Zack Greinke was the best pitcher in baseball last season, and he doesn't turn 27 until October.
Joakim Soria has been so dominant at times he's been compared to Mariano "The Great" Rivera, and he doesn't turn 27 until May...of 2011.
Both have been re-signed to extremely club friendly contracts at the genesis of their peak performance years*.
* Generally considered between 27-32 years of age.
For most Royals followers who lived through the big name departure era , this is a sign of hope. The franchise has actually begun retaining All-Star level talent into a second big league contract.
However, there are ill-informed pot stirrers in every fan base.
With all the personnel concerns the Royals currently have, it is this garbage chatter that hinders legitimate concerns from garnering the attention * they deserve. The Royals should not trade young, cheap, proven talent for young, cheap, unproven talent. That is a losing formula.
* See list item No. 3
Blogger Nick Sloan's opening argument—arguably his most important argument—is that 20 years ago the Dallas Cowboys successfully traded Herschel Walker before his eighth professional season for a bunch of prospects and draft picks that blossomed, so the Kansas City Royals should do the same with Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria.
For a moment let's ignore the fact that baseball draft picks and football draft picks are vastly different commodities; top football picks are generally expected to start in their first season while top baseball picks hopefully make it to the big club in 3-5 seasons.
Let's also ignore the fact that the position of running back is largely based on dependency—in that, a running back is only as successful as his blocking and other offensive skill players—while a pitcher can dominate* despite ineptness on both offense and defense.
* Exhibit A: Greinke, his Cy Young and the 2009 Royals .
Let's just look at a single glaring issue: How much shelf life is left in an eighth year running back?
Walker was able to squeeze another eight seasons of paychecks out of his career—but was only effective for half that time—while these young Royal arms could continue to climb the hill of success with the utmost confidence for another 8-10 seasons.
Above and beyond that, the re-signing of these young studs represents a change in Kansas City baseball culture:
In the early years of Royals baseball, they were largely considered the Yankees AAA ball club as they sent young talent east in exchange for over-the-hill names. However, that was an era where fundamentals ruled and the Royals were able to build replicable teams around these individuals.
In 1985, this all culminated with Don Denkenger's safe-at-first call on Jorge Orta in the ninth inning of Game 6 which led to a rallying comeback and subsequent Game 7 victory and World Series Championship.
That was Kansas City's last true taste of glory.
In the 25 years since, the franchise has continued the modus operandi of the early years; however, the game has moved away from fundamentals and into an era of stardom and paychecks. This exposed the Royals methods and their lack of expendable funds and homegrown talent*.
* Even when homegrown talent did arrive, it was quickly ushered out the door for minimal-to-no-return due to signability issues.
That brings us to today's dilemma and illustrates why it is so important for the Royals to build around these stars instead of trading them for high risk prospects and draft picks.
When the Cowboys made their trade, they received five active players and were additionally able to draft Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith and Darren Woodson who compiled a total of 15 Pro Bowl appearances between them.
It is misguided to expect the same by trading Greinke and Soria. Baseball is a different sport and a top draft pick is far from a sure thing.
Just look at the Royals first round draft picks since that wonderful 1985 season:
1986 Tony Clements
1987 Kevin Appier
1988 Hugh Walker
1989 Brent Mayne
1991 Joseph Vitiello
1992 Michael Tucker
1992 James Pittsley
1993 Jeff Granger
1994 Matt Smith
1995 Juan LeBron
1996 Dermal Brown
1997 Dan Reichert
1998 Jeff Austin (received a $2.7 million signing bonus)
1998 Matt Burch
1999 Kyle Snyder
1999 Mike McDougal
2000 Mike Sodolka
2001 Colt Griffin
2002 Zack Greinke
2003 Chris Lubanski
2003 Mitchell Myer
2004 Billy Butler
2004 Matt Campbell
2005 Alex Gordon
2006 Luke Hochevar
2007 Mike Moustakas
2008 Eric Hosmer
2009 Aaron Crow
Total All-Star appearances for 28 first round selections over 23 seasons: 3
Also, this is the success rate for first round draft picks. That rate will plummet in the rounds thereafter—where many of these received draft picks will come.
Mr. Sloan then goes on to validate this thinking by stating:
"While the six to eight prospects all wouldn't turn out, odds are that half of them would."
Six to eight (even twelve to sixteen) prospects in return for two sure fire Major League Baseball contributors with long term, club friendly contracts? In a package like that, you typically don't get a Jason Heyward or a Justin Smoak in return, you receive a boat load of Jeff Austin's—highly tendered prospects who can't play pro ball at an elite level.
You also do not receive semi-established stars like Matt Weiters or Andrew McCutchen.
Any suggestion to trade the best anything is asinine, especially when that individual wants to play for your team.
As long as Zack Greinke is the best pitcher in the American League and Joakim Soria is the best heir to Mariano Rivera, keep them or suffer the consequences.
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