The major reason for this post today is yesterday's blockbuster trade between the Athletics and Cubs. My initial reaction to the trade was 'man, is the Cubs system stacked.' My second thought, I hope this gets Billy Beane a ring.
Despite the lack of pitching prospects in the Cubs system it seems possible that the lovable losers could push for the title of Best Farm System ever. Theo Epstein, who has stated that he wants to build a farm system like the one the Royals had is on the cusp of accomplishing just that. (On a side note, I wonder how many baseball executives looked lustily upon the Royals system and thought to themselves, "oh if only I could be the one to take them to the next level.")
Since the trade there have been many who have comped this deal to the trade that sent Wil Myers to Tampa Bay. Let me be perfectly clear, this comparison is lazy. Yes, both the Royals and A's sent a top ten prospect plus to another team for pitching talent in an attempt to win now. No, that doesn't make the trades equal. This mentality that one is approved because it is Billy Beane and the other is rejected because it is Dayton Moore is unfair to the fans smart enough to evaluate moves on a much deeper level.
The Royals made the trade to get to the periphery of playoff contention. The Athletics made the trade to win a world series title. If you equate these two items as being of the same value, then you can click the X found in the upper right hand corner of the browser. A team's placement on the win curve is essential in determining what they should be willing to pay for each additional win. This is rudimentary stuff, but somehow seems to be forgotten by those stating these trades are one in the same.
Another point that should be made is that the Royals trade occurred in the off-season, a time in which talent can be acquired without sacrificing talent already in hand. Quite simply, if the A's wanted to improve their rotation in July, they had no choice but to move talent from their organization. In the off-season, the Royals could in theory acquire talent, while also hanging on to the talent at hand. This represents an enormous difference in the trades.
Finally, Addison Russell, while he is an outstanding prospect is not ready to contribute at the Major League level. He has played 16 games in the upper levels of the Minor Leagues. Best case is that he is called up midway through next season. Meaning the A's were not going to get a return on him for basically an entire season. Wil Myers on the other hand was Major League ready and returns on him would begin the same time as the returns of the asset. This is a key point that I haven't seen mentioned, but should not be ignored.
Of course, all of this pushed me to revisit the Myers trade. Since the Royals seemingly made the decision to go for it in 2013 and 2014, it would make sense that they would have returned much more value in the short term than the Rays. In order to see if the Royals have come out ahead in the Myers-Shields trade, I decided to compare the post trade WAR totals for the Royals with the WAR total from the Royals in an alternate universe in which they stayed the course and held on to Wil Myers. Also, since the Royals would have had a solution in right field, I have included the Smith brothers, Justin Maxwell, and Nori Aoki in this evaluation.
|w/out trade||$1.00||$1.50||w/out trade||$1.00||$1.50|
|Patrick Leonard||A||A+||Patrick Leonard||A||A+|
|Mike Montgomery||AAA||AAA||Mike Montgomery||AAA||AAA|
|Jake Odorizzi||0.3||0.9||Jake Odorizzi||0.3||1.5|
|Wil Myers||1.9||-0.6||Wil Myers||2.4||0.4|
|Will Smith||1.3||Will Smith||0.6|
|Kyle Smith||A+||AA||Kyle Smith||A+||AA|
|James Shields||4.1||-0.1||James Shields||4.5||1.4|
|Wade Davis||-2.1||1.8||Wade Davis||1.7||1.5|
|Nori Aoki||-0.5||Nori Aoki||0.9|
|Justin Maxwell||0.6||-1.2||Justin Maxwell||0.7||-1.1|
The left hand column utilized the WAR from Baseball Reference, while the right side uses Fangraphs' version. As you can see, the Royals clearly came out ahead in 2013, but depending on which WAR you prefer it was either just 0.4 wins or 4.2 wins ahead. Let's split the difference and say the Royals were 2.3 wins better because of the trade. In 2014, we find that according to bWAR the Royals are actually 1.6 WAR worse because of the trade, while fWAR says they are 0.2 wins better. Again let's split the difference and say they are 1.4 wins worse because of the trade.
Really based off the above totals, no matter how you slice it, it is hard to argue that the Royals were much better off over the past two seasons due to the acquiring of James Shields and Wade Davis. In fact, based off of our midway points, the Royals actually were just 0.9 wins better over the last year and a half, thanks to the trade. I doubt this is what Royals officials had in mind when they pulled the trigger on the trade that would send their top prospect to Tampa Bay.
Unfortunately for Royals fans it gets worse. As you can see in the above tables, there is also a dollar figure included. This represents in millions how much the Royals paid for the players. In 2013, the Royals spent $10.8 million more for the bottom group and in 2014 the total jumped to $18.75 million more. My guess is that this difference could have been spent on the free agent market to acquire an additional win over the last year and a half, which would have made the top grouping better even in the short run.
Fortunately, there is a way that we can consider the monetary implications in our evaluation. In 2013, Fangraphs valued each win at approximately $5 million. If we multiply that by the WAR total for each set and add in the difference in money to the alternate universe scenario, the Myers led Royals squad boasts an average over $23.05 million in value between Baseball Reference and Fangraphs to $23.75 million for the Shields version (approximately 0.1 win). This obviously is a slight edge to the Shields led Royals. However, the 2014 averages favor the Myers led squad $54.1 million to $26.65 million (roughly 4.6 wins).
Clearly, the Royals were willing to sacrifice the long term to push the envelope in the short term. Unfortunately, based off these numbers the Royals have lost tremendously in the short run as well. Even if we discount each year following 2013, the numbers are going to be staggeringly one sided when this set of trades is evaluated. To close, let me just give you an update on the other guys the Royals gave up that have yet to contribute at the Major League level.
Patrick Leonard: Hitting .298/.386/.521 in 76 games with Tampa Bay's High A team. His 12 homers would be tied for third most in the Royals organization. He is 21 years old.
Mike Montgomery: 3.28 ERA in 85 innings with Triple A Durham (most hitter friendly park in league). He leads the International League in FIP and SIERA. Still just 24 years old.
Kyle Smith: Has pitched 78.1 innings between the Astros High-A and Double A teams. Currently has a 3.56 ERA, is striking out 10.23 per 9 innings and walking just 2.64. He is also 21 years old.
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