Wil Myers Trade Makes Tampa Bay the Team to Beat in the AL East

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIDecember 10, 2012

KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 08:  Wil Myers of the Kansas City Royals in action during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium on July 8, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Big changes are hitting the AL East, as it was announced on Sunday that Wil Myers is heading to Tampa Bay (h/t MLB Trade Rumors). Finally nabbing some offensive punch—as well as more pitching—the move makes the Rays the favorites in the division.

James Shields and Wade Davis are headed to Kansas City, with Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard coming to Tampa Bay.

Though it seems like they're losing a lot of their core, the Rays will come out of this trade stronger.

With Myers, Tampa Bay could have MLB's top prospect two years running—pitcher Mat Moore earned the honor last season.

The outfielder has always been considered a stud by scouts, but he took his game to the next level in 2012. The 22-year-old hit .314 last season with 37 home runs, including 22 at Triple-A.

Myers is a lifetime .303 hitter in the minors, and a high average has always been something that he has brought to the table. His most questionable tool was power—he had a ceiling for it, but it was unknown how high.

Well, it looks like Myers answered that for everybody.

Last season, the Rays hit .240 as a team with 175 home runs. Those numbers were good for fifth and fourth in the AL East, respectively. Meanwhile, their team ERA of 3.19 was first in the American League.

Offense has been holding the Rays back, and now they have their solution.

The acquisition of Myers gives Tampa Bay a solid middle-of-the-order bat to play behind Evan Longoria.

Combined with Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings and the newly acquired Yunel Escobar, the Rays have a lineup to be proud of. It's not the best in the AL East, but it has more potential than last season's.

Of course, Tampa Bay's rotation is taking a hit. How can the trade stand as an improvement with the loss of James Shields?

Shields saw some inconsistencies last season—he had average numbers before heating up in August and September—and for the fourth season in a row, he finished with double digit losses.

The biggest thing that Tampa Bay is losing out on is innings, as Shields had 227.2 of them in 2012. He was one of just two pitchers to hit the 200-inning plateau for the Rays last season.

But Joe Maddon won't have a tough time replacing those numbers.

Reigning Cy Young winner David Price is a given for 200 innings. Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore each had over 177 last season and could hit 200 in 2013. Even Jeff Niemann is good for 170 when healthy.

Then there's top prospect Chris Archer, who saw four starts with the club in 2012 and will compete for a rotation spot this spring.

Even the return from Kansas City could be a factor. Jake Odorizzi earned himself two major league starts last season after posting a 3.03 ERA and 2.7 K/BB in the minors.

Needless to say, the Rays dealt from a position of strength with this trade.

They lost a workhorse but should have no trouble filling the void that he has left. And in return, they add one of the game's best prospects to anchor the middle of their lineup.

Despite moves from other clubs, the Rays have made the biggest offseason splash in the AL East. Improving on their 90-72 record from last season won't be hard now.