In a move that instantly becomes a franchise changer for both organizations; the Rays have agreed to send right-handers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals, in exchange for a quartet of prospects: Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Patrick Leonard and Mike Montgomery. The Royals will also receive a player to be named later as well.
Prior to the trade I ranked Myers, Odorizzi and Leonard among the top 16 prospects in a moderately deep Kansas City farm system.
For the Royals, they acquire a legitimate front-end starting pitcher in Shields, though he’s truly more of a good number two, which is something they’ve lacked since dealing Zack Greinke a few years back.
Shields has become a consistent performer, topping 3.7 wins above replacement (FanGraphs’ version) five of the last six years. Despite the fact that he turns 31 in a few weeks, he shouldn’t show serious signs of decline under the next two years of team control. And once decline does set in, he should see a more modest regression because of his newly found reliance on groundballs.
Davis, on the other hand, just turned 27. So, theoretically, he has yet to hit his peak. And he can be under team control for five more seasons, through 2017, for a peak dollar amount of $10 million during the final year.
The problem, however, is Davis really wasn’t a good starter between 2010 and 2011, totaling a combined 1.5 wins above replacement in 352 innings. But his contract — particularly after 2014 — will pay him as if he is a starter. Last year, however, he blossomed as a dominant backend bullpen option, doubling his K-rate the previous two seasons to 11.13 K/9. He threw his fastball a little less and curve a little more, but his repertoire remained the same; other than the expected uptick in velocity.
It’s very likely the Royals convert Davis back to a starter at some point, maybe even this season. But he’ll find it tough to be anything more than a league average starter.
As for the Rays, I wrote about Myers, Odorizzi and Leonard previously, evaluating their peak values at 6.0-, 3.5- and 2.0-wins above replacement. Both former players are ready to step in and help a big league team now, whereas the latter is still several years away.
Montgomery is nothing more than a crapshoot now, but a gamble that still has a fairly large upside.
Once upon a time the crown jewel of the Royals’ system, the 6-foot-4 left-hander has struggled mightily the past two seasons, posting ERAs of 5.32 and 6.07 between stints in Double-A and Triple-A. He’s still showing the same peripherals that made him a top prospect — solid k-rates and average or better groundball numbers — but his command has regressed.
He could still develop into a useful big league pitcher. Maybe he won’t. But he’s certainly a fantastic buy-low candidate for the Rays.
Overall, the Rays gave up an above-average starting pitcher and a good reliever/mediocre starter that are maybe worth 11 wins over the next two seasons. Myers and Odorizzi, in their first two big leagues seasons of many, will probably be worth 8 to 9 wins. And that’s before they hit their peak.
This was certainly a franchise changing deal. The Royals dealt away one elite prospect, one starting pitcher who is at no worse a backend option, a good lower level prospect, and one helluva gamble. All that for two guaranteed years of James Shields and a large question mark in Wade Davis.
Photo of Wil Myers Courtesy of Minda Haas via Flickr.com