Royals-Rays Trade: Who Wants A Small Market Blockbuster?

Royals-Rays Trade: Who Wants A Small Market Blockbuster?

In the middle of a snow-covered Sunday Night Football game (debacle for Detroit fans), baseball stole the attention of sports fans on Twitter.

The Kansas City Royals unloaded a big part of their deep farm system in a blockbuster deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Here’s how the deal breaks down:

  • To Kansas City:
    RHP James Shields
    RHP Wade Davis
    A player-to-be-named-later
  • To Tampa Bay:
    OF Wil Myers
    RHP Jake Odorizzi
    LHP Mike Montgomery
    3B Patrick Leonard

So… what does this mean?

The Royals just added at least one, if not two, quality pitchers to their starting rotation. Shields, 30, is an inning eating machine – he threw over 227 last year – and piled up a 15-10 record with a 3.52 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 223 strikeouts last season for the Rays. Davis, 27, was in the Rays’ bullpen last year, but could slide into the Royals rotation; he threw 184 innings in 2011 while starting in Tampa.

Kansas City’s starting rotation will likely now include Shields, Davis, Ervin Santana, Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen.

Long term, though, the Royals may have paid a king’s ransom for those two arms.

Myers is ranked by most analysts among the best prospects in all of baseball, and has a chance to slide into Tampa’s outfield immediately in the wake of BJ Upton’s departure. He’ll turn 22 on Monday (happy birthday?), and absolutely crushed the ball during a 2012 season split between AA and AAA.

In 591 plate appearances last year for Kansas City’s minor league affiliates in Northwest Arkansas and Omaha, Myers hit 37 home runs and drove home 109 while scoring 98 runs. He posted a .387 on-base percentage and a .987 OPS with 313 total bases.

Ah, but Myers isn’t the only gem in this deal.

Odorizzi, 22, was a key player in the trade that sent former Royals ace Zach Grienke to Milwaukee; he was the Brewers’ first round pick in 2008. (Note: ironic that he’s traded again on the day Grienke signs a huge contract in LA?)

Like Myers, Odorizzi split last year between AA and AAA for the Royals organization, and he was successful at both stops. He piled up a 15-5 combined record with 135 strikeouts in 145.1 innings pitched with a 3.03 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.

Montgomery, 23, was also considered one of the Royals’ top prospects; in fact, the Royals traded away three of their top four prospects in Baseball America’s preseason rankings of the KC organization. He also split last year between AA and AAA, posting a 5-12 combined record, and is considered a potential future #1 starter.

Leonard, 20, played 62 games in rookie ball last season, hitting .251 with 14 homers, 46 RBI and 37 runs.

Tampa is now loaded with starting pitching, adding two potentially elite starter prospects to a stable of arms headlined by 2012 AL Cy Young winner David Price. The Rays’ rotation will also include Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Jeff Niemann. Odorizzi could compete with former Cubs prospect Chris Archer for a rotation spot this season already, and Montgomery isn’t too far behind.

This deal excites me because it’s two small market teams with quality assets making a big trade to bolster their rosters for now and the future.

The Royals’ rotation had been a joke for years, and while this deal takes to big pieces away from their future, they have a small window of time to win with the developing hitters they have under their control right now. Shields has two years left on his current deal, so the exposure isn’t enormous for KC. This is the definition of a going-for-it-now trade from the Royals’ perspective.

From the Rays’ perspective, they had a surplus of good arms and needed to make room for guys like Archer. They added an impact bat and two really good young arms to give them even more system depth than they boasted before.

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