The Kansas City Royals have undergone a bit of role reversal after the trade involving pitcher James Shields. For once it's Kansas City who is getting the major league player.
After lengthy negotiations, the Royals and Tampa Bay Rays have agreed to a trade in which Shields and pitcher Wade Davis move to Kansas City. Wil Myers and fellow minor league prospects Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard will head to Tampa Bay.
It's a move that Royals management is clearly making to try and angle for immediate success, but what is the long-term cost?
Shields' contract runs for the next two years with a price of about $21 million. The second year is a team option that the Royals will almost certainly pick up.
Rany Jazayerli, a baseball writer for Grantland and co-host of The Baseball Show podcast with Joe Sheehan, is a diehard Royals fan. In the buildup, he's been extremely reticent of any possible deal, and his head has just about blown up in the aftermath.
After the trade was announced, Jazayerli tweeted this:
Of the last 14 hitters to win Minor League PoY, 12 of them turned into stars. And one of the two misses has a mitochondrial disease.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) December 10, 2012
Then, shortly thereafter he tweeted this:
Yes, I'd trade Wil Myers for a #1 starter. But the Royals traded for James Shields, not David Price.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) December 10, 2012
Royals fans were hoping that the team's fortunes had made a turn for the better. After signing veterans like Jose Guillen and Gil Meche to ludicrous contracts, the organization had built up one of the better minor league systems in the majors.
Myers was one of the best prospects Kansas City had. Last year he hit 37 home runs and drove in 109 runs, all while maintaining a .314 average. As a result, Myers won Minor League Player of the Year, awarded by Baseball America.
It's a curious move for the Royals, especially considering that owner David Glass has already revealed the low payroll he intended to saddle on the team. Now he's going to pay $20-plus million to a pitcher who has a career ERA of 3.89 and averaged a 14-11 record over his seven-year career.
As Jazayerli pointed out, it would make sense to turn Myers and those included around for acquiring an ace. Shields is an upgrade, but he can't be considered the kind of pitcher worthy of parting with such a promising prospect.
If the Royals had a chance of signing Shields beyond his contract, they could have a steady piece of their rotation for years to come. With the amount of money that pitchers are getting, there's no way Kansas City will be able to retain him past 2014.
This move should not come as a surprise from an owner that has rarely shown much interest in following through on a long-term plan.