Prospects Matter, And The 2013 Royals Don't

Al Messerschmidt

The Royals are being widely panned for the Wil Myers - James Shields trade, but a few writers seem to be taking the opportunity to make a stand against modern baseball sensibilities.

It seems like every once in a while the mainstream media decides that, no, they're not going to take it. The modern baseball sensibilities that value advanced statistics and prospects are just too much, and they revert to a 1970s "Well they added a winner here" mentality.

It seems that the Myers - Shields trade, widely regarded as a total steal in favor of the Rays, is going to be one of the trades they rally around. Here's Ken Rosenthal talking up the Royals' end of the bargain, and Jeff Passan doing the same. Jon Heyman threw his support in with some Twitter comments including this retweet of something I can't actually find Passan saying (in his favor, Passan seems to accept this isn't a great deal for Kansas City), while Danny Knobler pumped up the Royals as contenders on Twitter while pretending that the Rays were forced into a move they never would have made if people showed up to Tropicana.

It is an entirely reasonable thing for a limited budget team to trade prospects away to go for one big push should the opportunity present itself. Success in this game is measured in trips to the playoffs and championship years more than 81-win seasons, and if a team can't play in free agency to turn a decent team into a contender then they're left to either wait and hope, or to push hard through trades.

It's in this spirit that Dayton Moore went out and dealt three top prospects for James Shields and Wade Davis. It's in this spirit that the aforementioned writers have chosen to support him. Unfortunately for all of the above, the Kansas City Royals were in no position to add the one piece to put them over the top, because they started out on the bottom.

So far this offseason the Royals had done not a single thing to put themselves in position to really contend in 2013 and beyond. They gave Jeremy Guthrie--serviceable but unimpressive--three years after adding the less-than-serviceable Ervin Santana to the team in a trade for Triple-A reliever Brandon Sisk. Only now have they really added a strong piece in James Shields, a pitcher who tends to bounce around between being a legitimate #1 and a decent #3 starter.

At this point I'd like to draw your attention to a quote from Rosenthal's piece. It's basically what all the writers who support Kansas City are saying, but Rosenthal was the one who was nice enough to add the hint of disgust to show this is really a personal philosophic issue with modern sensibilities rather than any real evaluation of the Royals' move:

I'm sick of low-revenue teams that are scared to make a move, fixated on their place in the Baseball America organization rankings, content in their mediocrity.

Alright, class, a quick quiz: By adding one good pitcher, one mediocre pitcher, and one bad pitcher to a team that last year ranked 11th in the American League in offense by wOBA and 10th in pitching by ERA, what do you get?

A: A championship team!

B: A legitimate contender.

C: Mediocrity

This is not about "the fetishization of prospects," but a team that tossed away its nest egg in order to put a fresh coat of paint on a '92 Ford Taurus with half its wheels missing. Dayton Moore inexplicably thought that the time for Kansas City to really push hard for contention was one year after going 72-90, and traded away any chance for the Royals to be contenders in the future to maybe, just maybe give them a shot at a winning season that ends in August instead of June.

This was a terrible trade for the Royals. Not because prospects are all that matter and major league talent is overrated and we're all too stuck in our modern sensibilities to appreciate a team making a play for a winner. But because the Kansas City Royals are a bad baseball team trying to run before they've really managed to walk. The writers in question chose the wrong trade to try and make a point, and frankly some of them just come away looking foolish for having tried.

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