Fire Dayton Moore

Fire Dayton Moore
It's time.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Trade breakdown Pt. I

“We know we’ve got a special, controllable player here. If we make a deal, we have to make sure we get someone we believe can get us into the playoffs.”
--Unnamed Royals official, Kansas City Star, Dec. 6, 2012

In order to be considered more than just a hateful campaign, actual analysis needs to be provided on this blog. So this post will focus on breaking down the players acquired in Dayton Moore’s Dec. 9 trade with Tampa Bay and my best guesses as to the best- and worst-case scenarios.

This piece was written with the premise that, yes, the Royals entered the offseason in dire need of pitching, but the price paid was too steep and the players Moore acquired in return were a curious fit at best.

James Shields (Age 31 on Opening Day 2013)
7 seasons, 3.84 career FIP, 4.3 WAR in 2012

Might as well start at the top. Shields was the apple of Moore’s eye this offseason as rumblings of a potential deal began to resonate in the weeks leading up to the Dec. 9 trade.

The question is why Moore apparently couldn’t live without a pitcher who has posted solid, but unspectacular career numbers and has only two years left on his contract at the cost of the Royals’ top prospect. The two fundamental issues Royals fans should have with the Shields acquisition is (1) Royals management is parading him around as if he’s an “ace” and (2) it cost the Royals a prospect who, at worst, was regarded as a legitimate everyday right fielder.

Let’s get one thing straight about Shields. He is not an “ace.” In all of Major League Baseball, there might only be a handful of bona fide aces. Justin Verlander (6.8 WAR), Felix Hernandez (6.1) and Clayton Kershaw (5.5) are some of the few who fit the definition. Shields, by comparison, finished 18th in WAR among qualified starting pitchers. Heading into 2013, he realistically could have been Tampa Bay’s No. 4 starter and no one would have questioned it. That speaks partly to the Rays’ starting pitching depth but also to the fact that Moore paid a premium price for a middle-of-the-rotation arm.

I've had friends tell me Shields is a fun pitcher to root for. Maybe that's because he makes a favorable impression on fans at home. On the road, though, "Big Game James" doesn't always make the trip. In 2012, his ERA was 0.58 higher on the road. In 2011, it was 0.99 higher, 1.29 higher than his 4.53 home ERA in 2010, 0.87 higher in 2009, 2.23 higher in 2008, 0.72 higher in 2007, and 1.71 higher in 2006. How he will perform in a full season when games at Tropicana Field are few and far between is anyone's guess.

Bill James offered his best guess on Fangraphs with his 2013 projections for Shields, and they aren’t the stuff of aces. James has Shields’ K/9 dropping from 8.82 to 7.89 and his HR/9, WHIP, ERA and FIP all increasing. In fact, if James’ projections come to pass, the Royals will have given up Wil Myers for the 2007 version of Gil Meche.

Of course, Meche was 28 in 2007 and had only one more quality season before his career fell on a cliff. While the Royals front office raves about Shields’ ability to be a work horse because he’s thrown nearly 1,350 innings the last six seasons, there’s always the chance that workload will eventually catch up to him in Kansas City. Even if it doesn’t — and I don’t especially think it will — and even if Shields prevents Luke Hochevar from reentering the rotation, Shields was only 2.8 wins better than a hopeless Hochevar in 2012.

As of this writing, the Royals’ projected starting rotation, in order, is Shields, Jeremy Guthrie (5.10 FIP in 2012), Ervin Santana (5.63 FIP in 2012), Wade Davis (0 starts in 2012) and Bruce Chen (4.73 FIP in 2012). Please take a moment to reread the quote above. Now look at those five names. Sure, Hochevar, Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino might break into the rotation at some point, but how much more confidence does that inspire? With or without Shields and Davis, the Royals’ rotation doesn’t even resemble the shadow of a playoff rotation.

Best-case scenario: Shields outperforms his projections, continues his six-year trend as a workhorse and he lives up to his contract, but the rest of the Kansas City rotation can’t keep up and the Royals finish a distant second behind the Detroit Tigers. He duplicates his strong efforts in 2014 and cashes in during the offseason with another franchise while the Royals’ long playoff drought still lingers. As for Myers, he never lives up to the high expectations Royals fans once had for him and Moore can at least claim the trade was a draw.

Worst-case scenario: Shields follows in Meche’s footsteps in all the wrong ways after years of wear and tear on his arm. He doesn’t live up to his contract in 2013 or 2014, but re-signs with the Royals for a Guthrie-like deal just to fill a rotation spot for a Royals franchise still in desperate need of pitching. In the meantime, Myers becomes a perennial All-Star for Tampa Bay, sparking enough fan excitement that the Rays construct a new outdoor ballpark.

Wade Davis (Age 27 on Opening Day 2013)
4 seasons, 4.28 career FIP, 1.1 WAR in 2012

Once I saw a Tweet that the Royals acquired not only Shields, but Davis as well, my concern over what the Royals gave up grew exponentially.

In two seasons as a starter for the Rays, Davis was basically replacement level, doing little more than eating up innings. Because of this, in 2012 the Rays wisely used him in a relief role. Then the Rays did an even smarter thing and shipped him off to a desperate team for promising prospects.

So what’s the grand plan for the Royals in 2013 with Davis? If the team’s official site is to be trusted, he’s penciled in the starting rotation right now. What reason they have to think he’s any different than Aaron Crow is a mystery. It seems to me, Davis’ only case to be in the starting rotation is, at the moment, Hochevar is his only competition. And let’s say Davis somehow doesn’t make the rotation, of what use is he in a Royals bullpen that didn’t need upgraded?

Meanwhile, on his way to Tampa Bay is Jake Odorizzi, who at least started games in 2012 and at most could have been in the middle of the Royals’ rotation next season. To trade Myers and another prospect for Shields would have been one thing — albeit still a bad trade — but to throw in Odorizzi for a replacement level arm such as Davis was borderline irresponsible.

Best-case scenario: Davis finds a way to reach his unfulfilled potential and nails down one of the bottom three rotation spots for the Royals the next four seasons. At the same time, Odorizzi doesn’t live up to even the most conservative projections and finds himself in Davis’ old bullpen spot.

Worst-case scenario: The Royals find out the hard way that trading for relievers in hopes of making them starters is not a sound business model. Davis is serviceable out of the bullpen the next four seasons while Odorizzi asserts himself as another young, formidable arm in the Rays’ rotation.

Fire Dayton Moore

No comments:

Post a Comment