The Rays have been shopping James Shields around the league for weeks to multiple suitors, but it would appear now that they have settled on a partnership with Kansas City. The Rays will be shipping out not only Shields, but also Wade Davis, and in exchange they’ll be getting outfielder Wil Myers, RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montgomery, and 3B Patrick Leonard.
My first thought here is that Tampa Bay is getting a lot of recognizable names. Myers, of course, is the centerpiece and one of the top five prospects in baseball, but Odorizzi was Kansas City’s top pitching prospect and also somewhere in the top 75-100, and Montgomery was formerly viewed as their top pitching prospect before struggling quite a bit in the last couple of years. But unlike the Royals, who have been awful at developing pitching from their vaunted farm system, the Rays seem to have a magic touch with their young hurlers. If they can find a way to help both Odorizzi and Montgomery reach their potential in the big leagues, this is going to go down as a mammoth haul for them.
Conversely, it’s definitely the case that this deal hurts their chances of winning in 2013. Myers will probably be a regular in the outfield, but getting rid of their co-ace in Shields will weaken the pitching staff that has to carry this team, even if it’s still one of the strongest such units in the game. I probably would have considered them the prohibitive favorites in the A.L. East yesterday, but this deal pulls them back to the pack at least. They’ve still probably got as good a chance as anyone else at the top, and, at least, aren’t looking as bad as they were before the 2011 season when they lost Carl Crawford, Matt Garza, Rafael Soriano, etc. Of course, they went out and won the wild card the following season, so this is an organization who knows how to keep winning even as they reload their roster.
The Royals haven’t earned the benefit of the doubt to that extent, and I must say: I don’t see what their logic is supposed to be here. Yes, they have a lot of good young position players and basically no pitching, but they’re also coming off of losing 90 games and still have a rotation that includes not a single sure thing after Shields. Is this team going to compete with the Tigers in the Central? I don’t really think so, especially since their owner just claimed that the team’s payroll is already running over budget, implying that their won’t be any more costly moves to bolster the roster. I guess I’m falling down in my duty to overreact to every offseason addition here, but a 2-4 of Wade Davis, Earvin Santana, and Jeremy Guthrie just doesn’t strike me as the stuff playoff contenders are made of.