We are 211 games into the James Shields era. If you believe like any well-adjusted, intelligent adult that he will not re-sign with the club this off-season, it means we are around 65% the way through his service as a Kansas City Royal.
We all know the pieces. Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and some guy named Patrick Leonard for Shields, Wade Davis, and a player to be named later (who ended up being Elliot Johnson (who was just very slightly more valuable at the plate than a bag of minor league batting practice balls)). It is my belief that Dayton Moore made this trade thinking that 2013 and 2014 was the first window for the crop of players he had put together. Yes, the core 5 of the future (Hosmer, Moose, Perez, Escobar, and Cain) will be here for years after that. But this was the window for Butler, Gordon, the young bullpen pieces (Crow, Collins, Holland, etc) and complimentary bench players.
How has this move faired for both clubs? I will offer my thoughts on the long term prospects of the trade later, but initially we will only consider the effect on the major league squads.
Shields has been the stand out stud of the bunch, the best starting pitcher we’ve had BY FAR since Greinke (Before that? Umm, maybe Appier in his prime). As a Royal, Shields has 302 IP, 45 starts, 19 wins, a 3.09 ERA, 259 strikeouts, 3.12 K/BB, and most importantly a 4.7 WAR. The hallmark player of this trade has been exactly that. Dayton Moore got exactly what he thought he would.
Wade Davis has been a little more of an enigma. The Royals wanted (and secretly may still do) him to be a starter. He had some success in that department early in his career, but was overall inconsistent and really shined in 2012 when he was moved to the bullpen in Tampa. Still, he spent most of 2013 in the Royals rotation. He was Kyle Davies bad, with an ERA over 5 and a K/BB ratio that just peeked above 2. He took some turns in the bullpen as the season moved on, but overall 2013 was certainly one to forget for him.
2014 has been the opposite. With Luke Hochevar going down with Tommy John surgery, Davis was plugged into the role of the 8th inning guy. He has responded at an all-star level (in regards to which I imagine he will get some pretty heavy consideration). Geek out over these numbers: 1.61 ERA, 16.26 K/9, 4.44 K/BB, and a .851 WHIP. Still, due to his disastrous 2013, overall he shows a -1.2 WAR in his time as a Royal.
Elliot Johnson was statistically abysmal offensively in 79 games as a Royal. .179 BA, .218 OBP, .241 SLG, 9 RBI, and a crazy high 6.13 K/BB. His only saving graces were his versatility in the field and speed on the base paths (14 SB). In addition, I have it on good authority that he has a brilliant personality. Due to his defensive prowess and speed, his WAR was .7.
From the Tampa Bay side, only 2 of the 4 pieces acquired have seen time with the major league squad. Wil Myers has obviously been the key piece so far. The 2013 American League Rookie of the Year came up mid-season and showed immediately why he was regarded as one of the best prospects in baseball. In just 88 games, he had a .293 BA, .354 OBP, .478 SLG, 13 HR, 53 RBI, and 1.9 WAR, putting him on pace for about a 25 HR/100 RBI full season.
However, as to be expected, 2014 has been a struggle as the league adjusts to him. In 49 games, he holds a .229 BA, .303 OBP, .346 SLG, 4 HR, 21 RBIs, and -.4 WAR. Obviously no one doubts the natural talent and he should be able to figure it out and get back on the track to stardom, but we Royals fans know all too well that is not always the case.
Jake Odorizzi is the other piece that has seen major league time. He has shown flashes of excellence, as well as valleys of disappointment. Still not sure whether he will end up a starter or reliever, overall he has 78.3 IP, 17 starts, 2 wins, a 4.37 ERA, 79 K, 2.59 K/BB, and a .7 WAR.
The other two players, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard, are not in the major league plans at this point. Montgomery has been more or less exactly what he was in the Royals system: full of potential and “great stuff”, just never able to actually turn that into quality consistent pitching. He has 291.2 IP, 53 starts, 13 wins, a 4.57 ERA, 226 SO, and 1.84 K/BB, showing that he hasn’t found the mythical “control” tree in Florida. I just saw a tweet from Matt Eddy of Baseball America (@MattEddyBA) that said his last 6 starts have been pretty stellar and his 2014 numbers are considerably better than his career average, but the chances at making an impact on the major league Rays anytime soon still seem pretty slim.
Leonard, a corner infielder, is currently in high A Charlotte and is putting together a really nice season with a .295 BA, .372 OBP, .542 SLG, 7 HR, and 27 RBI through 44 games. However, it will be a couple years if not longer before he sniffs the bigs.
Overall, the Royals are currently “winning” the trade with a cumulative 4.2 WAR to Tampa Bay’s 2.2. That said, it doesn’t look like the trade is going to translate into the playoff berth (or more) like Moore was so desperately banking on when he pulled the trigger.
More so, the long term prospects of the trade definitely steer you towards Tampa Bay getting the better end of the deal. True, Myers could end up with a Moustakas-eque career path and be unable to rebound from the initial adjustments the league made to him. But most people who know baseball would argue that is highly unlikely. Odorizzi may end up being exactly the same as Davis, one of the countless examples in MLB history of a pitcher who can’t cut it as a starter but ends up being a strong arm out of the bullpen (though Davis is currently trending to be more than that). If Montgomery or Leonard play an inning in the bigs, that will be a resounding success.
Countless reports indicate the value Shields has brought to this franchise goes beyond what the pure numbers will tell you. He has built a professional presence to the locker room. He has shown a group of players who have never won at the major league level what it takes to be a successful major league ball player. You cannot apply WAR to an idea like this. Much like all the other pieces of the trade, time will tell us how much that will matter.Published 27 May 2014, 21:43 IST