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Numbers Game: Rays, Royals make blockbuster deal

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Scott Cullen
12/12/2012 12:30:38 PM
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The Kansas City Royals made a bold move, upgrading their rotation and dealing away one of baseball's top prospects.

Numbers Game looks at the deal bringing James Shields to Kansas City and sending Wil Myers to Tampa Bay.

The Royals Get: RHP James Shields and RHP Wade Davis.

Shields, who turns 31 next week, has been a very durable starter, logging 1330 innings over the last six seasons, the fifth-highest total in baseball over that time.

Aside from the 2010 season, when his ERA ballooned to 5.18,  Shields has been a top of the rotation starter for the Rays, with an ERA of 3.85 or better in four of those six seasons, including last season's 3.52 mark.

Over the last two seasons, Shields has recorded 448 strikeouts over the last two seasons, ranking third in baseball behind only Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw, while ranking first in the majors with 14 complete games and second with 477 innings pitched.

That durability, and effectiveness, will make Shields the ace of the Kansas City staff and the upgrade to the rotation indicates that the Royals intend to compete for a playoff spot in 2013. Maybe that objective is part of the plan every year, but it has been quite some time since the Royals had a pitching staff that made the playoffs a remotely reasonable target.

Shields has two years and $21-million remaining on his current contract, which actually makes him a reasonably-priced staff ace.

Joining Shields in the Royals rotation will be Wade Davis, a 27-year-old who had been a top prospect and had a couple of mediocre seasons as a starter before thriving in the Rays' bullpen in 2012.

In 2010 and 2011, as a starter, Davis recorded 218 strikeouts in 352 innings, which works out to 5.57 per nine innings. Pitching out of the 'pen last season, Davis whiffed 87 in 70 1/3 innings, 11.13 per nine innings, or nearly double Davis' previous rate.

According to www.fangraphs.com, Davis dialed up his fastball a couple MPH coming out of the bullpen (93.5 MPH, up from 91.4 MPH in 2011), which is fairly common, given the relative demands on relievers compared to starting pitchers.

The challenge for Davis will be maintaining his effectiveness when he returns to a starting role and there is some reason to believe that will be possible because, in addition to increased velocity, Davis threw more breaking pitches than ever before, which allowed him to generate dramatically more swinging strikes (a career-high 12.0%, according to Fan Graphs).

Even if Davis isn't likely to duplicate last season's 2.43 ERA, he could be plenty effective and be a rotation upgrade for Kansas City just by keeping his ERA under 4.00 and logging something close to 200 innings.

Davis is under contract for the next two seasons, for just $7.6-million, before three team options, valued up to $25-million, kick in for 2015 through 2017. If Davis turns out to be a reliable mid-rotation starter for the Royals, then, he could fill that role for the next five seasons at a very reasonable cost of $32.6-million.

The Rays Get: OF Wil Myers, RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montogmery and 3B Patrick Leonard.

Myers, who turned 22 on the day after Sunday's trade, is a prodigous power-hitting prospect, who slugged 37 home runs and drove in 109 runs, hitting .314 with a .987 OPS in 134 games at Double-A and Triple-A last season.

Myers did strike out 140 times in 522 at-bats, so he can improve his plate discipline, but putting up those numbers at that age at that level is a good indication that he will be a legit major league power hitter.

Coming up, Myers was a catcher, but he played more centre field than anything else last season. In Tampa Bay, he projects to a corner outfield spot, likely in left while Desmond Jennings patrols centre.

Myers is the prize of this deal for Tampa Bay, a player capable of slugging 30-plus homers per season for the next decade or more.

It's not as though Myers was the only valuable piece in the trade, though.

22-year-old Jake Odorizzi is coming off a stellar minor-league campaign, during which he was 15-5 with a 3.03 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, striking out 135 in 145 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

Odorizzi made his major league debut in September, allowing four earned runs in 7 1/3 innings (4.91 ERA) in a couple of appearances, showing a fastball, curveball, change-up repertoire (according to www.fangraphs.com).

Next season, Odorizzi should compete for a spot in the Tampa Bay rotation, but it's not going to be easy, as Alex Cobb and Chris Archer are among those bucking for a regular turn for the Rays.

Mike Montgomery is a 23-year-old southpaw who was a first-round pick in 2008, who had early success in the minors, but has fallen off track the last couple seasons, posting a 5.69 ERA in more than 300 innings at Double-A and Triple-A.

There is obviously some upside that could pay off for the Rays if they can get Montgomery back on track, even if it's merely as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen.

A 20-year-old that the Royals picked in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, Patrick Leonard is a power-hitting prospect, who belted 14 homers and 46 RBI (hitting .251 with an .833 OPS) in 62 games of Rookie level ball last season.

Leonard is still several years away from the majors, if he ever gets there, but his power gives him intriguing upside.

All told, the Rays may have come up with a spectacular deal, one that replenishes their prospect pool and gives them a potential long-term star in Myers. The one caution is that the Rays' haul is based entirely on potential, therefore there is a greater element of risk. There are no guarantees about what James Shields will deliver to Kansas City, but it seems a safer bet to project Shields, based on his major league production than it does to project for Myers, Odorizzi et al.

Kansas City will come under fire for giving up an elite prospect like Myers and may well rue the day if Myers becomes one of the game's premier home run hitters, but the Royals added a pair of legitimate major league starters to their rotation and that doesn't come cheaply.

If it results in a playoff berth at some point in the next few years and the Royals gain some measure of relevance, then the deal won't be so bad, but that says something about a trade right off the bat when the upside is that it might not be so bad.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

James Shields (Photo: J. Meric/Getty Images)

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(Photo: J. Meric/Getty Images)
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