don't forget Butler in there too. Generally a rookie will have a sophomore slump or something but Butler's power disappeared for 2010/2011 and Gordon's bat completely disappeared for 2009/2010. Gordon even regressed a bit from 2011. Not to mention pretty much every Royals rookie pitcher has flamed out...

As an aside, there's also been no real good explanation on why Myers didn't get some major league at bats last year. Did they lack confidence in him? Wanted him to work on defense? I'm not sure if there's another GM who wouldn't have given him a September cup of coffee.

Dec 11, 2012 12:56 PM
rating: 0
 
bloodface

Because DM planned to trade him all along, and didn't want to diminish his value with a possible lackluster performance, and instead kept him down to keep his perceived value high as he continued to mash in the minors?

Dec 11, 2012 13:21 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

If that was really the case, DM would've kept Myers as a catcher.

Dec 11, 2012 14:04 PM
rating: -1
 
phnath

Can you post the link to the article(s) on prospect valuation? Thanks

Dec 11, 2012 11:45 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

I had a lot of articles in mind. Here are a few:

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the-bright-side-of-losing-santana/
http://www.philbirnbaum.com/btn2007-08.pdf (The Victor Wang article)
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=4291
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15306
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=17276

Etc.

Dec 11, 2012 20:40 PM
 
bloodface

Killer article. Kudos!

Dec 11, 2012 13:19 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Thank you.

Dec 11, 2012 20:35 PM
 
ChicagoOriole

Maybe the Royals' window is the weakness of their divisional competition. Snag a divisional title in the next two years and call it a decade.

Myers did not get a call-up this year, and the Royals know Myers better than anyone else. For now I have to give the Royals the benefit of the doubt. If the other Royals "can't miss" prospects come around, maybe the Royals can pull it off.

Dec 11, 2012 14:22 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Given the Royals performance over Moore's tenure, do they warrant the benefit of the doubt?

Dec 11, 2012 15:21 PM
rating: 0
 
tbwhite
(361)

The problem I have with most evaluations of this trade is that they seem to focus almost exclusively on the expected return, but ignore the risk portion of the equation. I agree that the expected return for the Rays exceeds that expected return for the Royals in this deal, but the Royals have a higher floor on their return than the Rays, and that's important.

Give me a choice between taking $1 million, or flipping a coin and getting $4 million if it comes up heads. On expected return alone, I should obviously go for the coin flip, but personally there's no way in hell I would do it. The certainty of $1 million is far too valuable to me. Warren Buffet would probably flip the coin. I would flip the coin if I knew I could play the game 15 or 20 times. But if I only get one shot at it, screw expected value. I'm the Royals and the Rays are Warren Buffet. Making the playoffs and being viewed as competitive has immense value to the Royals right now(I'm told the first million is that hardest to make), the Rays are already stacked and competitive, they're already rich and can afford to take chances.

I think the trade makes sense for both teams, and since the Rays are assuming more risk(in terms of potential MLB performance vs actual MLB performance) they are being compensated appropriately with a higher overall expected return.

Dec 11, 2012 18:16 PM
rating: 5
 
Richard Bergstrom

The Royals take on a ton of risk since the Royals paid, in terms of prospects, on the gamble that Wade Davis makes a successful conversion to starter. Beyond that, for the trade to be a success, James Shields has to remain a successful starter _and_ the Royals have enough other things go right to change from a 70 win team to a 90+ win team. Not many teams go from 70 wins to 90+ wins in one season. That's a huge amount of risk and the Royals are paying for that privilege.

I think it was Nate Silver who wrote a long time ago on BP about marginal wins. Basically, if you're an 85 win team, 5 wins matters much more to you than if you are a 70 win team because those 5 wins can put the 70 win team into the playoffs.

Have the Royals really made enough changes to leapfrog the White Sox and Tigers for the AL Central lead? Was it worth the risk based on Myers' potential? Could the Royals have acquired starting pitching another way, either through free agency or through a less expensive trade in terms of rookies?

Because that's basically what a prospect is, that $4 million coin flip (though some prospects and coin flips are worth more than others). And, as noted, people who look at things long-term like Warren Buffett or the Rays, tend to go for the long-term coin flips. Sure, the Rays get their Brignacs but they also get their Longorias and Prices.

Dec 11, 2012 18:59 PM
rating: 1
 
fbraconi

I've really enjoyed this old-fashioned hot stove debate the past few days so thanks Dayton Moore, Ben Lindbergh and all you commentators.

My small observation involves projections of prospects of the quality of a Will Myers. Everybody seems to be sensitive to the downside risks; the Rays are taking a risk that Myers won't live up to the expectation that he'll be an everyday player and occassional all-star. But there is upside variation around the mean too. When you're talking about a guy who's in BP's top 20 prospect circle, you really don't know what his ceiling is until he gets to the big leagues and plays a few years. Does he have the smarts and makeup to make the adjustments necessary to thrive at that level? I'm thinking about guys like Ryan Braun, Adrian Gonzalez and Matt Kemp, none of whom were considered elite prospects, if I recall, until they became elite major leaguers.

So I'm just saying that, with the advance of the projection methods Ben mentions, we sometimes cut the prospect distinctions too fine. Myers has as good a chance as any to become one of the top bats of the coming decade. Shields is a fine pitcher but he's replaceable. If I'm in the Rays' postition I'm going to make that trade.

Dec 11, 2012 19:41 PM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

All three of Braun, Gonzalez and Kemp were very highly regarded as prospects. Braun was taken 5th overall by the Brewers. Gonzalez was the #1 pick in his year and Kemp was a high upside play as a multi-sport type, but Baseball America and their ilk sang his praises all down the line.

Dec 11, 2012 20:08 PM
rating: 1
 
fbraconi

Myers is highly regarded too. But on the Baseball America Top 100 lists published in the spring prior to their respective rookie seasons, Braun was ranked #26 (#12 on BP's), Gonzalez #52, and Kemp #96. While we're at it, Votto was ranked #43 going into his rookie season (#53 on BP's). Check some of the "elite" prospects ranked ahead of them.

Dec 11, 2012 20:31 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Ok here's another semi-silly hypothetical question...

Is this a trade that Dayton could've/should've done in June/July?

By then, it should be clearer whether the Royals are pretenders or contenders and a better idea of the quality of their lineup and pitching. There's a decent chance that Shields would be cheaper since there wouldn't be as much time left on his contract and if the Rays aren't in contention, they may be more apt to deal him at a discount. This kind of mindset would be similar to the Pirates acquiring Wandy Rodriguez et all at the break.

Dec 11, 2012 23:57 PM
rating: -1
 
R.A.Wagman

The question that seems to have been left unasked - both for this deal and the Arizona/Cleveland/Cincinnati threeway - is whether there is a value-incentive to winning now, as opposed to winning later.
I don't have the statistical chops to study the matter, but there seems to be a qualitative thought that there is value now - just like a contract with equal terms across five years is actually more valuable now than later, due to inflation.

Dec 12, 2012 04:37 AM
rating: 0
 
jfranco77

Certainly there would be some value for teams that haven't negotiated their big TV deal yet. I don't know where the Royals stand in that regard.

Dec 12, 2012 12:26 PM
rating: 0
 
Nacho999

Lots to discuss here...I like the moxy of the Royals here. I'm not sure I would have picked James Shields as the target, but if the decision was made to part with Myers, I wonder how many options were really available. I really like the addition of Wade Davis here. I think a real solid secondary piece with control makes Myers available in the first place. Davis is flying way under the radar as this trade is being discussed. He was a pretty good starter before he was bumped and was a fantastic reliever last year. None of us mere spectators know much about Patrick Leonard, but I'm guessing he's a bigger piece of this exchange from the Rays point of view than we realize. Odorizzi is a decent enough prospect, but he's not blow away good. He leans towards finesse as good as his strikeout numbers have been in the minors. The Royals flat gave up on Montgomery, apparently with good reason. The deal comes down to Myers and Leonard for two years of James Shields. Davis and the other two players cancel each other out as far as I'm concerned. The Royals needed to do something. They seem to hang on to their prospects until they become suspects too often. I know Montgomery is left handed and comes with tons of so-called promise, but I'm guessing this was their last chance to move him in a deal this large. Call me uninformed, but they were clearly frustrated with him. This never would have happend two years ago. I never liked Delmon Young as a player, but I don't know enough about Myers, other than his 37 Jacks, to have an informed opinion about his real future at the major league level. It's obvious he can hit minor league pitching, that's for sure. The Rays got four better than average prospects for two established major league pitchers that could wind up being 40% of their rotation. Can they compete with Detroit now? I don't know, but I'm glad they are giving it a shot. It's a ballsy deal. Win or lose I'm intrigued. It'll be awhile before we can determine winners and losers here despite the overall perception that The Rays abused The Royals here. I'll bet Dayton Moore knows a thing or two about what he sent packing and The Royals need to stir up some ticket sales and win a few games now. The Rays took a hit on the field short term and the demise of the Yankees and Red Sox might be greatly exaggerated. You don't win the division in the offseason. Any one of these AL East teams could finish first or last it seems. This deal will be fun to follow this Summer and beyond. Just my two cents...

Dec 12, 2012 08:06 AM
rating: 1
 
Dugadams

As a life long Royals fan and season ticket holder I can say I've come around to the deal. I argued at a happy hour on Friday that it would be crazy to give up 7yrs of Myers of 2 of Shields. But, by picking up 2 starters and having an actual rotation to accompany a potential packed line-up I've changed my tune. I'm as excited for baseball to start as I've ever been in my 33yr lifetime. KC will sell more tickets this year. I'm convinced that they can draw 2-2.5mil a year with a winner...hell a .500 team. So,by making this deal (perhaps) one year too early, Glass/DM have changed the perception and expectation for the 2013 team. What I find interesting is that most Royals fans are upset with the trade. I think it is b/c we have been conditions to chalk up our victories to what BP analysts think of our minor league system vs actual Major League wins. And now, we are actually acting like a team trying to win and no one knows how to react. Either way it is a fascinating transaction, and I can't wait for it to play out this spring.


. the fact we are actually now considered a contender. This trade has been a lot of fun to debate with friends, co-workers and other random KC folk. KC is a baseball town starved for a winner. As a fan our perception is that we are ready. It isn't backed by statistical evidence

Dec 12, 2012 19:43 PM
rating: 0
 
Roy in Omaha

I am a lifelong Royals fan and former season ticket holder, too, and this trade is a totally unwarranted, foolhardy risk and, as currently constituted, this team is not a contender and I haven't read even so much as a single article that postulates any such thing. I certainly don't think we are contender myself and I haven't personally spoken to another soul who thinks so, either. Not one.

With this offense, the Royals have almost no chance of contending. This trade basically solidifies them a 3rd place finish. 79-83, shall we say?

Dec 15, 2012 12:58 PM
rating: 0
 
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