Wil Myers rumors and the Kansas City Royals grand plan

The hot stove is heating up, and it’s gaining steam in Kansas City, of all places.

The Royals aren’t pursuing Josh Hamilton or B.J. Upton, or even trying to get Zack Greinke to return to his original club. But recently, there’s been some major steam behind the possibility of the Royals willingness to trade top prospect Wil Myers for a “frontline starter.” In the most recent set of rumors, those frontline starters include Tampa Bay Rays right-hander James Shields and Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester.

Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, who wrote the article linked above, asked the most obvious question, “In effect, are two years of Shields or Lester worth six years of Myers?” D.J. Short of HardballTalk.com adds another point in his analysis of the trade rumor, saying that “trading one of the top position prospects in the game for two years of team control on Shields or Lester isn’t an ideal scenario. Not to mention that the Royals would likely have to find a way to move some salary off the books in order to acquire either of them.”

Both are valid points, but there’s another variable to that question that I haven’t heard anyone consider yet. Would the addition of Shields or Lester be enough to make the Royals competitive in the next two seasons?

Myers is one of the top five prospects in baseball. No, his impact isn’t expected to be Trout-ian in 2013, but he’s as ready for the majors as any prospect yet to make his debut. The only teams that should be actively announcing their willingness to part with such a player are teams that feel they are one piece away from being a legitimate contender, and that the prospect in discussion doesn’t fill that need. The Royals are not that team.

If the addition of Shields or Lester guaranteed the Royals one championship over the next two seasons, it would be a much tougher decision, and one that would be hard to pass up for the Royals. Ultimately, the goal of any of these moves is to win a title, so if you knew one was a sure thing, it would be worth even a prospect like Wil Myers. But unfortunately, the world doesn’t quite work that way.

The question of two years of Shields/Lester vs. six years of Myers depends a lot on what happens during those two years of Shields/Lester. If the team that gets the short (in terms of years) end of that deal is one solid starter away from being a legitimate contender, then it’s a much more difficult decision than a team floundering in last place. For example, two years of James Shields is a lot more enticing to a team like the San Francisco Giants* or the Texas Rangers than it is to the Minnesota Twins.

*It’s also the same temptation that leads to trades that get two months of Carlos Beltran in exchange for six years of Zack Wheeler, but that’s a discussion for another day.

So the question remains, are the Royals at that point?

There’s a nice nucleus building in Kansas City, and it was thought a few years ago when the Royals had perhaps the deepest farm system in recent memory that 2012 would be the season when real progress was made at the major league level. If they hold on to Myers, 2013 will be the season when the offensive portion of blueprint will be complete, with a lineup that is becoming increasingly impressive. The nucleus of Myers, Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar and Jeff Francoeur (just making sure you’re paying attention) is a legitimately dynamic lineup. The pitching depth in their farm system, however, has stagnated due to a combination of injuries and developmental steps back.

Hence trade rumors like this one.

When it comes down to it, the Royals can find a way to make Shields or Lester fit into their payroll and the move would likely make them better in the short-term. Lester and Shields are both likely to be 3-5 win starters, and it would be impressive for Myers to reach that level in 2013. But what does their addition really do to the Royals’ chances of winning next season?

Essentially, is a rotation that consists of Shields/Lester, Ervin Santana, Jeremy Guthrie, Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar, coupled with a Myers-less lineup, really a playoff roster?

I’d say no.

That’s what would really bother me about this move. It’s not the near-sightedness of the move or the idea of trading two years of success for six years of potential. It’s that the move would be done for all the wrong reasons. Is the Royals goal really just to get above .500, or is it to build a long-term winner?

Trading Myers for two years of Shields or Lester would have to greatly improve the Royals’ chances of being a legitimate contender and that strategy simply doesn’t add up. When it all boils down, the Royals are simply further than just James Shields or Jon Lester away from being a playoff-caliber team.

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  1. Kevin said...

    But by trading for Santana and re-signing a 34-year old Guthrie, they basically HAVE to make a run in 2013, or those moves look very foolish.

    The Royals are basically caught in between. The offensive nucleus of Gordon, Butler, Hosmer, Moustakas, Perez and Escobar is intact through 2015. It would be foolish to waste one of the three seasons they have left together. If no other upgrades are attained, you have basically wasted a bunch of money on Santana and have waved the white flag for much of 2013. In addition, the return of Paulino and Duffy, followed by the hopeful emergence of Odorizzi, Ventura, Lamb, Zummer, etc won’t happen until 2014 in all reality.

    From a competitive standpoint, one of two things needs to happen. Either they need to sacrifice Myers to contend this season, or trade off Santana, and Butler/Gordon to get parts that all lineup together. The Royals are perennially “Caught in between”.

    What I fear is going to happen is that they stand still and pray that their roster as currently constructed this day gets them into wild card contention…essentially wasting money of Santana, Guthrue and some of the peak seasons of the offensive core.

  2. DD said...

    As a Mets fan I would love to get my hands, so to speak, on Myers.

    I follow Kansas City too, and considering what might make sense for the Royals apart from cash considerations, I would propose: R. A. Dickey plus Steve Matz to the Royals for Myers and John Lamb.

    It’s my belief that Dickey will be a top level pitcher for at least 3-4 years, providing innings, top quality pitching and an entirely different look from the rest of any pitching staff.  Additionally he’s about as good an ambassador for the game as one could imagine.  Frankly, Myers is about the only guy I would be willing to trade Dickey for, and even that deal would be very hard to accept.

    Matz is somewhat like Lamb, a kid with promise whose development was derailed by injury.  He is not a far along as Lamb, but he has shown conclusively that he is healthy again, and still capable of throwing gas.  His inclusion (and Lamb’s, for the Mets) give the Royals cover against the charge that they are neglecting the future in making the deal.

    Then, I would add another Met to my roster, one Mike Pelfrey.  Pelf at this stage is a low-cost gamble, a gamble that a first round draftee finds himself in his late twenty’s, and that he is recovered from Tommy John of course.  It’s the sort of signing that HAS worked out before; at the beginning of last season, the B-R comp list for Chris Carperter had Pelfrey as the 2nd most similar pitcher up to that age.  Carpenter spent his early 20’s scrambling, too, before finding himself at age 29.  Pelfrey is 29 next year; and they are roughly the same sort of pitcher: large body righthanders who rely on a sinking fastball.

    I think Pelf is a better bet to have a good year in 2013 than Ervin Santana

  3. tbr said...

    DD, it’s painfully obvious that you are a Met’s fan.  That is just a really bad trade for the Royals.  I’m sorry, I love Dickey, he’s a great story and all, but he’s a 38 year old knuckleballer.  As such, the Mets’, and their fans’, delusional notion that a Dickey trade is going to bring them a huge haul of prospects is not based in reality.

    I realize that knuckleballers may go forever.  I realize that kunckleballs aren’t hard on the arm.  I realize the guy just won a Cy Young (and I think he well deserved it; he would have gotten my vote).  But…knuckleballers get no respect from front offices.  They get year to year contracts.  They are oddities.  If you trade for an oddity you don’t give up much to get it.  And he’s still 38 years old.  If you don’t give up much to trade for an oddity, you give up even less for a 38 year old oddity.

    I’m sorry, DD.  Everybody enjoys the RA Dickey story.  But that’s how he’s viewed.  “Wasn’t RA Dickey a fun little story in 2012?”  That’s the reality of it. 

    And nobody is going to trade away a passel of top prospects to acquire RA Dickey – and the Royals especially are not going to trade Wil Myers for him.

  4. Tom Santamaria said...

    If Myers is traded for pitching it needs to be for a pitcher with simular stats.

    Someone who could become a number 1 starter but is low cost because they are young & ready to emerge into a “possible” star not a 2 year fix.

  5. dd said...

    Responding to tbr:

    A couple of thoughts: one, that Dickey hasn’t been great for one season for the Mets.  It’s 2 3/4 seasons now, three seasons if one gives him credit for what he did in Buffalo the first forty games of the 2010 season, where among other things he -pitched a one hitter, his first of four one= hitters Dickey has crafted as a Mets property.  He was a little bit better last year, that’s all.

    Dickey is 38.  He also is in great shape, as anyone who has been him field his position or handle a bat can attest.  No disrespect, but I would take his future over Jon Lester’s.

    Of course most baseball people would disagree.  It doesn’t make them right.  And for the record, I will be thrilled if the Mets keep Dickey.

  6. Brad Johnson said...

    Keep in mind, the AL Central is not a good division. The Tigers have a stars and scrubs roster while the rest of the competitors feature middling talent.

  7. Alex said...

    I think a Myers for Jon Niese deal makes sense. Niese is a young, talented, LH starter who is locked up to an extremely team friendly extension. Niese would probably slot right into the #2 spot in their rotation…

  8. Jason said...

    What about a package of Niese and Wilmer Flores for Myers and a catching prospect. I believe this would help both sides as Niese is young and locked in to a VERY team friendly contract. The addition of Flories gives the Royals a young power bat that projects at 3B to help off-set the loss of Myers.

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