Wait What? First Royals-Rays Reaction

Let me be clear: I love what the Tampa Bay Rays did Sunday night and I hate what the Royals did.

The Rays sent RHP James Shields and RHP Wade Davis to Kansas City for OF prospect Wil Myers, RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montgomery and 3B Mike Montgomery.

Myers, the reigning 2012 Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year, is ready. He hit .314/.387/.600 with 37 bombs as a 21-year old between double-A and triple-A last year. The 140 strikeouts in 134 games suggest that his average will come down in an important way in the big leagues, but the game power, at that age, and that level are real. He was one of the select few prospects, I would have been pleased to see the Mets trade either Jon Niese or RA Dickey for in a 1-for-1 deal.

Shields is signed for two more years at $21 million dollars. Davis is signed for the next two years at $7.6 million with team options on 2015, 2016, 2017 at $7 million, $8 million and $10 million respectively.

Shields is a very good starting pitcher (more on that in a few).

Davis is a failed starter – vacillating around replacement level- who was a very effective reliever in 2012. As a starter, opponents hit .260/.325/.428 with a .282 BABIP and a 4.22 ERA against him while that dropped to .189/.271/.299 as a reliever with a .264 BABIP and a 2.43 ERA. As a reliever, he fanned 31% of his opponents with a 10.2% walk rate, while as a starter it was just 15% with a 8.3% walk rate. He should be a reliever. If the Royals believe that he can start, and early indications are that they do, they see something in the numbers that I do not.

Shields was the prize. The Royals, fresh off a 72-win season, with Dayton Moore in fear of losing his job, are playing to win in 2013.

I thought it was a dumb deal for the Royals. Given that they were interested in winning now, I thought they should have preferred Dickey to Shields.

Last week, Andy Martino reported that the Royals were not interested in RA Dickey. If they are playing to win now, this stance seemed perplexing. In the last three seasons, since reaching the big leagues, Dickey has been a superior pitcher to Shields.

2010-12ERAGGSIPERA+WHIPSO %BB%HR%
Dickey2.959491616.21291.1518.60%5.96%2.19%
Shields3.7610099680.11021.2122.53%6.17%3.02%

 

However, this is somewhat unfair to Shields. He had an extremely poor 2010 with a 5.18 ERA and a 75 ERA+, his one and only below average season as a Major League starting pitcher.

Shields then bounced back. His 2011 was, by ERA+, his best season as a professional. He has thrown 200 innings or more in each of his six full Major League seasons. He will turn 31 in two weeks.

 

2011-12ERAGGSIPERA+WHIPSO %BB%HR%
Dickey2.996765442.11261.13520.19%5.99%2.33%
Shields3.1566664771201.10323.35%6.41%2.66%

This, is I think closer to the truth. Dickey’s ERA is just slightly better, but Shields has pitched more innings and is younger, but they are basically comparable.

As for their relative prices, Shields will cost an average of $10.5 million over the next two years. Dickey has indicated that he would be willing to sign a two year extension for $13 million per season, on top of his $5 million extension for 2013. That’s a few (Major League) pennies cheaper than Shields, an average of $10.3 million.

The Royals asked the Mets for a package of Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler. That’s 12 years of cost-controlled pitcher. That’s a whole lot more than two years of Shields or three years of Dickey, factoring the price of his extension.

That the Royals make strange moves is hardly news. I think the Mets were absolutely right to walk away when the Royals asked for Niese and Wheeler. And if the Royals preferred Shields to Dickey, that’s their reasonable decision.

Trading away so much young talent, however, is less reasonable. You can read Dave Cameron skewer the trade from the Royals perspective here while at ESPN, Keith Law called it a “heist.”

The bad news for the Mets: they do not have Wil Myers, and the other three youngsters headed to Tampa. The good news: they still have Niese and Dickey, two valuable assets in an industry always hungry for pitching.

With Zack Greinke and Shields off the market, the Mets now operate from a position of relative pitching strength.