Phenom Trades Fire Up Hot Stove
CHICAGO—Before the Royals sent Wil Myers to the Rays, none of Baseball America's Minor League Players of the Year ever had been traded before making their major league debuts.
Kansas City parted with Myers—plus three other prospects in righthander Jake Odorizzi, lefty Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard—to get James Shields and Wade Davis. While it was surprising to see the Royals give up one of the top three position prospects in the game, a bigger shock came two days later.
Eighteen months after drafting Trevor Bauer No. 3 overall—and six months after he became the first player from a loaded 2011 draft to reach the majors—the Diamondbacks bid goodbye to him. The Reds sent Drew Stubbs and shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius to the Indians for Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Donald, a prelude to Cleveland packaging Gregorius with Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp to get Bauer, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw.
With pitching in such short supply throughout baseball, why did the Diamondbacks give up on Bauer so quickly?
Arizona general manager Kevin Towers' top priority this offseason was finding a long-term shortstop. He likened Gregorius to Derek Jeter, though that comparison doesn't work because Gregorius is a quality defender with a so-so bat.
Gregorius definitely projects as a regular and he hasn't turned 23 yet, so there's still time to improve at the plate after posting a .699 OPS in five minor league seasons. Yet a good-field, possible no-hit shortstop isn't much of a return for someone with No. 1 starter stuff.
Bauer's lively 92-96 mph fastball and hard curveball can be plus-plus pitches, and his splitter, slider and changeup all can be average or better.
For all his talent, though, Bauer quickly wore out his welcome in Arizona. His unorthodox training regimen and desire to call his own pitches antagonized teammates at the major and minor league levels. He frustrated the Diamondbacks with his approach, running up high pitch counts while getting overly creative with his entire arsenal rather than trying to get quick outs.
The Indians, who emptied their farm system a year ago in an ill-advised trade with the Rockies to get Ubaldo Jimenez, are the clear winners in this deal. In return for Choo, who likley would have departed as a free agent after the 2013 season, they got a possible ace and a talented if enigmatic center fielder in Stubbs.
The deal makes sense for the Reds, too, as they get an offensive upgrade in the outfield by going from Stubbs to Choo (though they'll take a defensive hit). With Zack Cozart hitting 15 homers and playing solid defense as a rookie shortstop, Gregorius was expendable.
Bauer may be eccentric, but he's also a 21-year-old potential frontline starter who can't become a free agent for six years. The Diamondbacks didn't get enough for him.
Royals Had To Find Arms
Maybe the Royals should have talked to the Diamondbacks before paying such a steep price for Shields and Davis.
The Rays came out ahead in the deal because they got the most valuable long-term piece with Myers. The trade essentially boils down to six years of control with Myers for two years of control with Shields, with Odorizzi and Davis canceling each other out (though Tampa Bay gets three extra years of control with Odorizzi). Montgomery, who hasn't been the same since straining his forearm in early 2010, and Leonard represent lottery tickets that may or may not pay off.
It's not a terrible trade, though. While they overpaid, it's the type of deal Kansas City had to make because it has been unable to develop any starting pitching at all.
The Royals lineup features the core of a contender with Billy Butler, Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez. But since Dayton Moore took over as GM in mid-2006, the organization hasn't come up with any viable pitchers. They've had high hopes for the likes of Noel Arguelles, Danny Duffy, Chris Dwyer, Luke Hochevar (drafted No. 1 overall just before Moore officially assumed the reins, and it's hard to believe Moore had no input), John Lamb and Montgomery, but they haven't been able to assemble anything close to a respectable rotation.
Whether the player-development or scouting departments (or both) are to blame, Kansas City's investments in amateur pitching haven't panned out. Moore swung a minor trade to get Ervin Santana from the Angels and re-signed free agent Jeremy Guthrie this offseason, but those moves weren't going to take the Royals back to the playoffs for the first time since winning the 1985 World Series.
If Shields and Davis can get Kansas City to the postseason—which is plausible, given the state of the American League Central—this deal will be a success. If not, the Royals will rue surrendering Myers before his big league career even began.