Monday, December 24, 2012

Myers, Moral Hazard, and Moving On.

If you were waiting for my actual analysis of the Myers/Shields trade, I wrote this for Grantland just hours after the deal was consummated. Perhaps it would have been better if I had not written angry. I was not kind to the Royals.

The week after the trade was probably the most difficult week I’ve ever had as a Royals fan. It was a kind of psychic torment that I had never experienced before; I literally had trouble falling asleep at night. (Yeah, yeah, it’s just baseball. I’m aware of how whiny and self-indulgent that sounds.) But here’s the thing: my angst had nothing to do with the trade itself, at least not directly. It actually took me a while to figure out exactly why I felt the way I did.

In my Grantland column, I wrote about moral hazard, about the danger that lurks when a person in a position of influence finds that their own self-interest diverges from the interest of the organization they work for. If you believe that another disappointing season in 2013 was going to get people fired – and all the evidence points that way – then you have to believe that Dayton Moore found himself in a position of moral hazard.

And let me be clear here: it’s not his fault that he’s in a position of moral hazard. Most of us, were we in his position, would also place a higher priority on winning a few more games in 2013 than on potentially winning a lot more games in 2015. It’s been reported that David Glass made it clear to his front office that they either win more games next season or else – so the only rational decision for a GM to make in that situation is to place a higher priority on winning in the short term than in the long term. Almost every GM faces some level on moral hazard on the job – though it’s telling that Andrew Friedman, thanks to his success on the job and an owner who fully buys in to the Rays’ methods, is one of the few who does not.

And to be even more clear: while I think this trade hurts the Royals in the long term more than it helps in the short term, this is not a case of a GM completely sabotaging a franchise in a pointless attempt to save his job. We’ve seen that before. It was barely five years ago that Dave Littlefield, who after six years as general manager of the Pirates had moved the team no closer to respectability than when he took the job in 2001, traded for Matt Morris. Everyone in the industry knew that the Giants were desperate to dump Morris, who had nothing left (he had struck out just 73 batters in 137 innings), and was getting paid about $10 million in both 2007 and 2008. The expectation was that they would have had to – and were willing to – eat at least half his contract.

But minutes before the trading deadline, Littlefield traded for Morris – and picked up his entire contract. At the time, the Pirates were 42-62 and in last place, and of course they had a restricted payroll owing to the fact that they were the Pirates. No team in baseball had less need than the Pirates did for a vastly overpriced, aging, slightly above replacement-level starter. Littlefield even gave the Giants two players, one of them Rajai Davis, for the privilege of trying to pull the fork out of Morris’ arm. Morris had a 6.10 ERA in 11 starts for Pittsburgh in 2007. In 2008, he made five starts, gave up 31 runs in 22 innings, and was released, ending his major league career.

Morris outlasted Littlefield in Pittsburgh; Littlefield was fired less than six weeks after the trade. In a just world he would have been fired on the spot, but presumably it took ownership some time to appreciate the enormity of what he had done.

Dayton Moore made, in my opinion, a bad trade. I think he hurt his team’s chances of winning in the long term for a modest short-term gain. But he did not make a transaction whose sole purpose seemed to be to save his job, the way Littlefield did. There’s no comparison between the two.

But anyway, I was thinking about the implications of moral hazard when I finally realized what was the source of my disquieting feeling: I was in a position of moral hazard as well.

Having gone on record with my feelings about the trade, my self-interest as a baseball analyst is completely, utterly in conflict with my self-interest as a Royals fan. The outcome that will make me happiest as a fan is the same outcome that will make me look like a complete schmuck. A bitter schmuck at that.

And to be clear, most of the Kansas City media is already doing their best to make me look like one. The radio stations in town lined up to smack me around like I’m the hysterical chick in “Airplane”. No one likes the turd in the punchbowl, and in being the local media guy who was most vehemently against the trade, I am the turd in the punchbowl.

Here’s the thing: I hope they’re right. I don’t want to be the turd in the punchbowl. I hope that, years from now, my analysis of this trade will be one of the most embarrassing mistakes I’ve ever made. I have, without exaggeration, never wanted to be wrong about a baseball transaction more than this one.

I have disparaged moves the Royals have made before, and in most cases I’d rather be proven right than to see the Royals win a few more games because I was wrong, not because I didn’t want them to win, but because a few more wins didn’t mean a whole heck of a lot in the grand scheme of things. If I had been wrong about Mike Jacobs and he had hit 32 home runs in 2009, like he had for the Marlins in 2008, what would it have mattered? The Royals might have won 68 games instead of 65?

I wasn’t wrong about Jacobs, of course. You could argue that I was sorta wrong about Yuniesky Betancourt in 2010, although I would argue right back, given that his defense was so atrocious that Baseball-Reference rates him as a full 1.3 wins below replacement level that year. (I definitely wasn’t wrong about Yuni in 2009, and I definitely wasn’t wrong about Yuni in 2012.)

But even if he had done his best Troy Tulowitzki impression in 2010, the Royals would have won, what, 73 games? Whoop-de-do. Given the stakes, there was no upside in being wrong. I could only hope that I was right, that the outcome proved that the process (as opposed to The Process) the Royals had used to make their decision was wrong, and that they would learn from it for the future.

But this time, if I’m wrong, then – by definition – it means playoffs. Because – barring something wacky happening with Wade Davis down the line – the only way this trade works out for the Royals is if they make the playoffs in one of the next two years. That’s what Dayton Moore is betting on here, and I respect the gamble he’s made even if I think he made a terrible one.

I only resolved the crisis in my mind when I decided that, once again, I’m a fan first and an analyst second. I don’t know how much longer I can continue to write about baseball, frankly, not with a growing family and medical practice and everything that goes with them. But I can be a fan for life.

And if I’m wrong, well, I’m used to making mistakes as an analyst; it’s the nature of the job. (Just limiting myself to times I condemned a Missouri team for a trade, it hasn’t even been 18 months since I thought the Cardinals were lunatics to trade Colby Rasmus for, basically, two months of Edwin Jackson and a couple of middle relievers. Oops.) But I’m not used to the Royals playing games on national TV in October. I literally have no memory of them ever doing so.

And if I'm wrong, that doesn't completely invalidate the process of what I do, any more than Mitt Romney winning the election would have completely invalidated Nate Silver's work. We deal in probabilities, not certainties, and Silver gave Romney about a 9% chance of winning on the eve of the election. The Royals have far more than a 9% chance of winning this trade. I just think it's far less than 50%, and I think they are vastly more likely to lose big than they are to win big.

So I’ve cast my decision. If I’m wrong, I fully expect and welcome those of you who disagree with me now to rub it in my face. (After all, I’m sure I’ll do the same in reverse if I’m right.) Just know that if I’m wrong, no one will be happier to bear those criticisms and eat some crow as I will be.

I’ll even write these words right now, in the hopes that I can cut-and-paste them in ten months and say them with conviction:

“Dear Dayton Moore: I was wrong. You were right. You made the biggest gamble of your career last December, and I savaged you at the time, and it turns out your decision was brilliant. I was a fool. Please forgive me.

- Rany Jazayerli.

P.S. In case anyone ever asks, your ass tastes minty.”

Mind you, it will be hard to argue convincingly that the Royals won this trade ten months from now, because the talent they gave up will take years to identify itself one way or the other. (On the other hand, if James Shields tears something in his elbow in spring training, we could pronounce a verdict in the other direction much sooner.) But Craig Calcaterra made a lot of sense when he wrote that, essentially, whether this trades works out for the Royals depends almost entirely on whether it takes them to the Promised Land. Even if Myers turns into a superstar, if the Royals can lay claim to one playoff spot that they wouldn’t have otherwise earned, it will be justifiable. They wouldn’t necessarily win the trade, but they could not be said to have lost it.

So I won’t bother trying. If the Royals make the playoffs in 2013, no one is going to want to hear me make the case against the trade anyway.

You: WE MADE THE PLAYOFFS! JAMES SHIELDS STARTS GAME ONE AGAINST THE YANKEES!

Me: Yeah, well, the Royals still shouldn’t have traded for him.

You: What the hell are you talking about? He threw 216 innings, won 17 games, was the unquestioned leader of the staff, and we won the division!

Me: Yeah, but Wil Myers hit .272/.346/.462 for the Rays, and Jeff Francoeur was so bad that the Royals had to swing a trade in June for David Dejesus to play right field. If the Royals kept Myers they would have won nearly as many games as they did with Shields.

You: That’s crazy talk! And what about Wade Davis, huh? He transitioned back to the rotation, gave the Royals 185 quality innings with an ERA of 4.40. Do they make the playoffs without him? They only won the division by three games!

Me: Well, Jake Odorizzi came up for the Rays in August and had a 4.40 ERA in twelve starts, so I’m not sure Davis was that much of an upgrade.

You: Sure he was! He gave the Royals quality innings when they needed them the first half of the season, while guys like Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino were still on the DL. Are you honestly saying you think the Royals would have won the division without Shields and Davis?

Me: No, I’m saying that if instead of trading for Shields and Davis, they had signed Shaun Marcum, who made 26 starts with an ERA just 15 points higher than Shields, or if they had signed Edwin Jackson, who threw 208 innings with an ERA just 25 points higher than Shields, and they had Myers in right field instead of Francoeur, they would probably have won as many games as

You: TURD IN THE PUNCH BOWL! TURD IN THE PUNCH BOWL!

So, yeah. The 2013 season will be a referendum on this trade; if the Royals go the playoffs, and Shields and/or Davis are a big part of that accomplishment, then everyone will be too busy reveling in what happened to reflect on the long-term implications of the deal. Myself included.

But come 2015, it’s going to hurt. I had this dream, a dream I’m sure many of you shared, that in two years the Royals would go into the season with this projected lineup:

Alex Gordon, in the last guaranteed year of his contract, still just 31, aging as well as you would expect from the fitness freak.
Billy Butler, also in his contract year, 29 years old.
Eric Hosmer, who would play the entire season at 25.
Mike Moustakas, who would be 26 years old, turn 27 late in the season.
Salvador Perez, who would turn 25 in May.
Alcides Escobar, who would be 28.
And yes, Wil Myers, the youngest of the bunch, at 24 years old.

Ignore Escobar, who’s on that list because of his glove. The other six hitters on that list would all be capable of garnering MVP votes, and they would all be right in their prime – except for Gordon, the others would all be between 24 and 29 years old.

Mind you, we wouldn’t even need to wait until 2015 to see that lineup – we would have probably seen it this coming May. But in 2013, you could argue that the lineup was just too inexperienced to take flight – Myers, Perez, Moustakas, and Hosmer will  all be 24 or younger. By 2015, they would be approaching the peak of their powers, and Gordon and Butler would still be close to theirs.

In center field, the Royals might have Lorenzo Cain (29 years old), or they might even have Bubba Starling (22 years old) ready by mid-season. Come up with a second baseman that doesn’t totally suck, and that might be the best offense in team history. Oh, and they’d still have everyone in their current bullpen. All they would need is a rotation that’s even mediocre, and they’d be giving off a distinct mid-1990s Cleveland Indians vibe.

Instead, in 2015 they won’t have Myers, and they won’t have Shields either. Maybe this trade moves up the Royals’ timetable a little. But taking Myers out of the equation puts a serious hurt on my dream of an AL Central dynasty. I got greedy; sue me. (It doesn’t help that Sports Illustrated decided to troll Royals fans by publishing this in their current issue.)

It’s time for me to put this trade behind me, and focus on where the Royals stand today. I’m fond of using Shakespeare’s line about how “What’s past is prologue”; as a Royals fan, if you always focused on what’s past, you’d drive yourself crazy. Instead of dwelling on how we got here, better to focus on where we are, and where we’re headed. The fact that Wil Myers was once a Royal no longer matters. What matters is whether a rotation headlined by James Shields, Ervin Santana, Jeremy Guthrie, and Wade Davis – and a lineup that now features Jeff Francoeur, for good or ill – is good enough to reach the playoffs.

So I’m going to – calmly, I hope – distill my criticisms of the trade one last time, and then I’m done. If things go sour later, believe me, you will hear from me – but I’ll at least wait for that to happen before reopening the wound. And I hope the only times I discuss my criticism of the trade in the future are when I laugh at myself for being so stupid as to lose my head over the very move that ended a quarter-century of suffering.

My objections to the trade boil down to the fact that he people who support the trade from the Royals’ perspective are, I believe, making four mistakes:

1) They highlight the risks inherent in Wil Myers because he’s a prospect, but ignore the risks inherent in James Shields because he’s a pitcher.

I thought David Cameron did an excellent job of expanding on this point. It is, in fact, true that Wil Myers is not a sure thing. He could be a disappointment, or a flat-out bust. He could be Delmon Young. He could be Brandon Wood. While my quick-and-dirty look at previous Baseball America Minor League Players of the Year pointed out that 12 of the last 14 hitters so named went on to become excellent major-leaguers*, given the small sample size that may overstate his success rate a little.

*: On 810 WHB, I shorthanded that to say “12 of the 14 hitters went on to become stars”, which led to extensive analysis from my friends on The Program on whether guys like Alex Gordon and Matt Wieters are “stars”. I’d argue that this is a discussion over semantics that is missing the bigger point, but to be clear: yes, they are stars in my book.

Gordon ranked in the top 10 in the AL in bWAR each of the last two years – yes, even in 2012, thanks to his Gold Glove defense, his league-leading 51 doubles, and his .368 OBP. It took him a while, but he’s become a fantastic ballplayer. Wieters is a little more debatable, because he hasn’t met the (admittedly insane) offensive expectations that were placed on him. He’s a slightly above-average hitter – who has also won back-to-back Gold Gloves behind the plate. He’s also very durable; he’s been first or second in the AL in starts behind the plate for three years running. He was named an All-Star each of the last two years. Baseball-Reference says he’s averaged 4 WAR over the last two years, which is right about where I draw the line for “star”.

But again: we’re missing the point. Whether Wieters is just beyond that line, or just in front of it, I hope we can all agree that he’s a hell of a ballplayer that most every team would be thrilled to call their own.

Two years ago, Scott McKinney tried to restrain our irrational exuberance over the Royals’ farm system by looking at the success rates of top prospects, and found that the success rate of Top 100 Prospects as a whole was quite low (about 31% overall). But even he found that the success rate of a specific subset of prospects – Top 20 hitting prospects – was 61%, about double that. Given that prospect analysis has improved over time (in my opinion), and that Myers is clearly a Top 10 prospect if not Top 5, and it’s safe to say his success rate is probably a little higher than that.

But yes, he absolutely could fail to live up to expectations in the future. But you know what? So could James Shields. So could every player in the major leagues. There is no such thing as a sure thing. This notion that “sure Myers is a great prospect, but he hasn’t proven a thing in the majors – Shields has” is inexplicable to me. You don’t trade for a guy’s past – you trade for his future. And one of the best things that analytics has brought to baseball – and that analytic-driven teams excel at – is the understanding that every player has risk, and the key is quantifying it and valuing players accordingly.

For every Delmon Young, there’s a Dan Haren, who a year ago was the same age Shields was this season (30), and a better pitcher – from 2007 through 2011 he averaged 228 innings and a 3.33 ERA. In 2012 he suffered back and hip ailments, his performance suffered, and the Angels didn’t even pick up his $12 million option for next year (granted, I thought they were fools to do so, and the Nationals actually paid him more than $12 million on a one-year deal).

For every Brandon Wood, there’s a Jon Garland, who was 30 years old in 2010, and threw 200 innings with a 3.47 ERA for the Padres; it was his ninth straight year with 32 starts. He made all of nine starts in 2011 before undergoing surgery on his labrum and rotator cuff – he hasn’t pitched since.

Jon Garland was no James Shields, you say. Fine – how about Chris Carpenter? At age 30, in 2005, Carpenter won the NL Cy Young Award. In 2006 he repeated with another excellent season, finishing third in the Cy Young race. After that season he signed a five-year, $63.5 million extension with the Cardinals, even though he wasn’t a free agent for another year. He made one start in 2007 before his elbow came up lame, he required Tommy John surgery, his rehab was slowed by some shoulder issues, and he pitched just 15 innings in 2008 – two completely lost seasons, basically. He was brilliant again from 2009 on – but if Shields blows out his elbow in April, it doesn’t matter what he does in 2015, because he’ll be gone by then.

The Royals traded for Shields because over the past two seasons he has averaged 238 innings with a 3.15 ERA. If you could guarantee me right now that Shields will average 238 innings with a 3.15 ERA over the next two years, I would withdraw my objections to the trade. If you could guarantee me 210 innings with a 3.40 ERA, I would withdraw my objections. But you can’t. Shields is a 31-year-old starting pitcher, and 31-year-old starting pitchers, as a group, are no less risky than 22-year-old outfielders. Even ones who haven’t yet played in the major leagues yet.

Hedging that risk a little is the chance that Wade Davis might be an improved pitcher in his second crack at being a starting pitcher. But in return, the Royals also accepted the risk that any of three other prospects might come back to haunt them. The risk that Myers fails is probably not much higher than the risk that Odorizzi, Montgomery, or Leonard succeeds in becoming an impact player in the major leagues.

2) They overstate how much the trade improves the Royals in 2013.

This trade was all about moving up the Royals’ window of contention, yes? This trade was about winning in 2013, right? And in terms of upgrading the Royals’ rotation, it certainly does that. But the Royals give back a good deal of that improvement by locking themselves in to Jeff Francoeur in right field.

I don’t expect Francoeur to hit .235/.287/.378 again, and if he does, I don’t expect him to come to the plate 603 times again. Bob Dutton – who has nobly suffered shots at the messenger for repeatedly stating things like “the Royals absolutely plan to bring Luke Hochevar back”, has nonetheless clearly stated that Francoeur is on a quick hook in 2013. I believe that, and I believe that the Royals are perfectly aware of just how bad he was this season (at least offensively – they may still believe his arm outweighs his poor range in the field).

Royals right fielders as a whole hit .241/.290/.377 in 2012, counting the occasional non-Francoeur start. That will probably be better in 2013, either owing to improvement from Francoeur, or because they’ll search out a replacement in May if he doesn’t. But it might not be a lot better. The difference in what we can expect from right field today, and what we could expect from right field three weeks ago, is probably worth 1-2 wins in the standings.

The Royals are still a better team for 2013 than they were before the trade. But they’re not improved enough to justify trading a potential star player. Especially given my next point:

3) They overlook the fact that the Royals could have improved their rotation without making this trade.

One of the lesser storylines from this trade is that after whipsawing back and forth all off-season, we can once again re-direct our ire away from David Glass. The payroll isn’t at $85 million, as I think it should be, but it’s somewhere around $79 million, close enough that I’m not going to harp too much on the owner at the moment. It’s the highest payroll in the team’s history.

So forgive me for reiterating the obvious yet again: given that Dayton Moore could raise the payroll to this range, he could have signed a free agent starting pitcher without giving up a single player (or even draft pick) in return. Anibal Sanchez, who was supposed to be out of range for the Royals, got $16 million a year from the Tigers. The Royals are paying $14.9 million for Shields and Luke Hochevar combined. Factor in that the Royals might go fishing for a cheap outfield option as Francoeur insurance – that they wouldn’t need if they kept Myers – and it’s basically a wash.

After getting outbid by the Tigers on Sanchez, the Cubs gave Edwin Jackson, long a target of mine, 4 years, and $52 million. Even if the Royals wanted to keep Hochevar, Jackson is making less in 2013 than Shields and Davis combined will make. Yeah, the Royals acquired two starting pitchers instead of one – but right now, they don’t have room for both Bruce Chen and Hochevar, meaning that Chen might wind up getting paid $4.5 million to pitch long relief. And if they don’t make this trade, they still have Odorizzi.

One of the most common defenses I’ve seen about the Royals is that they had to trade for good starting pitching, because no free agent worth his salt would ever come to Kansas City unless they vastly overpaid. To which I reply: THE CHICAGO CUBS LOST ONE HUNDRED AND ONE GAMES LAST YEAR. They thought they had Anibal Sanchez signed, until he let the Tigers get last crack at him – but in the end, he didn’t sign with the Tigers because they’re a winner, but because they offered him the most money. The Cubs offered him 5/$75 million; the Tigers matched. The Cubs then offered him 5/$77.5; Detroit raised to 5/$80, and the Cubs folded.

They then turned around and made Edwin Jackson a better offer than the other 29 teams, and guess what? He signed with the team that gave him the most money. Imagine that.

It’s certainly true that, all things equal, free agents would prefer to sign with a team who they feel has made a commitment to being a winner. But you know the best way a team can show that commitment to a free agent? By offering him more money to sign than anyone else.

If the Royals would have had a tough time convincing a free agent that they were serious about winning next year, that time would have been in November, before they had made any off-season moves. You might remember that I was, on the whole, positive about the Ervin Santana trade and the Jeremy Guthrie signing, even though both pitchers were probably overpaid a little on a pure market basis. One of the main reasons for my positivity was that, in acquiring those pitchers early in the off-season, it ought to have made it easier to convince a truly premier free agent pitcher to sign, knowing that the Royals had already made over their starting rotation, and that his signing would have completed, not begun, that process.

It’s not exactly a secret in the industry that the Royals have a young, exciting offense and a bullpen filled with flamethrowers. It wouldn’t have been hard to convince a Sanchez or a Jackson that signing with Kansas City would complete an above-average rotation, and an above-average roster, in a very winnable division. The downside to signing someone like Jackson is that, the longer the contract, the more risk there is that he gets hurt or loses effectiveness, and you’re paying $13 million for a useless pitcher. But even in the worst-case scenario, the fact that you’re overpaying a starting pitcher is mitigated by the fact that your above-average right fielder – the one you didn’t trade to acquire a starting pitcher – is vastly underpaid.

But let’s say that the Royals already knew that Sanchez and Jackson had, for whatever reason, crossed Kansas City off their list. So what? There are plenty of fish in the sea. Brandon McCarthy just signed with the Diamondbacks for 2 years and $15.5 million. His ERA the last two years (3.29) is almost as good as Shields’ is. Sure, he’s not durable at all, but he’s 60% of the price and he doesn’t cost you Wil Myers! (Besides, you really just need him to hold up until July, when Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino return.)

Don’t like McCarthy? Shaun Marcum is still out there. Ryan Dempster settled for 2 years and $26.5 million from the Red Sox, just a hair more than the Royals reportedly offered him. Dan Haren was out there. Francisco Liriano was out there. Kyle Lohse is still out there, not that I think he’s worth the money. Carlos Villanueva would have been a decent fit, and he signed with the Cubs, who are putting on a clinic on how to makeover your rotation through free agency without overpaying.

Are the Royals a better team in 2013 with James Shields and Wade Davis? Yes. Are they a better team with Shields and Davis but without Myers and Odorizzi? Yes, but not as much. But are they a better team with Shields and Davis but without Myers, Odorizzi, and the starting pitcher they could have signed with the money they’ve added to the payroll? Honestly, I’m not sure.

And that’s the tragedy in all this. If the Royals had not been so fixated on the idea of adding an “ace”, they might have realized that adding a #2/3 starter and replacing their broken right fielder would have improved their team in 2013 as much as acquiring the fabled Division Series Game One Starter. Jonah Keri wrote about this angle – the Royals trade was, ultimately, a failure to think outside the box, because the Royals could only see their options in terms of “acquire an ace” or “lose again in 2013”.

Which leads to my last point:

4) They assume that this trade makes the Royals a contender in 2013.

If the Royals make the playoffs in 2013 – assuming they do so because of, not despite, Shields and Davis – then the ultimate price may be worth it. So the value of making this trade comes down to how much it increases the Royals’ chances of winning the division. (They could earn a Wild Card spot, but the addition of the woeful Astros to the AL West gives that division a leg up on at least one, if not both, of those berths.)

In my opinion, this trade doesn’t improve the Royals’ chances enough to justify the deal. If the goal was simply to have a winning record, then this trade increases those odds significantly. But I’m sorry, I know how starved we are as Royals fans for a team that’s even respectable, but you don’t trade Wil Myers so that you can win 82 games in 2013.

Most simulations have the Royals as around an 85-win team now; this one has the Royals at 84-78. I’m predicting the Royals at 86-76 at the moment, because I’m still an optimist. And I don’t want to downplay the significance of that. The Royals haven’t outscored their opponents since 1994. They haven’t won 85 games since 1989.

But you don’t trade one of the game’s best prospects to get to 85 wins. That simulation above had the Tigers at 91-71, and that’s before Anibal Sanchez signed. There’s a lot of variance in projections, of course, and even if the Royals’ true talent level is pegged, sometimes you just get lucky. If the Royals play as much above their talent level in 2013 as the Orioles did in 2012, they’ll win the division – but if they get that lucky, they would have won the division with or without the Shields trade.

The Royals have a shot of winning the division in 2013, because their offense is so young and talented that it could improve dramatically in one off-season. Eric Hosmer, who was terrible in 2012, could be an All-Star caliber first baseman in 2013. Mike Moustakas could learn to stop popping up that inside high fastball and his offense could take as dramatic a step forward next year as his glove did this year. Salvador Perez could stay healthy and play 140 games. If all three of those things happen, the Royals will be 10 games better instantly, and now they're a contender.

But if you agree with me that the Royals' wealth of young hitters gives them a chance to improve dramatically, then you have to agree that letting Wil Myers play right field might also have improved them dramatically. You can't claim Hosmer and Moustakas and Perez are the biggest reasons why the Royals could go from 72 wins to the playoffs, without acknowledging that Myers was another big reason as well. Either you believe in young hitters or you don't. If the Royals were smart to trade Myers because he's not likely to pan out, then they were wrong for trading him because the young hitters they kept probably won't pan out either and they'll miss the playoffs anyway.

I’d say the Royals have about a 25% chance of winning the AL Central right now. Before the trade, I’d have pegged their chances at around 15%. (But mind you, that’s without signing any free agent pitchers with the Shields money.) You don’t trade Wil Myers for an extra 10% chance of winning the division.

Contrast that to the Blue Jays trading for R.A. Dickey. I will admit – the Blue Jays gave up a ton of talent for Dickey, more than I thought it would take, and reinforces the opinion that elite starting pitching is very, very expensive. But let’s look at the differences in the two trades:

1) Travis D’Arnaud is an excellent prospect, but he’s not quite as excellent as Wil Myers. He’s nearly two years older than Myers, and he missed half of last season with knee problems, and his numbers in 2012 were inflated by playing in a terrific hitters’ environment in Las Vegas.

2) Noah Syndergaard looks like a better prospect than Jake Odorizzi, and certainly has a higher upside. But this is where the historical performance of prospects – pitching prospects – is useful. The reality is that the vast majority of pitchers who look like potential front-of-the-rotation guys when they’re in A-ball fall by the wayside. Trading an A-ball stud while he’s at the peak of his value is almost always the smart play. When the Top Prospects lists come out, I expect Syndergaard and Odorizzi to be very close in the rankings.

3) Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard, combined, are worth more than Wuilmer Becerra, and not just because I know how to pronounce their names.

4) The Blue Jays turned John Buck into Josh Thole, a not-insignificant upgrade behind the plate, both in terms of cost and performance.

5) Dickey, as I wrote about here, and again at Grantland last week, is a legitimate #1 starter who suffers from the bias against knuckleball pitchers. He was a better pitcher than Shields this past season. He’s been a better pitcher than Shields over the past two seasons. He’s been better over the past three seasons. Before that Shields was better, but Dickey hadn’t mastered the knuckleball yet. And despite his age, I think Dickey’s going to be the better pitcher for the next several years to come.

6) One of the reasons the Blue Jays were willing to give up so much for Dickey was that he was willing to sign an extension – an extension, it turned out, that included a club option. So while the Royals have Shields for just two years, the Jays have Dickey for four.

7) Dickey makes less money ($5 million) in 2013 than Shields ($10.25 million). He’ll make less ($12 million) in 2014 than Shields ($13 million). And he’s signed for 2015 for $12 million with another $12 million option in 2016. The Blue Jays have the reigning NL Cy Young winner for four years without ever having to pay him more than $12 million.

The Royals’ one advantage in the deal is that they also got Wade Davis. If Davis becomes an above-average starter, that’s a big advantage. If he has to return to the bullpen and be Aaron Crow, not so much.

But the biggest reason why the Jays’ trade makes sense and the Royals’ trade doesn’t has nothing to do with trading for Dickey. It’s everything the Blue Jays had already done this off-season. Their acquisition of Dickey was set up by signing Melky Cabrera, and Maicer Izturis, and above all, by acquiring Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio from the Marlins.

The Blue Jays and Royals had virtually identical records in 2012; Toronto won one more game than Kansas City, and had a run differential two runs better. But before acquiring Dickey, they had already improved their roster by at least 10 wins – easily the most of any team in baseball. Adding Dickey tips them into being a legitimate 90-win team; adding Shields and Davis did nothing of the sort for the Royals.

It’s still December, and a lot can change, and the pundits can be wrong. But most pundits agree that the Blue Jays are the favorites to win the AL East in 2013.

Those same pundits agree that the Tigers are the team to beat in the AL Central. In order for the Royals to prove the pundits wrong on the Myers trade, they need to prove them wrong on the AL Central standings next year.

They certainly could do that. But I don’t think they will; I’m one of those pundits, after all. And I’m hardly the only one. I’ve heard the divide between people who think the Royals did well in the trade and the people who think the Royals got snookered being described as a divide between mainstream media and “bloggers”, whatever a “blogger” is at this point. (The word should be retired at this point. It is useless at best, and misleading at worst.)

But that’s not the case. The divide is simply between industry insiders and outside, objective, dare I say sabermetric analysts. Keith Law was so critical of the Royals that Bob Nightengale at USA TODAY contacted Dayton Moore and got a testy reply. Joe Sheehan, in his Newsletter, compared Moore to the newbie in your fantasy league that gets his roster picked apart by the experienced players. Rob Neyer debated whether this trade ranks among the worst in Royals history. Jonah Keri criticized the deal, but nicely, because he’s Canadian. Joe Posnanski criticized the deal, but nicely, because he’s Joe Posnanski.

The most positive remarks I saw from analysts were those who praised the Royals for recognizing the time had come to switch from simply amassing future talent to trying to win in the here and now. But even those analysts were much less optimistic about the details of the trade itself. John Sickels made a cool Civil War reference which I liked, and he’s right – you can’t be George McClellan all the time. At some point, you have to stop preparing for battle and actually engage the enemy. But even when the time for battle has come, discretion is still the better part of valor. I mean, Pickett’s Charge was bold and decisive. It was also reckless and foolish, and man, it sure was decisive.

Over at Baseball Prospectus, Ben Lindbergh made a really interesting comparison of this trade to another one – to the time that the Rays traded away the star young outfielder, Delmon Young, in order to improve their pitching by adding a starter (Matt Garza) and upgrading their defense (Jason Bartlett). He quoted a writer who said, the day after the trade was made, that:

“With this deal, the Rays have shifted from collecting talent to forming it into a baseball team, and this trade shows how seriously they take the process. Trading a player with the perceived value of Young is never easy, but with it they’ve leveraged a gap between that perceived value and what he actually is to make their team better.”

That’s exactly how the Delmon Young trade worked out, and it set the Rays on a path towards an AL pennant and three playoff appearances in five years. The problem is this: the person who wrote those words, Joe Sheehan, is the same person who keeps texting me at random times just to remind me how stupid this trade was for Kansas City. (Seriously, stop it, Joe. I get it.)

And that’s it. I’ve said my piece. What’s past is prologue. This trade is done, it’s over, it’s a fait accompli. (Or as distinguished reader Gershon Marx put it, a fail accompli.) I will speak no more ill of this trade until the season begins and we have a chance to see how it works out. In my next column, in fact, I’ll talk about the things I do like about this trade, because that’s just who I am.

And I really, truly, honestly hope that, come next October, I’m eating crow and singing Dayton Moore’s praises and asking myself how I could have possibly been so critical and mean about a trade that has worked out so well. Honestly.

I’d love to be proven wrong. I just don’t think I will. But maybe this is the time the Royals surprise me. In a good way, I mean.

71 comments:

kaut67 said...

This is a trade that assumes players are who they were or weren't in 2012.
Ervin Santana has to not be the player he was in 2012. Same for Hosmer and to a degree, Moose.
On the other hand, Shields and Escobar both have to play like its 2012.
Moore has made a huge gamble that he can tell you what year a player is in. Unfortunately, if this lineup plays like its 2012, the 2013 Royals aren't going to the playoffs.

StJohn said...

Mentioning Ryan Dempster as a realistic option to front a playoff roster is crazy talk. Marcum? Jackson? These pitchers are "close" to Shields, but not close enough to beat other top pitchers in the playoffs.

You want to build a winner? You have to build a team that can win a playoff series. This team could do that. Now they just have to get there--even without the Messiah in RF.

StJohn said...

Mentioning Ryan Dempster as a realistic option to front a playoff roster is crazy talk. Marcum? Jackson? These pitchers are "close" to Shields, but not close enough to beat other top pitchers in the playoffs.

You want to build a winner? You have to build a team that can win a playoff series. This team could do that. Now they just have to get there--even without the Messiah in RF.

ArthurKC said...
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ArthurKC said...

All I want for Christmas is a pair of Google Glasses for the 2013 season with real-time spray charts and stats for Wil Myers so I can flip it on every time Francouer comes to the plate.

jmcgowan said...

Your sentiments are the same ones that I, as a Cub fan, had when:
They hired Dusty Baker (I still remember Gary Huckabay extending his condolences to Kerry Wood and Mark Prior);
They signed Jacque Jones;
They signed Alfonso Soriano for the rest of the 21st century;
They traded the farm for Matt Garza.
I could go on, but you get the point. It's really tough when the team you love does things that you know, objectively, don't make sense. It's the curse of knowing, and thinking. Keep it up, though; it's worth it.

Jack said...

Trading the farm for Matt Garza is the big one there-- in fact, I'd argue that was an even worse case of a GM succumbing to Moral Hazard. I wish there were a more delicate way of putting that, because I understand that by all accounts, Jim Hendry is an absolute class act, but if anything, that further proves that GMs are simply behaving rationally when, under certain circumstances, they pay a premium for wins in the near term, and that doesn't make them a bad, or immoral person.

But the 2011 Cubs probably stood even less a chance to make the playoffs than do the 2013 Royals. Granted, they didn't give up a talent like Wil Myers, but Hak-Ju Lee, and Chris Archer are still very good prospects, and Brandon Guyer may very well become a contributor in the big leagues. Robinson Chirinos, maybe not so much, but my point is, Jim Hendry paying the price for Matt Garza is about as good an example of Moral Hazard in MLB as you're likely to find.

Jack said...

BTW-- excellent read, Rany. The passion you have for the Royals makes me hope they win some games in 2013, if only for your sake.

Antonio. said...

I'd say you don't build a team to win a play off series. You build a team to get to the play offs. What happens then is a crapshoot.

StJohn said...

The point is, you can field a team with 4 #3 pitchers and a good offense and probably win enough games against the bad teams to grab a playoff birth. However, what good is it if you are out classed by the other playoff teams and lose in three?

If you build a team that can match up with playoff rotations, you have a chance to be the recent versions of the Giants or the '85 Royals?

Chris Esch said...

I was upset when Barry Sanders retired because I knew he had more in the tank. It was the first time I became aware of the publics insistance on being entertained. We hold people in contempt for choosing not to entertain us. Rany, I promise I won't do that to you. I enjoy your writing, but I know you don't owe me/us anything.

Your analysis of the trade is not wrong. We could have kept Myers and recreated Sheilds production (to some degree) with a free agent.

But, I have also been a Royals fan since I moved to KC in 1997. It just felt good to look at a projected rotation and not feel nauseous. And then it felt like you sucker punched us. Only you didn't because we knew pretty much how you felt beforehand. You were just being honest which is why most people enjoy your analysis.

But I have to be honest too. It felt like a little much. I (mis)posted this on your 2-word review: James Shields deserves better than you gave him. He deserves better than Rob Neyer gave him. (I think JoePos got it about right.)

We once traded Carlos Beltran for John Buck. OK, Mark Teahen was the key piece; but John Buck became the most valuable assest in that trade.

We once traded Jermaine Dye for Neifi Perez.

Those trades set the stage for the Royals to go on one of the worst stretches in baseball history. There simply is no comparison to what just happened.

I basically agree with your analysis, but I am on board with the trade because we have no choice and it COULD work. I'll be angry in retrospect, not in advance.

Antonio. said...

The point is adding some talent to a 72-win team is going to bump you to a pretender, which is all you and the Royals are doing. Going halfway, which is what a team with Chen/Hoche/Frenchy/Getz is doing, defeats the purpose. There is a no-man's land in baseball and the Royals are in it. And Shields isnt' any more of a guarantee v Verlander/Hernandez than is Marcum or the other guys at which you scoff. Shields actually is barely enough to offset the difference between Myers/Frenchy, and maybe not even that.

Antonio. said...

And those damned Giants had above average offense, no matter how dismissive people like to be of them.

Mark said...

Welcome back, Rany--I was afraid you had quit. This entry is actually gracious as well as the usual thoughtful.

Antonio hits the proverbial nail with his snarky crack about "Chen/Hoche/Frenchy/Getz." But why is everyone assuming Frenchy will be in right when it's still December (and aren't we all a little weird to be writing about baseball on the 25th of December? OK, Rany has an out.) We all know Moore has contacted the Rockies and offered Hochevar to a team desperate for pitching, and apparently Dexter Fowler is in play. Obviously it will take more work and more than Hoch, but pick up Fowler and play either him or Lorenzo in right, and you can trade Frenchy to someone, surely, in a salary dump. So I'm just wondering why the lineup is in cement already.

Antonio. said...

Until Dayton shows he knows better, why take that leap..?

I'd like another... said...
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I'd like another... said...

1
P.S. Listening, begrudgingly, to multiple KC talk radio (self-described) fatties single you out at the leader for the opposition to the “RAH-RAH-SIS-BOOM-BAH, We’re going to win now” campain had me feeling quite cheated. When they diviate from the issue at hand to label the opposition, it usually means they just didn’t prepare enough material to fill the segment. (See what I did there, I labeled them fatties. Oh, the irony.)


Unknown said...

I can't believe I am saying this but I am beginning to get a little tired of the 1985 Royals references here. I loved them as much as or more than anyone as I then lived with Cardinal fans at college in Rolla. Winning was just so sweet.

But it's BEEN LIKE 27 YEARS NOW.

What's worse is that I keep hearing the 1985 Royals as the examples of how one should build a champion team. It just IS NOT. Those Royals scored 687 runs and allowed 639. Those are not close to average stats for a team that wins its division - let alone goes and wins the World Series. The run differential of 48 typically would produce a team going about 85-77 or 86-76, not 91-71. They played in a weak division.

So, this year's Royals might wind up being as good as the 1985 Royals and come nowhere near the playoffs. If they outscore their opponents by 48 runs they will likely finish about 85-77 and finish 10 games back of the Tigers. So, if they over-perform their Pythag and go 91-71 they might easily still miss the playoffs by 5 or more games.

We need to stop comparing against the 1985 Royals and start comparing against the probability of the 2013 Tigers and 2013 White Sox and 2013 Indians and 2013 Twins. Rany seemed optimistic to me when he said we have about a 25% chance of winning the division. I see it being closer to 20% (up from about 10% pre-trade).

The problem - Hosmer, Moose et al could take a big step forward, the rotation could be as good as advertized and we might win 90 games and still miss. I'd be THRILLED at 90 wins. Do I think that is going to be good enough? I'd say that would win the division in maybe 40% of the possible scenarios.

To be clear favorites the projected wins really need to be 95. I just don't see anything like that.

Phaedrus said...
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Phaedrus said...

Rany, you take yourself WAY too seriously.

Unknown said...

Anyone out there think the Royals should sign Michael Bourn????

Loserville said...

Ok, I hate the trade again...Thanks Rany

thomasj19 said...

Thanks Rany, great analysis and maybe we can both be wrong and the Royals will finally win but I doubt it.

Antonio. said...

Good comment on the '85 Royals. Great, the team overcame serious odds to win the Championship. Those odds are understated whenever that team is held up as some sort of saving grace. I understand why with rebuttal being "the point is to win the championship" and the longing of being a play off team. But it's also dismissive of the better '77 team, which had great balance of good hitting and slightly better pitching.

Lark11 said...

Good read, as always, Rany. I do, however, have to question this point:

"You can't claim Hosmer and Moustakas and Perez are the biggest reasons why the Royals could go from 72 wins to the playoffs, without acknowledging that Myers was another big reason as well. Either you believe in young hitters or you don't. If the Royals were smart to trade Myers because he's not likely to pan out, then they were wrong for trading him because the young hitters they kept probably won't pan out either and they'll miss the playoffs anyway."

I don't see any reason why all "young hitters" should properly be lumped together. Why shouldn't each young hitter be judged on his individual merits? Why can't you believe in SOME young hitters and not others? Maybe the Royals, rightly or wrongly, don't believe in Myers as much as their other young hitters.

Unless I missed something, I don't think this premise holds up.

That said, I do think the trade was a mistake.

Unknown said...

'Either you believe in young hitters or you don't." I don't agree. Good teams have scouting and analysis to help them distinguish gold from fool's gold. We just won't know for a couple of years which of Moustakas, Homer and Meyers is headed for a better career, but they aren't equal.

Teams may already have a better idea than independent analysts have. I heard Kevin Goldstein say that the public information about players is probably about 10% of what the industry has. When we see a divide between outside analysts and insiders, each group has its advantages.

Lance said...

My hope is that James Shields toughness will permeate the entire pitching staff. I'd argue that the best teams have at least one tough guy starting pitcher leading by example. Matt Cain in San Francisco, Adam Wainwright in St Louis and of course Justin Verlander in Detroit. They rise to the occasion when they are challenged.They find a way to get outs when they don't have their best stuff. Kevin Appier kind of guys. Gil Meche had some of it too. They are the antithesis of a Luke Hochever. That kind of mindset can rub off in sports. Ray Lewis - Michael Jordan kind of toughness. And I think Wade Davis has a lot of that toughness too. My bold prediction is that some point in mid to late May, James Shields is going to pull Luke off to the side and say, 'Quit being a pu**y out there. You're playing scared. You've got the stuff. Go use it.' This will be a big turn around year for Luke.

bjpatek said...

RJ,

To me, the most precise way to judge this trade will be the value WM brings to the Rays,(and vice versa)as opposed to whether JS helps the Royals make the playoffs.

If Myers is anything but a superstar, even if JS simply makes baseball fun on Sept 1st...then I'd argue the Royals received good, perhaps more, value.

Mirage or not.....2003 was EXCITING. It has value. ALOT of value. For me, anyway. Even a hint of being in a pennant race in Sept is something so rare for a Royals fan that it's worth a high risk, IMO.

I'm not saying that a more clever GM could not have done better. Even a dermatologist can construct scenarios that are superior. ;) But this is a risk I don't mind taking, as I've grown very weary of having to wait for next year.

Monty said...

Rany, always enjoy reading your work. I believe most of the pitchers you mention carry the same risks as Shields and Davis. Wil Myers and the other prospects also carry risks. Will they realize their potential? Will they suffer career ending injuries? We have already seen varying degrees of success with prospects. My initial disappoint with trading Myers has been replaced with excitement over the coming season. I actually feel for the first time in years we can compete. I took my daughters to the All Star game festivities and long to take them to games where the crowd is excited about the game and not that games free item. I am glad to see the Royals trying to win, even though there is room for us all to disagree with some of the methods. Barring injuries this should be a much improved pitching staff. Now it is time for the position players to step it up, maybe we get lucky and Frenchy hits better since it is a contract year. Keep up the good work!

Antonio. said...

Rany wasn't saying anything like what some have misread his comments to be. What he was saying that if you're going to make the point, "Well, he (Myers) is just a prospect and prospects bust..," then you have to make the same point about Hosmer, Moose, Perez and so forth. He was invalidating the point of "Myers is just a prospect, thus likely to fail".

Lark11 said...

Antonio,

I'm not sure I can agree. I don't think that's what he was trying to say. If it was, then there are still two problems.

The first is the same as the current problem, substituting the word "prospect" in for "young hitter" doesn't change the underlying problem. It still doesn't make sense to paint all these players with the same brush. You can evaluate them individually and draw different conclusions on each. Regardless of which label you apply, it's still not an all or nothing proposition.

The second problem is that Hosmer, Moustakas, and Perez really AREN'T the same as Myers. The aforementioned three have had some measure of success at the MLB level. Myers hasn't even arrived yet. It's hard to argue that players who have had MLB success have the same risk of flaming out as a player who hasn't reached the majors yet.

At one point, Travis Snider was the 6th overall prospect in the minors. He had very good numbers at all levels of the minors and "age vs. level" on his side. Regardless, he was exposed at the MLB level and had to go back down to the minors to rework his swing. He's still trying to find MLB success. Admittedly, I would rate Myers over Snider, but it's still difficult to know what a prospect will do at the MLB level.

All that said, personally, I'd definitely take Myers over Moustakas and Perez. And, I'd probably take him over Hosmer, as Myers is probably the most complete hitter of the group.

Even so, I just don't think that particular section of Rany's argument holds up.

But, that's just my $.02!

Best,
Lark

Antonio. said...

He's not the one that was painting them with the same brush.


Also, while they do have some measure of success which he does not have, they also have a larger measure of failure--more failure than success--which he also does not have. And when looking at where they do compare, Myers beats them all.

Kris Alan Higdon said...

Rany, the problem with your analysis is you assume the Royals could just go out and sign a player like Marcum or any other pitcher. When was the last time the Royals signed a pitcher of Marcum's quality? If they were able to sign him, it would be at an extreme overpayment. Given what Liriano sign for this past week, it might cost the same $ for fewer years for him than Guthrie. And if they couldn't sign him, they go into a season with Ervin Santana or Guthrie as opening day starter.

Second, why does everyone ignore Myers high strike-out rate and low walk rate? Hosmer walked at a much greater rate in the minors and struck out much less. Baseball history is littered with players hitting for big power in the minors with high strike-out and low walk rate. Is Myers really that much different than Brandon Wood was at the same point in his career?

The real fear of this trade, the real way the Royals lose big is if Mike Montgomery turns it around. With any trade there is risk. The given risks in this trade for the Royals are that Myers becomes a superstar and that Shields injuries his arm and is never the same. But, if Myers becomes a superstar and Shields is a bad-ass the trade is a win for both. But if both those things happen AND Montgomery flourishes into a top starter, the Royals lose this trade horribly. There is nothing Shields can do to make up that ground. There is nothing Wade Davis, short of becoming a multiple time Cy Young winner, can do to make up that ground.

Finally, why are people so worried about 2015? Seriously. By the time 2015 rolls around the Royals farm system could have multiple players that make us forget all about Myers. By 2015 we could have Mondesi, Bubba, Cuthbert and Bonifacio ready to replace the guys we will be losing. Who knows what can happen by that time. Great pitching wins over great hitting. Having Myers on the 2015 team won't mean a thing if the team still had a rotation like that in 2012.

Simon said...

Yo, Kobe beta than Jordan. -Rany.

geoknows said...

Kris Alan -

Hosmer's minor league walk rate: 12.5%. Myers' minor league walk rate: 12.6%. Looks pretty similar to me.

Simon said...

You did get greedy. Top "prospects" are hard to find Rany.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/cover/featured/10098/index.htm

2015? Give me a break.

Unknown said...

Rany,
Do you think that Michael Bourn could put the Royals into a place from which they could genuinely contend (I do)? Do you think there is ANY chance that Moore could be looking to acquire Bourn?

Charles

Kenneth said...

did you really feel you needed to write a column to apologize or justify your reasons for being against ? Those people won't be convinced by your logic. I fear they will look at your list of pitchers referenced and say "James Shields is better than those guys and that's why we won this trade."

I enjoy your writing. I enjoy your insight. Put a donation link on your page. I pay for NPR why wouldn't people donate to you ?

I'd read your writing about any subject. And while I understand why you currently can't write about current Syria, I would absolutely love to read another history lesson on the region.

Thank you for your essay. Can Bob Dutton explain to us why bringing back Hoch is a good idea ? We waited too long with Bannister, we waited too long with Davies ? Is there a history of pitchers with this type of history turning it around or is the new pitching coach Charlie Hough :-)

Kenneth said...

ST John. You are wrong. Reference 2005 White Sox pitching staff. 'nuff said.

Unknown said...

I'm glad that Rany admitted that part of the reason he spewed such vitriol in the Grantland article was because he was miffed that Dayton Moore made the trade after Rany lobbied so hard against it for the two weeks prior to the trade.

Rany, I've enjoyed reading your blog for years. But you went too far this this time. Right now Wil Myers hasn't done anything that Kila Ka'aihue didn't also do. In fact, their minor league numbers are virtually identical. As I recall, you used to eviscerate the Royals for not bringing up Ka'aihue a lot sooner than they' did.

You were wrong about Ka'aihue. You could just as easily be wrong about Wil Myers.

And, if having Shields and Miller here helps create a winning team, that could influence whether or not the Royals will be able to keep guys like Hosmer and Moustakas when they become eligible for free agency.

Unknown said...
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Nathan said...

I am okay with this trade, because Sheilds is one of the top 15-20 starters in the game, and Wade Miller still has upside. However, I think the Royals still need a right fielder if they want to compete in 2012. Could they be in on Justin Upton, Dexter Fowler, or Bourn? The 2013 Royals look like the best team since 1994 (yes, 2003 was a fluke), but they need at least one more piece to truly compete, in my opinion.

Unknown said...

To Unknown 12/29 9:43PM:

Myers = Ka'aihue is so silly. Ka'aihue was 26 in AAA, Myers 21. Have you actually read anything Rany or Rob Neyer or Bill James or ANYONE has written about how age matters?

Antonio. said...

1. While I'm usually not this kind of stickler, how about we not call our new addition Wade Miller? That'd be good for everyone involved! :)

2. Myers, the prospect > Hosmer, the prospect. Better Split, ISO, slugging. Strikes out more, but walks more often.

3. So much talk about rushing prospects hurting them, but never any word about delaying prospects hurting them. Any chance KK (or Huber or any other marginal prospect the Royals allowed to rot in the minors) could have found some semblance of success had the Royals brought them up over playing the Ross Gloads?

Antonio. said...

Oh and 4. A lot of talk about what Myers hasn't accomplished in the majors. Where's the talk about how he hasn't failed in the majors, a la Hosmer/Moose..? They've each shown brilliance, which Myers hasn't been given the opportunity to show, but he also doesn't have the question marks that come with Hosmer/Moose time spent in the bigs.

Gatewaydon said...

Any chance the Royals could get Giancarlo Stanton? Looks like the Marlin's are listening. Send Frenchy, Bubba and Simmer plus $6M.

twm said...

The scorn being heaped on Rany is startling. Seriously, Unknown, Rany went to far? What, did he punch your Mother or something?

Unknown said...

Since unknown (12/29 - 9:43 PM) wants to bring up the Ka'aihue bit.

In 2009 Dayton Moore brought in MIKE JACOBS to avoid playing Ka'aihue. Are you going to argue the Jacobs was better? That was why Rany was so stridently against the Jacobs acquisition. He was predictably going to be bad and was actually worse. The 2009 Royals were not close to any post season so why would you have wasted your time on Mike Jacobs?

I also agree: TOO FAR? What the heck are you talking about?

Fast Eddie said...

Miguel Tejada for $1.1 million? Endy Chavez? Xavier Nady? Willy Taveras? .... Jeff Francoeur? Let's wait and see what wheels fall off in 2013.

Troy Harrison said...

I'm starting to wonder about Rany's unhealthy obsession with Jeff Francoeur. Really? If we don't win in 2013, it's going to be all down to Frenchy?

And Rany's entire "analysis" tends to focus on the idea that there were a bunch of different moves that, if the Royals had made them, it would be better. If my Grandma had had balls, she'd have been my Grandpa. Sometimes you've got to make the moves you can make; not every deal is doable.

Unknown said...

Guys who can't get on base for $200 Alec:

Endy Chavez, Willy Taveras, Jeff Francoeur

What are three less than replacement level players that the Royals will try rather than Wil Myers in 2013?

Unknown said...

So a team that has Willy Taveras and Xavier Nady AND Jeff Francoeur gets Endy Chavez???? WTH?

Unknown said...

Ka'aihue was 24 years old in 2008, not 26. At age 24 Ka'aihue hit .314 with 37 home runs and 100 RBI. At age 21 Myers hit .314 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI.

You can't honestly look back in hindsight and say that Rany didn't consider Ka'aihue to be a great prospect. By the way, Ka'aihue failed miserably in the major leagues.

The point is that Wil Myers is STILL an extremely unproven prospect who struck out way too often in AAA and has never even seen a major league curve ball, much less got a hit off of one.

Could he turn out to be a very good major league player? Sure he could. But this is the same guy who hit .254 with 8 home runs for the entire season in 2011 in AA, so let's stop talking about the guy as if he is Babe Ruth.

There's a much better article on the Grantland web site that explains why this trade had to be made. The article is titled "Future Royalty: The Kansas City Royals may be baseball's team of the future, but what about the present?", and it includes the following quote:

Royals fans know from experience that the road from top prospect to productive major leaguer is long and littered with failure. Like the old line about the forward pass, only three things can happen when you've got a prospect, and two of them — he gets hurt or he's no good — are bad.

The article at Grantland also includes the following analysis of Zack Greinke:

Last winter, around the same time as the Royals' farm system was taking its victory lap, the team traded Greinke. He forced the trade, said he was sick of losing. "There's no reason for me to get real excited about it," Greinke said of the youth movement, "because the chance of more than one of them making a major impact by the time my contract is up is pretty slim."

Obviously the author of this 2011 article understood that sometimes it's important to try to win NOW, if for no other reason than to give your existing players a reason to stay with the team. It's too bad the author forgot that. The author of the 2011 article is a guy named Rany Jazayerli.

Michael said...

I love hearing people over react to minor league deals. Makes me giggle.

Guys, these are depth signings. Most if not all of them will not even play at all for the big league club. They are there for insurance in case of injuries. Nothing to get your panties in a wad about on January 1.

twm said...

The thinking must be that one of them will end up tripping over a renaissance season.

Unknown said...

I can honestly look back and say that Rany was RIGHT about Ka'aihue not being worse than Mike Jacobs and being a whole lot cheaper, too.

Seriously, you're going to defend your "analysis" that Ka'aihue=Myers by saying that in 2008 Ka'ihue was 24 and Myers was 21 in 2012 and they had "the same" season? Really?

Clueless.

Unknown said...

The reason Rany yelled for Ka'aihue to get his shot is we had no better options in the system and Mike Jacobs was provably failing.

twm said...

I am starting to wonder if the Royals might end up 4th in the division in 2013. Detroit is the clear favorite; Chicago improves with the return of Danks and is always kind of a wild card team, hard to project for some reason; and now the Indians are kind of surprising me with their moves, such that enough squinting makes me wonder if they might jump into the conversation as a potential 85-win type team.

I know the "rah-rah" types out there love the Shields trade because it gives us our best pitcher since Greinke, and also because the AL Central is kind of soft so maybe a few key improvements from position players combined with an improved rotation might get us back into +.500 baseball -- and I get that, I disagree, but I get it -- but man, this division all the sudden looks a lot more competitive.

Unknown said...

All right, forget Ka'aihue. The fact remains that Wil Myers is STILL a completely unproven commodity, and unless he is a hell of lot better player than Gordon/Hosmer/Moustakas and figures it out at the major league level a lot quicker than they did, he's not going to be putting up significant numbers in 2013, possibly not even in 2014.

I recently heard someone else say this, and it's remarkably true: Royals fans have been trained to put WAY too much value on their minor league prospects, because that's the only thing we've had to cheer for.

The goal of a major league baseball team is to win at the major league level, not stockpile prospects. This trade makes the Royals better in 2013 and 2014 than they would otherwise be.

Unknown said...

Just curious, Rany: Why did you start moderating comments? I assume you had to because some people just couldn't keep it civil. That's sad. We are all Royals fans.

Unknown said...

Unknown:
Yes, it's true that the Royals put way too much value on many of their prospects. It was certainly true of Ka'aihue - a decent acquisition would have made sense to avoid playing Ka'aihue. BUT - Jacobs wasn't that guy at all.

But degrading Myers because of Ka'aihue or Gordon or any number of other prospects makes little sense. Now, comparing him to Hosmer or Moustakas does make sense.

Myers hitting stats were better than Moustakas in the high minors (more walks). They were about the same overall as Hosmer's. The idea that Myers might develop a little slowly at the major league level makes some sense.

This trade DOES make the Royals better in 2013. I just think we gave up too much to get not better enough. That's all. I'm not saying the trade makes us worse in 2013 or 2014. I'm not saying Myers is the second coming of Ruth. I'm saying that we are definitely now LESS set in 2015 or 2016 which is where Hosmer and Moustakas's and Perez's primes most likely are.

However, in 2015 and 2016 Gordon and Butler will be post-prime.... So, we're going to make a run with 2 players that are in prime and 3 that are still a bit raw.... oh, and Frenchy still here.....

26 years and counting said...

Definition of Moral Hazard (from a recent NY Times article):

"Moral hazard sounds like the name of a video game set in a bordello, but in economic terms it refers to the undue risks that people are apt to take if they don’t have to bear the consequences."

Dayton Moore bears 100% of the risk if this trade doesn't work out in the next two years, since he will undoubtedly be fired. Why do you insist on using the this term so incorrectly in your analysis of the trade? There is no moral hazard here, Moore is playing very much with his currency, i.e. the prospects he developed.

Unknown said...

Isn't it time to change your name, 26?

Unknown said...

True, it's not formally moral hazard, because if a GM doesn't get fired, he will have to bear the consequences of moves with long term costs. However, a GM may still have a personal incentive to give short-term considerations more weight than he would if he were purely looking out for the organization, in order to save his job. I don't think that's what Moore is doing here--but the idea that it could happen to some GMs makes sense.

When most people use the term "moral hazard," they mean that a leader of an organization acts against the interests of the organization for his own personal benefit. It's not correct, but it's fairly common usage, and this is baseball after all, not some deep economic analysis. Everyone knows what Rany means. :)

B1G said...

I'm not sure you are right about it being a moral hazard for Dayton.

Dayton Moore's desire to win now appears also to be the organization's goal. If David Glass has told him to win now, how is it a conflict for Dayton Moore to try to win now?

clashfan said...

Hochevar contract. Discuss.

Michael said...

Not much to discuss. Once he was tendered we knew his contract would be right about where it is. I just wish he wouldn't have been tendered.

Unknown said...

It goes back to what I've said. The problem is not just David Glass. Oh, sure, Glass should open his pocket book wider if he really wants to win, but when it's Dayton Moore spending my money I'd slam that thing shut.

There is NO reason to have offered Hochevar a contract if you were going to trade Wil Myers for pitching. Dayton Moore doesn't understand what the word planning means.

I hope that this contract is not fully guaranteed.... If it is, this represents about 3.8M of David Glass's money more down the drain than if they had gone to arbitration and lost.

Antonio. said...

Maybe Rany wasn't kiddin' about movin' on.

clashfan said...

So, my knowledge of how arbitration and Super Two status works is pretty poor. But this guy was historically bad. Why not go to arbitration, his value gets set at maybe a million dollars, maybe less. Then cut him a check and send him on his way. He can go suck on someone else's 40-man roster.

Antonio. said...

It doesn't work like that. Super Two would have no bearing on Hochevar at this point in his career. And he can't get a contract reduced more than 20%. They shouldn't have tendered him a contract and let him go on his way.