12/10/12 4:43 PM ET
Deal makes sense for Rays, Royals
By Peter Gammons / MLB.com
The Rays have preciously and brilliantly developed pitching, and this past season, despite losing Evan Longoria for more than half the season, they finished with 90 wins and the second-best run differential in the American League. Because they have been so good for the last five years, the Rays have not had access to top-five Draft picks, the likes of which got them Longoria, David Price and B.J. Upton.
So it got to the point where the Rays had to take some of that pitching and get a prospect like Wil Myers, who can project as a productive, power-hitting corner outfielder to fit in with Longoria and Desmond Jennings. Tampa Bay still has Price, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi, as well as one of the best bullpens in the AL. The club also saved enough cash by trading James Shields to be able to sign a free-agent designated hitter/first baseman like Lance Berkman.
And if manager Joe Maddon can somehow get Yunel Escobar's attention, he'll have a legitimate bat in the middle of the infield to go with the invaluable Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez, while waiting for prospect Hak-Ju Lee to step in at short.
Hey, the Rays won 90 games last season. It's not hard to see them winning at least 90 again in 2013 and being right in the middle of the AL East race -- a remarkable statement, considering their revenues and payroll.
But while many see this deal as Royals general manager Dayton Moore rolling the dice with Myers, well, there comes a point where Kansas City has to win. Ownership allowed the club to go above slot to sign high Draft picks Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Bubba Starling, but the young pitching everyone believed was coming hasn't arrived; Mike Montgomery, included in this deal, has never connected his No. 1-starter stuff with performance.
Kansas City may be a small market, but it is a great baseball town. There was a time before market size became such an issue that the Royals were a premium franchise, finishing in first place six times in 10 years, culminating with the 1985 World Series championship. After finishing 92-70 in 1989, they made the big winter splash, signing reigning National League Cy Young Award-winning closer Mark Davis as a free agent; he gave up a game-winning homer on Opening Day, the Royals finished 75-86 and it hasn't been the same since. In fact, they have lost at least 90 games in nine of the last 11 seasons.
The Royals had two starters throw at least 185 innings this past season -- Bruce Chen (191 2/3, with a 5.07 ERA) and Luke Hochevar (185 1/3, with a 5.73 ERA). In the AL this past season, the Royals had the second-fewest quality starts, the worst opponents' on-base percentage and the second-fewest innings from their starters.
So Moore had to take one of the best prospects in baseball and get Shields -- a reliable, innings-eating front man -- and Wade Davis, who could either start or join a big-time power bullpen that already features Aaron Crow, Tim Collins and Kelvin Herrera. Moore has tried to add innings in starters Jeremy Guthrie and Ervin Santana, and he has Chris Dwyer healthy again, with 2012 first-round Draft pick Kyle Zimmer on the fast track.
Moore has one of the best young catchers on the planet in Salvador Perez, and if Hosmer and Moustakas bounce back, they'll fit in with Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain.
Detroit is still going to be the team to beat in the AL Central, and we can never doubt the White Sox. But Kansas City's window with Hosmer and Moustakas won't long be open, and it's time to compete -- to round the Labor Day turn with the postseason in sight. This is not rotisserie league baseball; this is about people in the seats or in front of their televisions, and thus Moore had to try to find pitching any way he could, which in this case is a very high price in Myers.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rays did what they do: survive, move forward and scare the daylights out of the rich kids up north.
Peter Gammons is a columnist for MLB.com and an analyst for MLB Network. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.