Friday, August 16, 2013

Bad Trade. Good Season.

So I wrote about the Royals for Grantland today; you should probably start there.

I hate to keep referring everything back to the Myers/Shields trade, but I’ve found it’s almost impossible to move on from it, because it shapes everything about how you perceive this season. And I find it personally hard to stop talking about what a mistake the trade was when so many people continue to insist that it wasn’t. Here’s Vahe Gregorian’s column in the Kansas City Star less than two weeks ago: “Even if Myers goes on to the preposterously prosperous career he appears to have before him, and even if the other promising prospects the Royals surrendered in the momentous move ultimately succeed, the deal was a must.”

Um, okay. I guess we’re going to have to disagree on that one.

What I’ve found is that it’s so difficult to talk about the 2013 Royals without talking about The Trade because the trade is seen as a referendum on the season, and by extension Dayton Moore. If the Royals are playing well, how can you say the trade was a mistake? And if the trade wasn’t a mistake, then how can you bag on Moore?

I had a feeling this might be a problem even before the season, when I 1) savaged the trade and 2) predicted the Royals would go 86-76 this year. Well, right now Wil Myers is hitting .326/.379/.525, and the Royals (I write this between games of the doubleheader) are on pace to go 85-77. They’re playing exactly as well as I thought they would, Myers is playing even better than expected…but because being on pace to win 85 games puts them on the fringes of a playoff race, and because we’re Royals fans who haven’t been on the fringes of a playoff race in a decade, many people want to say the deal is justified.

I don’t want to get into all that again – read the other piece. I just want to make one point: it is possible to hate, hate, HATE the trade, and still acknowledge that the Royals are having a good season. It’s possible to think that Dayton Moore made a terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE mistake, and still acknowledge the good work he’s done this season.

Look, general managers – good general managers – make bad mistakes all the time. As I’ve mentioned before, prior to the 2006 season Jon Daniels traded Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young (the pitcher) to the Padres for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka. Otsuka pitched just 92 innings (albeit with a 2.25 ERA) for the Rangers before his career ended, and Eaton made just 13 starts with a 5.12 ERA in his one season in Texas before leaving as a free agent.

Meanwhile, Chris Young made 97 starts in San Diego with a 3.60 ERA over parts of five seasons – and he was a throw-in compared to Gonzalez, who was 23 at the time of the trade, immediately stepped into the Padres lineup and hit .304/.362/.500 in his first season. In his time in San Diego, Gonzalez averaged .288/.374/.514 – in perhaps the toughest hitters park in baseball – and missed 11 games in five years. He made three All-Star teams, got MVP votes in four out of five seasons, and then was traded for Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly, and Reymond Fuentes. Rizzo was traded to the Cubs for Andrew Cashner; the Padres are still cashing in on the original trade.

As well as Myers as played, it’s still not particularly likely that the Rays will get more value from their side of the trade as the Padres did in theirs. And the Royals have already gotten more value from Shields than the Rangers got from Eaton and Otsuka combined. That was a terrible trade.

And you know what? Jon Daniels is one of the best GMs in baseball. The Rangers have won two AL pennants since he was hired. It took them three years to get over .500 after that trade, but since 2009 they’ve won 87, 90, 96, and 93 games, and are on pace for 94 this year.

Speaking of bad decisions, it’s hard to come up with one worse than the Nationals made last year when they decided to shut down Stephen Strasburg, and deliberately gave up their #1 starter for the playoffs. I wrote at the time about what a terribly misguided decision this was, and quietly, most of the other 29 baseball teams agreed. More than that – other teams were quietly rooting for the Nationals to fail. While Moore may have been guilty of desperation, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo was thought to be guilty of hubris, in thinking both that the Nationals could win without Strasburg and that the Nationals would be back in the playoffs soon enough.

Well, the Nationals lost in the NLDS in excruciating fashion, in the ninth inning of the deciding game 5. No one knows if they would have won with Strasburg, but given the narrow margin of defeat, it’s easy to argue that having the services of one of their best players might have tipped the scales in their favor. And as for being back in the playoffs…the Nationals, who were most pundits’ pick as the best team in the majors before the season, are 59-61 and 14.5 games behind the Braves. Baseball Prospectus puts their playoff odds at 1.7%.

Shutting down Strasburg may haunt the Nationals for years to come. But does that make Mike Rizzo a terrible GM? Well, he did put together the team with the best record in baseball last year. If you want to make the case that he’s overrated, you’d be best to focus on the record of his team this year, and not on a specific decision he’s made.

And that’s the point I want to make about Dayton Moore. I think he made a terrible decision last December, one that may haunt the Royals for years to come. It may not, if they find a way into the playoffs this year, and the final outcome of this trade is far from being written. But it is possible to separate how you feel about the trade from how you feel about this team, or the GM who made the trade. If there’s a case to be made that Moore deserves to be fired, it’s not based on that trade specifically – it’s based on the fact that he’s been on the job seven years, and at the All-Star Break this season it looked like the Royals were on their way to finishing under .500 yet again.

They no longer look that way, thanks to the best baseball this franchise has played in at least 20 years. I came right up to the line of calling for Moore to be fired, and was planning to cross that line had the Royals continued to struggle going into the trade deadline without Moore selling his best assets. But they started to win, and made the decision not to sell – which was a terrible decision to make on July 18th – a perfectly reasonable one on July 31st. I’m not arguing that he deserves a contract extension, but I think the Royals have made enough progress this year to keep the firing squad away.

And if they continue to make progress next year, he’ll continue to warrant keeping his job. The Myers trade makes this eventuality considerably less likely. But that doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge the progress that this year’s team has made.

I would like to be able to enjoy the Royals’ unlikely success without having people tell me that it somehow justifies the Myers trade. I would like to be able to criticize the Myers trade without being told that I want the Royals to lose, or that I am not really a fan of the team. I would like people to realize that they can concede the trade was a mistake without having to call for Moore to be fired, because they can.


One trade does not a GM make. It was a bad trade. It’s been a good season. There’s no contradiction between those two statements.

53 comments:

KCDC said...

Rany, remember that there is a vast, mostly silent majority that recognizes common sense. Don't focus on an irrational minority--you will never convince them.

S. Brian Tucker said...

We got the better of the trade for Shields. Good as Myers is...and he's damned good...he can't pitch. We've had LOTS of hitters over the years, and scored lots of runs. But we never had pitching. Until now.

Moreover, Shields brings an "X" factor to the clubhouse...from his experience on a World Series winner. Anyone who knows ANYthing about baseball will tell you that clubhouse chemistry is bigger than base hits. These guys are starting to believe they will win VERY game they play...and Shields has a LOT to do with that.

Yep. We got the better end of the trade. Bet the ranch.

Castle said...

I doubt that Royals could pull 85+ wins team if Shields wasn't here. Pitching was always terrible in Royals and big part of this season's success came from dominant pitching(bullpen too), and big part of it came from Shields already having 175 innings under his belt.

Myers 203PA 2.2WAR
Lough & Maxwell 282PA 2.3WAR

Castle said...

And it is not like this team will end up 85-86. 23 out of remaining 41 games are below .500. If 2013 Royals pull 90+ team and reach playoff(possibly next season too since Tigers will only get weaker), I would call it a deal.

Unknown said...

If Myers were hitting, say, .225/.260/.375 instead (or does this next year), would you still hate the trade this much?

Dodger300 said...

Hey, S. Brian Tucker, when did James Shields play for a World Series WINNER?

Do you have him mixed up with Scott Shields of the Angels?

Or do you believe that James Shields was secretly on the Giants or Cardinals or Phillies, but no one else knows it?

frightwig said...

Don't forget: Francouer, -0.9 WAR.

As for the idea that the trade has driven the Royals' success, the team is 24-23 in games started by Shields/Davis (with a Davis start to come in this Detroit series that I expect to be a loss). Do you think the club just might have been able to find another way to acquire two pitchers who could help the Royals play .500 ball in their starts?

Royal Blogger said...

Come on, Rany. I've been a big fan of yours over the years but please MOVE ON... this trade for this organization was not only about stats and long-term future of Myers. Shields and Davis (mostly Shields) has changed the LOSING culture of this organization. Any conbination of pitchers would be lucky to have a 333 winning percentage and a 5+ ERA and not be leaders of the staff and team. The Royals have a top 3 ERA after being LAST in ERA 12 of the lat 15 years. YOU HAVE TO START SOMEWHERE to change the losing culture. The value and intensity Shields and Davis bring to this team (more importantly the organization) is not something you can measure compared to how well Myers is hitting. The CURSE the Royals have been living under since '94 would have carried over to Myers. You think he would be hitting like this for the Royals? Look at KC's track record of rookies. NO WAY. So, Please. Pretty please with sugar on top, move the bleep on.

Bobinkc said...

Time to move on Rany. Your constant obsession with Wil Myers is getting beyond old.

Castle said...

Frightwing. No matter the trade was made or not. Francore would have still played and put up -0.9 WAR. Lough and Maxwell putting up similar numbers to Myers and Myers had struggled a lot on April and May. Yes, in long term Myers will bring much more WAR than Shields, not that I'm disagreeing on that.

You need to look at number of innings Shields putting up and how effective it is to strengthen Royals bullpen. Look what happened to Blue Jays bullpen once looked like the best in the game but when their workload increased after all star break..

frightwig said...

So the trade was worth it because it brought in a good pitcher who eats innings, although it also brought in a bad pitcher who needs a lot of relief (Davis has gone just 115 IP so far)? That's one problem with the deal: you can't separate the value added by Shields from the subtraction of Davis. DM gave up several years of Myers for a veteran pitcher who is currently the most valuable on the staff (2.7 rWAR), but ALSO a pitcher who is the worst drain on the staff (-1.7 rWAR). I think there must have been better ways of matching that kind of net value for this year.

NickinKC said...

I agree with Rany. This is the worst trade I have seen that supplied the loser of the deal with the Ace of their staff, and transformed them from one of the worst rotations in baseball to one of the best.
We (Royals fans) may regret dealing Myers for years to come, but it will not cripple our franchise. Im over this trade, and on to enjoying watching winning baseball even if its by a plan that I didn't approve of.

Lets Go Royals!

Kansas City said...

Frightwig is correct. I don't believe Shields magically makes other players betters. It is just buying the Royals hype. Frighwig properly cites the Royals are 23 adn 22 when Shields and Davis start. While the wins and losses are not entirely their responsiblity, it is the best big picture way to judge the trade.

As to the raving about the Royals defense, I agree it looks very good, but the DRS figues do not look realistic. They would project to Lough saving 93 runs if he played LF all year and Johnson saving 36 if he player 2b all year.

Also, the Royals defenseive efficiency rating is 13th in MLB, essentially tied with the Indians and the White Sox. It also is a big picture and accurate stat. It does not jive with the Royals being a great defensive team.

Otherwise, I agree with Rany and think his anlysis is great.

Kansas City said...

Make that 24 and 23 when Shields and Davis start.

It just seems obvious Moore should have kept Myers and spent the $20 Million being paid to Shields/Davis/Hochevar on free agent pitching.

BobDD said...

As I read through the comments, I got to #2 that said we won the trade, X factor, believing in ourselves, etc. And I wondered to myself, did someone place this comment as a joke? Because (my thinking went) no one could really fail to see the brutally clear logic of how bad it was to get two years of expensive good pitching vs 6 yrs of inexpensive minor-league-player-of-the-year hitting, which would then leave enough money to get a pitcher almost as good as Shields.

And then I read on and saw that there are several fans who really believe what I thought was ludicrous. So my eyes have been painfully opened today and I do not like it all that well. I really do respect what others think, but until today I would not have imagined that anyone other than the proverbial 'old stick' (Joe Morgan announcer, ostrich, blind, etc.) could possibly swallow such things. And if I've thought that about people who believe that way, I now see that they must be thinking that way about me and my beliefs too. Even acknowledging all that, I am just plain flabbergasted about these divergent trade evaluations.

So my first takeaway is that "the trade" might easily be a permanent part of Royals evaluation; neither side is likely to get past it. It will be like trying to tell a Cardinal fan to forget about Denkinger already. Every subsequent acquisition/promotion/etc. will be proof to both sides of their winning argument.

2nd, the moneyball backlash is alive and well and probably will never die. Those of us who love baseball and sabermetrics will just continue to enjoy both, getting double the pleasure of the flat-earthers.

And thirdly, while KC might not have the best overall blog presence on the internet anymore, we do still have the best blogger/analyst extant today. Thank you Rany.

Kansas City said...

The only explanations for the Myers trade are: (1) Moore not smart enough to recognize the option of keeping Myers and spending the Shields/Davis/Hochevar money on free agent pitcher[s]; or (2) Moore mis-evaluated Myers. I think (2) is the more likely explanation, although I read an story about Moore's explanation that focused on other players in the minors - which supports (1) that Moore was not looking at alternatives, but focusing on the supply of players in the minors.

On the positive side, the Tigers may start to fall next year and Shields might help the Royals win the division with about 88 wins.

Antonio. said...

"You think he would be hitting like this for the Royals?"

Doesn't this contribute to the alleged losing culture, a bull shit conspiracy theory? No team in all of sports has ever clung to a bull shit statement like this.

The Royals are losers because of a cheap owner and the buffoons he hires that cling to out-dated modes of thought that hinders the organization from propelling forward.

ORoyal said...

Yes.

ORoyal said...

My thoughts, exactly.

James Kohn said...

It's the middle of August and the Royals are playing the best they've played in years and all you can write about is the Wil Myers trade? I agree with the others who are saying to just move on.

Say DM doesn't make the trade. Does Myers still put up the same numbers? What is the Royals record? Hindsight is 20/20, but without knowing what would have happened if the trade wasn't made, how can you judge the it? And there weren't any guarantees that if we kept Myers that we would have been able to sign a free agent pitcher or two.

As of this moment, the Royals are a much better team than they were last year. That makes it a good trade to me.

Rany said...

"Hindsight is 20/20, but without knowing what would have happened if the trade wasn't made, how can you judge the it?"

You can say that about literally every trade ever made. How can we judge David Cone for Ed Hearn? If the Royals don't trade Cone, maybe he becomes addicted to KC barbecue and balloons to 450 pounds and never becomes a star pitcher. If the Phillies never traded Ryne Sandberg, maybe he takes a drive through Amish country, becomes enamored with their simple approach to living, and quits baseball to become an excellent wood craftsman.

You can't judge ANYTHING if you have to know exactly what would have happened in an alternate universe. We do the best we can.

Kansas City said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kansas City said...

The hindsight comment is silly.

All trades can be judged at the time they are made and then at every step along the way. Ultimately, all trades can be judged completely on hindsight. But the assessment of the trade at the time or early on is all part of being a baseball fan and, certainly, there now is a sabretmetics analytical approach to trades that is designed to be done at the time of the trade and early on, before the final results of hindsight can be used.

In the Myers trade, hindsight is really the only potential salvation of Moore. If Myers fails or is just mediocre, or if Shields somehow pitches the Royals to the playoffs, or if Davis because a top quality starter for many years, then Moore will be redeemed by hindsight. Otherwise, bad trade.

Kansas City said...

Another bad part of the trade is that the Rays are ahead of the Royals in the wildcard race. It is like trading to and helping another team in your division.

My guess is that Moore never thought of that.

Lance said...

I loved the trade because I've always been a James Shield fan. I hated the trade because that meant Jeff Francoeur would be an every day player. Overall, I was squarely on the fence. However, now I find myself checking the Tampa Bay box scores and hoping Wil Myers had an ohfer. Not so I can defend the trade but just so I don't have to hear how bad it was anymore. Time to move on.

rosiesapig said...

Rany - You're obviously a smart baseball man - but your inclusion of WAR and other sabermetrics make you look differently. In your article about the rise of the Royals - you quote that sabermetrics has the Royals at the top of the defensive charts for major league baseball. However, in the series that mattered - the 5 game series against the Tigers - I could point to multiple times where the Royals defense was the reason they lost 3 of the 5 games - and in every instance - the play wasn't ruled an error - just bad defensive play. Dyson's stupidity on playing shallow all the time hurt the Royals in center and Lough's incredibly bad play in right turned multiple outs into hits. It all comes down to playing the game - and the Royals don't have a Miguel Cabrera - plain and simple. Sabermetrics don't have anything for clutch hits and momentum from continuous clutch hits.

Kansas City said...

Rosiesapig:

The comparison between WAR/sabremetrics and what happens in specific games is always fascinating to me. Johnson rated extremely high, boots a ball to lose a game. Lough rated extremely high, gives away outs in a key game. I go back to Beltran striking out to end game 7 (after a great year) and Molina's hitting (back when he could not hit) and pitch calls winning that game.

I think a smart sabremetrics guy like Rany could explain the relationship (and it may be nothing more than random chance in particular moments is part of the genius of baseball), but it is the one issue that makes me wonder about emphasis on the value of sabremetrics.

ps Rany was walking back his criticism of the Getz bunt today on 810 radio.

Kansas City said...

Lance:

I suppose it is good to have the attitude of time to move on, but at the same time, part of the fun of baseball is debating things like the Myers trade and judging it after the fact. It was such a bad trade for a team like the Royals that it is not going to go away.

Dave Min said...

The problem here is that most people conflate successful ex post outcomes with successful ex ante processes (you'll really notice this phenomenon in blackjack, when people make mathematically proven bad decisions because these have worked out for them in the past).

Logically, there is no question that trading Wil Myers looks like a bad decision ex ante. Wade Davis has been as bad as James Shield has been good, and the Royals lost out on the cost-controlled years of arguably the best non-Trout hitter under 23 out there (not to mention Odorizzi). But as you note, many people are unlikely to understand this, because they see a good outcome (which you make a strong case is independent of the Shields/Davis acquisitions).

As Larry Summers has said (in his famous takedown of the efficient markets hypothesis): "There are idiots. Look around you."

Todd said...

If the Royals had kept Meyers, what pitcher (s) could they have gotten for the $20 million they would have to spend. They would have had to overpay for any pitcher coming here, which means you weren't going to a Shields type of pitcher, or maybe even a Santana type, but someone whose slightly above mediocre because your paying him more money to be a #2 or #3 starter in KC, as opposed to being a #4 or #5 for slightly less money on a stronger pitching staff.

So, without Shields and Davis, your line up is Santana, Guthrie, Chen, Mendoza, and who? Free Agent such as Scott Baker? Kevin Correia? Mike Pelfrey? Brandon McCarthy? Or someone from the farm such as Will Smith? Joe Blanton signed for 2 years and 15 mil to go to LA, would that have brought him to Kansas City? Or would it have taken something similar to what Guthrie was paid?

As for "You can't judge ANYTHING if you have to know exactly what would have happened in an alternate universe. We do the best we can."

Well, yes, you do. The problem is you cannot overcome your own internal bias against the trade when projecting possible outcomes. And it shows. No one expected the Royals to be this good this year, even with Myers, right?

Lance said...

KC - In the spirit of having fun then I'll point out that Wil Myers BA has dropped from .340 to .311 in the last ten days and he has struck out 12 times. Here's the problem; if you believe Wil Myers is a future superstar and given his age, you will criticize the trade no matter what he does for the next four or five or six years holding faith that he will realize the promise you have put in him. Why wring our hands for years?

Pogue009 said...

Rany's core argument was always that the Royals were jumping the gun. That they had several young hitters heading into their prime in 2012->2017 that they needed stars(4-6WAR types)and solid player(1-4WAR types) from their farm, and in order to compete they would need to add positive contributing veterans.

Yes the Royals need pitching, but really they need everything and in 200PA Myers has been worth 4.3WAR more than than Frenchy was in 2012-13 for KC, the Royals traded a chance at dominance for a chance at mediocrity.

Carlos said...

Shields was necessary. Davis was also to keep the rotation goiing until Duffy/Paulino could come back. Then, either send Davis to the Bullpen or enjoy the wealth of pitching. Myers is a very good and promising player. He's also young and young players can flame out. He also can be replaced by a Bubba Starling. All in all, a calculated gamble to keep us in the mix. Can we make the next hurdle??? Better production from 2b and have Hosmer and Moose hit according to their projections, and we could have a nasty lineup.

Carlos said...

Also, pitching trumps hitting. Hitting is streaky and pitching isn't. It is easier to win a 3-2 game than a 9-7 one. The underperformance of the royals lies with the erratic hitting. We imported hitting coaches whose philosophy was based on power and we have little of that. I'd bring back Seitzer as his hitting philosophy is better atuned to our lineup's makeup. Also, Run more, not less.

BobDD said...

re: Myers can replaced by Starling

lol, we are not in Kansas anymore (expect the geography police to show up in 3 . 2 . 1 . .)

ORoyal said...

Well said; thank you.

KHAZAD said...

I agree it was a bad trade, and it will probably look even worse in a few years, and I say that even though I love having Shields on my team.

When I was told about the trade initially, the person telling me had partial info and told me that we had traded Myers, Odorizzi, and Montgomery for Shields and someone else. I thought about it briefly and decided that the only "someone else" who could make it a good trade was Ben Zobrist. I still feel that way.

Shields might have made us better this year, but Myers would have as well. Odorizzi and Davis are a wash at best,with Davis being more expensive, and the Rays at least have upside with Monty and Leonard, while we got a guy (Johnson) that will be out of baseball in a couple of years.

Why is Rany "dwelling" on this? Because we are not making the playoffs, and at the start of the 2015 season, the Rays will still have 4 more years of Myers and Odorizzi and still be developing Montgomery and Leonard, while Shields pitches for the Yankees, Davis will either be a free agent or even worse, a $7 million version of Hochevar that Moore (if he is still here) can't bring himself to give up on, and Johnson will sign a minor league deal with someone to try and keep his career going.

Is it fun having a winning team? Sure. To Royals fans starving for any kind of success, give us a saltine and it tastes like steak and lobster. But the truth of the trade is that Andrew Friedman saw a desperate Dayton Moore and made him his bitch.

KHAZAD said...

All that and I didn't even mention the fact that in a trade that already looks to be an overall win for Tampa THIS year, we are spending about $28 million more over this year and next for the pieces we got than they are,and that is about 1/6 of our payroll.

grateful to God said...

Rany, can you please email me. I had an important question.

grateful to God said...


Rany, can you please email me. I had a quick question related to your statistical expertise...that I needed help on.

Thanks much.

Olentangy said...

Why is Chris Getz leading off AGAIN? Do they want to lose? Fire Yost now!

twm said...

I know you and Joe want to avoid the A-Rod drama, but I am hoping for a Joe Sheehan rant about the toothless 5-game suspension that Dempster received. Does Dempster even miss a start? Plus the $2,500 fine. I bet that one hurt too. Half the amount Joe Girardi was fined.

This seemed so light a penalty that I looked up recent examples. I had forgotten about Porcello, earlier this summer, being suspended six games for throwing at Ben Zobrist. Threw at the guy once, didn't hit him, is suspended longer than Dempster who threw at A-Rod four times and did eventually hit him. MLB just makes themselves look worse daily as this A-Rod storyline drags on forever.

Jacob said...

You don't go all in to hover around 500. And that is what GMDM did.
The goal is to win championships, not to flirt with being a couple games over 500.

Everyone knew the Royals offense was horrible last year. Anyone could see the Royals needed to upgrade RF and 2b at the very least to have a chance to compete. Well, almost everyone saw that.

twm said...

Well, in DM's defense, everyone also knew that KC needed to upgrade pretty much their entire rotation. Didn't like the trade, still don't like it, but DM had to be thinking that a rotation overhaul, combined with improvement from Hosmer and Moustakas, would allow KC to contend while also skating in RF/2B.

P.M. Obley said...

(PART ONE OF THREE)

Everyone wants to crap on the Wil Myers deal, so let's jump in the time machine and nix the trade. What happens next?

Dayton Moore turns to the FA market to find that companion arm to go with Ervin Santana. This is something many, many experts suggested Moore do. Do any of you remember the name these experts kept saying the Royals should chase? Dan Haren.

Now, let's say DM does this. To do so would require MASSIVE amounts of money, since the Royals have to overpay elite free agents. Haren would have asked for three years, the Royals would have given him two with an option and it would have cost what the Royals will pay Shields next season ($14 million/year). Fact of life (Haren signed with up and coming Washington for 1 year/$13 million).

So here comes the 2013 season and the Royals, with their epic and young offense. They live up to the billing. Myers lives up to his promise. The offense is high-octane, for sure. Meanwhile, the rotation of Haren-Santana-Guthrie-Chen-Hochevar misfires often. If Santana has a bad game, then the Royals face 10-game stretches where the best they can do is 2-8. Chen wears out, Hochevar is ineffective and ditched for Mendoza. Royals muddle through with Chen since there are no viable options.

Haren posted a 6.15 ERA over the season's first three months with Washington. Since KC is in the AL, it is likely those awful numbers would stand, if not worsen. (Full disclosure: Haren is pitching lights-out after the ASB, but even so, the damage has been done, as the Nats would attest).

Essentially, it's the Year 2000 all over again. That year, the Royals boasted a lineup of Beltran, Damon, Dye and Sweeney, set club records for runs scored and finished 77-85, never in contention. But that's the least of the Royals' concerns ...

In the offseason following yet another non-contenting season in 2013, The Royals are handcuffed. With Haren and Guthrie still on the payroll, the holes for the other three spots in the rotation prove insurmountable. Duffy takes one, perhaps Ventura is rushed for another and perhaps the Royals cross their fingers and pray on Felipe Paulino. In fact, the Royals likely go to arbitration once more with Hochevar and wind up paying him north of $5M to suck. Still, no team in baseball goes into a season with barely five starting possibilities. The Royals need to go to the well and nab another pitcher.

Well, the 2013-14 pitching market its one of the worst in recent memory. The headliners are Johann Santana and Tim Lincecum. Both huge question marks who would command massive buckets of money. No dice.

So, Moore looks into the trade market to find that magical, mystical shutdown No. 1 starter (or any potential No. 1 starter). With no hitters major-league ready in the Royals' upper minors (do your research and you'll discover teams dangling No. 1 starters often are seeking immediate offensive help with additional down-the-road, low-minor top pitching prospects), the Royals do not match up with anyone.

(con't) ...

P.M. Obley said...

(PART 2 of 3)

Heck, the Royals even would not be able to swing a trade for the now one-year-to-FA James Shields, since the Rays have an embarrassment of pitching riches and desperately need bats. Worse, the Royals can't afford to take on additional salary, anyway (thanks Dan Haren!), so any deal for a No. 1 likely is a no-go.

So, with band-aids and fingers crossed, the Royals enter 2014 with that same big offense and an even more sketchy rotation than the year before. Contention once again, is beyond their grasp. Bright side: Maybe Duffy takes a step forward, Ventura doesn't fall on his face and Zimmer proves ready.

Whew ... another sub-80-win season in 2014 but significant promise for 2015. But ... oops ... Gordon's contract calls for him to make $12.5M (made $9M in 2013). Butler's option for 2015 also costs $12.5 million (made $8M in 2013). Hosmer and Moose hit arbitration as does a majority of the bullpen. Millions and millions more go out the door.

So, if the Royals swallow hard and pay out all that money, maybe they contend in 2015. Maybe. If there is any question at the trade deadline, they'll have to go into massive sell mode, since the following offseason's arbitration numbers are going to be terrifying (Bonus! Wil Myers becomes arby eligible after 2015 since he was on the 2013 opening day roster! Woohoo! Pay the man!).

Hang on to everybody, play for the playoffs, make the playoffs? Let's say it happens. Does this 2015 team seem like a threat to win a World Series? Nice playoff run to be sure, but no way it's a World Series squad. And still, at the end of 2015, free agents and arbitration hits will require a potentially rebuilding overhaul.

BTW, this is pretty much the scenario that played out with that 2000 team. The pitching could not get fixed before the window closed on that offense and we were treated to a dozen more years of very dark times.

(con't)

P.M. Obley said...

(PART 3 of 3)

NOW ...

These Myers-less Royals enter the offseason with Shields still under contract and the money to possibly re-sign Santana. Duffy is ready to roll, so the 2014 rotation could be Shields-Santana-Guthrie-Duffy at the top with a competition between Davis/Paulino/Ventura and possibly Zimmer (though he likely arrives late summer). Point is, they will have the money to overpay someone to fill Santana's spot ... even Santana himself.

The offensive FA market is nowhere near as pricey as the elite pitching market. If the Royals can scratch out even an ordinary second baseman (and say they don't even address right field), they can enter the 2014 season optimistic of getting a bounceback seasons from Butler and Gordo and solid years from Moose and Hosmer. If the Royals get just "average" years from those four (as opposed to the mess they were in 2013), they are a full-on playoff threat in 2014 with a very bright 2015 (pitching FA market will be much improved, so replacing Shields is imminently doable ... if they'll even need to do so (maybe Duffy/Zimmer/Ventura develop into aces, leaving the Royals in search merely of a No. 5, who could come in-house).

My point? Yes, losing Myers sucks. Yes, he will be awesome. Yes, it would be nice to have him in that Royals uni for the 3-6 years they would have had him. But saying the Royals would manage to be 64-62 in 2013, 2014 or even 2015 is a dubious proposition, based on lessons learned from the Year 2000. Just my opinion, but I think the 2014 Royals set up as a heckuva lot of fun and a better playoff threat than they exciting, but non-competitive Myers Royals.

Antonio. said...

1. There's no guarantee what the Royals would have had to pay for Haren. No one was treating him like an elite free agent. No one was really wanting to give up much to get him.
2. I might be off, but I know of only one person that was in favor of Haren, Rany. And I am willing to have my memory freshened. I don't read a whole lot of bloggers or columnist other than Rany.
3. James + Jeff = 16.5 Mil, 1.8 WAR. Wil + Dan = 13.5 (I am guessing league minimum is now 500 k), 1.8 WAR.

Rany said...

P.M. Obley,

First, I'm not sure if the consensus opinion was that the Royals should go after Haren, only that it was my opinion, as written here: http://www.ranyontheroyals.com/2012/10/for-want-of-pitcher-here-we-go-again.html

Second, as you can see from that link, the reason I wanted Haren was that - exactly like Santana - he had a one-year option that the Angels intended to decline, and which could have been easily acquired for a nothing prospect, necessitating just a one-year, $12 million commitment. The Royals utilized the exact strategy that I suggested - only to their credit, they used it on Santana instead of Haren.

Third, the reason why Haren has turned out to be a dud is pretty simple: he wasn't healthy. Haren very nearly was traded to the Cubs before his option expired, but the trade fell through at the last moment. No explanation was given, but the assumption was that something came up in his medicals. After his option was declined, the Nationals elected to take a chance anyway, and Haren was terrible for 3 months and then went on the DL - and has been excellent since his return.

Antonio. said...

Even with Shields, haven't the Royals had 2-8 stretches? Doesn't do much to make your case.

I do love in your defense of the brilliance of Dayton, you just assume that only the worst would happen in the alternate universe.

I suppose the alternative options are off the table in your made up world. It's not the Dayton way or everything-goes-wrong way.

It's just really not that hard to realize that that Shields + Francouer + Davis is not good (-.1 WAR, 19.3 million).

It didn't take much for the O's to get Bud Norris, a name that was mentioned this offseason. He hasn't been great, he's not a #1, but we could have been foolish enough to get Haren and Norris and keep Myers and end up with a better cumulative WAR than what Dayton gave us and cheaper too.

Rany said...

I try to be as informed as I can in my writings, but obviously I am not privy to internal medical reports. The Royals undoubtedly had information on Haren's arm that I did not have, which is why they went after Santana instead. That was obviously the right choice, and I'm sure that if I had access to that information I would have said the same thing.

Regardless, your scenario falls apart, as it depends on the Royals being handcuffed by Haren being on the payroll for another year.

Also, you just assume that the Royals can bring back Santana for 2014, although I think that's unlikely, and probably for the best. I suspect he's in line for a contract in the 5/$75 million range.

Even with Shields, the Royals' rotation for next year lines up as Shields, Guthrie, and 3 HUGE question marks. Davis? Duffy? Paulino? Resign Chen? Are Ventura or Zimmer ready? What other free agents can we bring in? True, without Shields they'd have FOUR question marks. But the point is, either way, they're in trouble for 2014. But at least they'd have Wil Myers for 2015 and beyond.

P.M. Obley said...

Rany,

I guess the big thing with me is that Year 2000. I don't know what the magic bullet would have been to make the Royals' pitching staff good enough with Myers in 2013, 2014 or 2015.

Just comes down to this for me: Yes, we lost Myers, who is going to be outstanding. But KC wasn't going to keep him past six years max and even with him, the window remains 2014-15, then no more.

They are in a really brutal spot contract and arbitration-wise going forward. I think having Shields on this team made the Royals more attractive to prospective free agents. I think it also increases the chances of retaining Santana, as long as somebody doesn't get wonky (It would appear the market is about to trend downward on salaries ... poor Robinson Cano).

It seems to me, going into 2014 with this team as constructed, if a Santana or someone like him can be plugged back into the rotation, gives KC four solid starters (Shields, Santana-type, Guthrie, Duffy). Then, with bounceback seasons from Gordo and Butler, along with what he expected to see from Hosmer and Moose, you have a team that already is a playoff-challenger.

Now nab a better FA 2B stopgap (Skip Schumaker for $3M, maybe? Brian Roberts on a Rays-style incentives deal? Heck, a 38-year-old Mark Ellis? Or maybe you snag one of those Angels options and bite down on the money)and you've got something. Let Maxwell and Lough dicker with RF. They will be enough if the hitters who are supposed to hit start hitting, don't you think?

Also, just for giggles ... Haren will be on the market in 2014. Maybe they land your guy to replace Santana :) ... I wouldn't be opposed to that. He has had a great second half. Maybe he has it figured out now.

The Myers-led Royals would have been fun, but I also think they would not have been competitive in 2013, due to a dearth of starting pitching. Having Shields fronting the rotation put Santana and Guthrie in spots they could achieve. Can you honestly say you would have been happy trotting Santana out there against No. 1s and Guthrie vs. No. 2s? I can't.

Now, I know I'm playing armchair psychiatrist here, but my thought is another non-competitive season in 2013 might have caused Glass to tighten the budget despite more TV money coming down the pike.

I don't know. I didn't like the Myers trade, but it hardly makes a difference in the long-term fortunes of the Royals, who can't seem to afford pitching and hitting in the same season.

And, let's face it, in the darkest dark spot of my heart as a long-suffering Royals fan, I fear the Royals would have screwed up Myers and, at best, put him on the Gordon road to success (Good in 2016 after the barn doors shut).

I'm not necessarily defending Dayton Moore with this. I'm just saying all the gnashing of teeth likely is unnecessary. Again, Myers was never going to be a 20-year Royals veteran like Brett. he was the next Beltran. And we all know how good the Royals were during six years of Beltran. So why not try something different?

P.M. Obley said...

Oh, and to your point on weather the Royals would have been able to re-sign Santana? That's fair ... but I also think having the taste of competitive baseball this season might whet Glass' appetite and coax him into opening up the purse strings.

You bring up 2015 and having Myers. That's all well and good, but I wonder the Royals as you picture them would be competitive. Gordon's contract balloons to $13.25M while picking up the option on Butler will cost them another $12.5M. Hosmer is an Arb2 (as is Maxwell, Crow, Holland and Collins) and Moose is an Arb1 (as is most of the rest of the bullpen, Duffy and Cain). Pay raises all around.

Doesn't strike me (in my scenario or the Myers scenario) that enough scratch will be lying around to fill the lineup's holes or patch the starting pitching in 2015.

That's sort of why I think 2014 is the all-in season. I think the window starts slamming shut in 2015, unless the minors help out.