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Hot Stove Thoughts-Royals-Rays Deal

It's a deal that could change the focus of both franchises. The Royals and Rays shook up their franchises with a deal that involved 6 players and one to be named later.

As talk of a possible trade that included Wil Myers being traded from the Royals to Tampa Bay gained momentum, I never thought it would be a one player for one player deal. In today's market, starting pitching is at such a premium, even a top prospect player with Myers' upside can't fetch a quality starting pitcher by himself in a trade.

Here is how I look at the deal of the Royals Outfielder Wil Myers, P Jake Ororizzi, P Mike Montgomery and 3B Patrick Leonard going to the Rays for P James Shields and P Wade Davis. Another player is said to be on his way to Kansas City to complete the transaction.

There is a bit of help for today and help for tomorrow for both clubs in this deal Here's my take:

KANSAS CITY

The Royals began their off-season by bringing in former Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim starting pitcher Ervin Santana and re-signing starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. They would anchor a rotation that would also include Bruce Chen and a couple other starters from among Luke Hochevar, Luis Mendoza, Jake Odorizzi and Felipe Paulino (depending upon his health.) That wasn't enough to challenge the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central.

The fan base in Kansas City was getting increasingly restless with unfilled promise of pitching prospects. The list was lengthy and included names such as Danny Duffy (hurt) Mike Montgomery, Chris Dwyer (previous back injury) John Lamb (a year removed from fractured pitching elbow) and more. The Royals brass got the message. The time was now to make a bold move. The time had arrived to trade some of their organizational depth for a star pitcher to anchor the rotation.

James Shields was their target.

They got their man. At quite a price.

Shields is a top of the line, 200 innings, 200 strikeout per season pitcher. His vast arsenal of pitches has improved over time with command of breaking balls being his greatest improvement. This past season, Shields threw 227.2 innings, winning 15 games and striking out 223 hitters. He was a fantasy stud. He threw to a 3.52 ERA and 1.168 WHIP. There were few, if any teams that wouldn't want Shields in their starting rotation.

But keep in mind that Shields has only two seasons of control under his current contract. That means the Royals must win within the next two seasons or sign Shields to an extension and extend his life on their club. Given the contracts of Zack Greinke and eventually Anibal Sanchez, how much will Shields fetch on the open market if he is allowed to test free agency? Do the Royals have that kind of money?

It is highly, highly unlikely the Rays could have extended Shields. And that's why he was traded when his value was high rather than in his final year with Tampa Bay.

Shields goes immediately to the top of the Kansas City rotation. But then what? They remain with the same other 4 starters I mentioned above.

The Angels need starting pitching. They knew they had a very good chance of losing Greinke, which they did. Knowing that, why didn't they keep Santana? Because just as he did with my fantasy team before I traded him, Ervin Santana continued his inconsistent ways in 2012. One start he was good. For the next two starts he was bad. Then he'd be great for a start. Then there would be three clunkers. The Angels tired of the inconsistency. Soon that reward for his presence in the starting rotation will belong to Kansas City. For lots of precious dollars.

Wade Davis pitched very well out of the Rays pen last season. He threw in 54 games without starting any. He had a 2.43 ERA out of the bullpen last season. He's only 29 and he should be entering his prime. He threw 70.1 innings and only yielded 48 hits. However, when he started for the Rays in 2011 he wasn't nearly as effective. He threw to a 4.45 ERA and 1.375 WHIP as a starter.

If the Royals intend to use the right-handed Davis out of the pen, I think he is a good addition. If, however, they want to stretch him out in Spring Training and bring him back to the rotation, I think they are asking for trouble. Is he better as a starter than Hochevar or Mendoza? Maybe. Is he better than a healthy Paulino? No. So-maybe Davis grabs the 5th slot in the rotation. I won't be grabbing him in any format if he's a starter. Again, for me, he's a reliever and the price paid for his services was very high.

TAMPA BAY

This almost isn't fair.

I think they cleaned up. I'm just sayin. I think they have potential building blocks for the future that give them flexibility to make more moves and/or mix and match players between the Major and Minor leagues. The key word is potential. They traded for promise. For upside. For potential. They got 4 prospects. If half succeed, it will be a very good trade. Of course, it depends upon which half. It has to start and continue with Wil Myers. I think it will. For sure.

Wil Myers has All Star upside. He projects to be a starting outfielder at my scouting grade of 65 on a Major League Scouting scale of 40-80. That means he is All Star caliber at full development. He's only 22. He has the ability to hit for average and for power. He has the speed to steal bases. He is learning the outfield after having spent the first part of his career as a catcher. He told me last spring he would never return to catching.

Myers is the type of athlete that does things well. He has natural ability and an ease about his game. I think he needs to improve his pitch recognition, but it's not far off right now. He is patient. He can take a walk if needed. He doesn't get himself out. He doesn't give away at-bats. That's probably the quality I like best. He is one very tough out.

The Rays will have 6 years of control of Myers as opposed to the Royals having two years with Shields. That's huge.

This past season, Myers hit a combined .314/37/109 over two classifications, Double-A and Triple-A. The Royals traded 37 Minor League home runs and 109 Minor League RBI. Because they want to win now. Because they were tired of all the criticism. And because a James Shields doesn't come around every day and there is a price to pay for a pitcher like that.

They paid the price. The home runs and RBI were Minor League home runs and RBI. Wil Myers hasn't done it in the Major Leagues yet.

Jake Odorizzi is a back end of the rotation starter. For me, he's much better in that role than Wade Davis. I wouldn't be surprised if Odorizzi didn't make the Rays out of Spring Training. Or if he was flipped in a trade for a much needed catcher or outfielder. The Rays have pitching. They still have unmet position weaknesses in their farm system.

Odorizzi is not overpowering. He is more a finesse pitcher. He was 11-3 with a 2.03 ERA last season in 107.1 innings of Minor League baseball. That shows he can pitch. However, when he was promoted to Kansas City, he had a 4.91 ERA in 2 starts covering 7.1 innings.

Odorizzi was also traded once before. He went to Kansas City after having been drafted by the Brewers in the first round of the 2008 draft. He's still only 22 and he has upside remaining. He won't strike out many hitters and his command is such that he may walk too many. He's still a prospect. But again, he's a pitcher the Rays can use for roster flexibility or in trade.

Mike Montgomery could put this deal way over the top for Tampa Bay. He's a big left-handed starter who has not reached his potential. He has scuffled since being selected with the Royals first pick in 2008. He's left-handed and at times, lefties take longer to develop. Now is his time. He has to learn to command his fastball. If he can do that-watch out. He's big and strong. He's just wild. Imagine if he does come around. Then the Rays have yet another pitcher in their stable. This one left-handed.

I have never seen Patrick Leonard play. He's a third baseman with a good bat. He hit .251/14/46 in Rookie League ball. That's not bad. Especially the 14 home runs. I can't comment further until I see him play. He's only 20 years old. He was a 5th round pick in 2011.

There are victories in this trade for both clubs.

The Royals get the ace they wanted. They also get another pitcher with Major League experience to use in their rotation or their bullpen

The Rays get a hot prospect outfielder that they control for 6 years when he makes their club. And they get more organizational depth.

The risk/reward equation in this deal, something I always calculate in trades, tilts to Tampa Bay. It more than tilts. It falls off the table.

That said, the Royals have satisfied an unmet need. I wish them well.

Follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff throughout the Hot Stove season and read my analysis of the 3 team Reds-Dbacks-Indians trade on this same site.

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