Trading season is well underway in the MLB right now and the latest franchise to get involved with a blockbuster trade are the Kansas City Royals, who gambled their future in return for a chance to win right now.
The Royals acquired former All-Star James Shields and fellow right-hander Wade Davis from Tampa Bay in a six-player deal that sent top prospects Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi along with two other minor leaguers to the Rays.
The swap immediately bolsters the Royals’ starting rotation and should make them a contender in the relatively weak American League Central. You can appreciate why the Royals feel that the time for waiting is over, they have not had a winning season since 2003 despite having one of the best farm systems in baseball – but there has remained a dearth of starting pitching that has hampered the Royals’ chances for success for years and this latest trade addresses that problem.
The Royals had already re-signed Jeremy Guthrie to a $25 million, three-year deal, and took on former All-Star Ervin Santana and $12 million of his contract from the Angels. But the trade for Shields and Davis is their most aggressive move yet, giving Kansas City the ace it has been lacking since trading away Zack Greinke, along with another piece that could fit in the rotation or the bullpen.
Shields, who turns 31 this month, has been a stalwart in the Tampa Bay rotation the past seven seasons. He was an All-Star two years ago, when he went 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA and finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting, and was 15-10 with a 3.52 ERA in 33 starts last season, when he pitched 227 2/3 innings – his sixth consecutive year of at least 200 innings pitched.
The Royals suddenly have a glut of starting pitchers with Shields, Santana and Guthrie joined by Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza, who are expected back from last year and you could also throw Davis into that mix. The right-hander started 64 games for Tampa Bay from 2009-11, but he was shuttled to the bullpen last season when the Rays had an abundance of starters. He flourished as a reliever, going 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA, creating some flexibility for him in Kansas City.
To engineer this deal the Royals have had to trade away one of their jewels in Myers – he showed what he could do during the All-Star Futures Game hosted by Kansas City in July, when he had a pair of hits and drove in three runs at Kauffman Stadium. However, it would appear that for now in Kansas City the Royals are very much looking to the present rather than the future and they need to start winning now despite having to trade away some top prospects.