Numerous reports have indicated the willingness of the Kansas City Royals to trade top prospect Wil Myers this offseason for pitching help. The Kansas City Star’s Bob Dutton wrote that Kansas City is willing to hold off on a trade until it feels it has found the right fit. But if it has to trade a prospect like Myers, its best move is to obtain a top-flight pitching prospect instead of a veteran starter.
Myers is an outfielder who will be 22 years old next season, and he is one of the most highly regarded prospects in baseball. The former third-round draft pick exploded in 2012, hitting a combined .314 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI between the Royals' Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. Any number of teams would love to add his projectable bat to their lineup.
Dutton already speculated that Myers could help pry southpaw Jon Lester from the Boston Red Sox, and FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the prospect could bring in right-handed starter James Shields from the Tampa Bay Rays.
While both Lester and Shields are established major league starters who eat innings for breakfast, they would individually be a poor return on any deal involving Myers. Including team options, Shields has two years and $21 million left on his current deal, while Lester has two years and $24.625 million remaining.
If the Royals acquired either Shields or Lester, they might get good production during the next two seasons, but would be hard-pressed to retain either pitcher after they hit free agency. Two years of a veteran starting pitcher is not a good enough return on a prospect like Myers.
Despite having traded for starter Ervin Santana and re-signing free agent Jeremy Guthrie, the Royals are a young team and are not looking like serious 2013 playoff contenders. Adding a young pitching prospect, whom they could control at a moderate financial cost for the next five or six seasons, would be a much more fiscally sound move and potentially give them a wider window of opportunity to contend in the future.
Arizona’s 2011 first-round draft pick, right-hander Trevor Bauer, of whom ESPN’s Buster Olney recently wrote had fallen out of favor and was likely to be traded, would be an ideal target. He went 12-2 with a 2.42 ERA in the minors last season. Despite struggling during a four-game stint in the majors, he has the talent and intelligence to develop into an ace on a team like the Royals.
ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reported that Arizona signed free-agent starter Brandon McCarthy to a two-year deal. Adding McCarthy to Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley and Tyler Skaggs gives the team the surplus of pitching next season that would make it easier to think about trading Bauer.
FoxSport’s Jon Paul Morosi recently reported that the Diamondbacks could trade outfielders Jason Kubel or Justin Upton. If that were to happen, exchanging Bauer for an impact outfield prospect like Myers would be a good deal for Arizona because of the need to find a replacement and because of the same financial control they would be able to exert.
The Braves would be the Royals' other likely trading partner if a swap of prospects were to be explored because they could offer right-hander Julio Teheran in such a deal.
Teheran has pitched professionally for five years, but will only turn 22 later this winter. He was ranked as Baseball America’s fifth-best prospect in 2012 and has already had a couple of brief stints with Atlanta. Possessing a big fastball, he is projected to be a top-of-the-rotation starter for years to come.
The Braves also have pitching depth, and adding Myers to an outfield that already boasts Jason Heyward and newly signed B.J. Upton could be enough reason to have them consider such a trade. Atlanta also has a modest payroll that would make a cheap, young impact player like Myers a desirable option.
The Royals should absolutely look into trading Wil Myers if they think they can improve their team in other ways. However, they must look at what their potential return can give them in the long-term, and not just in the next year or two. Gambling on a young pitcher who could turn into the ace they need could be risky, but the potential reward should be tantalizing for a team that is hungry to become a winner.
Statistics via BaseballReference