Front Office reflections on the Shields-Myers trade

December 12, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore (left to right), newly acquired pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis, and manager Ned Yoast pose for photos after the press conference at Kauffman Stadium. - Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Dayton Moore and Andrew Friedman open up about the potentially infamous trade that brought Wil Myers and three other prospects to Tampa Bay.

Ken Rosenthal recently made his best effort to describe the mentality of Dayton Moore.

The general manager of the Kansas City Royals traded four of his fifteen best prospects -- including a top ten prospect for all of baseball, Wil Myers -- to the Tampa Bay Rays this off-season in exchange for two years of James Shields, five years of Wade Davis, and utility infielder Elliot Johnson.

That's a difficult thing to explain.

Moore was raised in the school of John Schuerholz, the former general manager and current president of the Atlanta Braves. During his tenure as GM, Schuerholz was known for both stock piling excellent prospects and trading them away. To win the division in 2004, he traded pitching prospect Adam Wainwright for one year of J.D. Drew in a five player deal. The following season he started 14 rookies, including Brian McCann and number one prospect Jeff Francoeur, winning the division again.

Entering his seventh year with the Royals and a year where less than 90 wins could win the AL Central, Moore reported feeling the influence of his mentor as his staff approached the franchise-changing trade.

"If you focus on what you're giving up, you'll never make a deal," Moore told Rosenthal, "it will paralyze you. You've got to focus on what you're getting and what it brings to your team."

The Royals have found long term position players throughout the lineup. C Salvador Peraz, 1B Eric Hosmer, 3B Mike Moustakas, SS Alcides Escobar, LF Alex Gordon, DH Billy Butler are all under long term control.

The team has simply failed to develop starting pitchers.

Before the Shields-Myers trade, Moore had already acquired Jeremy Guthrie and Ervin Santana. The Royals were slated to return 2012's front line starters Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar, and rookie Jake Odorizzi was the front runner for the fifth spot. Instead, Jake was included in the trade that landed James Shields and Wade Davis.

According to PECOTA, that's an upgrade of about two wins, but that's an unfair assessment.

The Royals won 72 games in 2012, and lost 25 games in the second half of the season by two runs or less.

Moore is leveraging that the addition of James Shields's ability to go deep into games and perform as a staff ace, and the addition of Wade Davis's new look arsenal, will be enough to put the pitching rotation over the edge of mediocrity in the AL Central, giving his offense a better opportunity to win close games.

So what was Dayton Moore thinking? Just ask the Orioles.

One run games are the latest market inefficiency in baseball.

***

Last night, in an interview on 620 WDAE, Andrew Friedman noted that a trade acquiring Wil Myers was long in development for the Tampa Bay Rays, although he was not bent on trading James Shields until the winter meetings.

It was during the early hours of Thursday morning, the final day of the meetings, that Friedman and his crew made the decision to land a package including the top prospect for two starting pitchers -- Shields and Davis.

Friedman called trading James Shields the hardest move he had ever made as GM.

Choosing to pursue the Shields-Myers trade required drawing a hard line. Friedman noted that a trade to acquire Wil Myers could have happened two weeks earlier, but he backed away. The front office was adamant on the Royals including three prospects: safe-bet SP Jake Odorizzi, fallen-from-grace SP Mike Montgomery, and power hitting 2B/3B Patrick Leonard.

If the Royals wanted James Shields, a work horse and a staff ace at an affordable price, and former starter Wade Davis, who was experiencing a renaissance in the bullpen with the addition of a cutter, then Moore and his crew would have to deliver those four prospects. No budging.

Rosenthal goes into detail on the experience staffers had watching Dayton Moore erase each prospect's name from the board. Moore turns and asks his staff, "Still pretty good, right?"

Mike Arbuckle, one of Moore's senior advisers, recalled the experience, "made it easier for guys in the room to say, ‘This is going to hurt. But at the same time, it's not cleaning the system out. There are more players coming.'"

The Rays and Royals agreed in principle on Thursday morning, and the trade was finalized on Saturday.

***

Andy and Dave, hosts of Rays Radio, solicited Friedman for his opinion of the trade, but the conversation did not begin with Myers. They asked about the lesser known prospects acquired in the trade, and he responded enthusiastically.

Odorizzi's strongest asset is a "high floor," Friedman explained, but not without a high ceiling for the starting rotation; a strong statement for a pitcher currently ranked eighth on the Rays pitching depth chart. Conversely, he described Montgomery as a "high ceiling" player that could use some work. Friedman opined that, despite Montgomery's struggle to perform at the triple-A level in 2012, and even worse so after a demotion to double-A, the former top Royals prospect, "never lost his stuff." By the tone in his voice, it would seem this is the defining characteristic of a player that could be fixed.

Friedman was no less enamored with Patrick Leonard, calling him "a big, big man" that commands "a live ball off the bat." Friedman has enjoyed watching him take BP, calling his performance thus far, "very impressive, physically." All of his reports were strong indications that Friedman had no regrets.

The conversation eventually moved to Myers.

When asked if the atmosphere surrounding Myers had similarities to that of Evan Longoria's rookie season, Friedman responded, "It's fair in a loose sense. There are similarities in that they are both gifted in the batter's box," but there is a key difference: "We've been around Evan."

When Longoria entered spring training in 2008, he had been in the Rays system for two years and under the tutelage of Joe Maddon's style of operations.The Rays understood his attitude and work ethic, and knew whether he fit the 'Rays way' of raising prospects or playing baseball.

In short, Friedman said: "We don't know Wil nearly as well."

Without provocation, Friedman then continued into reasons why Wil Myers could use some seasoning at triple-A Durham before his promotion to the big leagues, beyond his lack of exposure to the Rays management.

"He hasn't played outfield that long," Friedman offered. "With that comes extra work, learning the nuances of the position... That complete player, adding all facets of the game, is important to us."

To this end, Andrew Friedman had similar thoughts to share with ESPN's Jayson Stark on the progress of Wil Myers.

"We're very sensitive to putting big expectations on young players," Friedman told Stark on Tuesday. "He's certainly capable of helping us win games in 2013. And I'm confident he WILL help us win games in 2013. But we're still very early on in the process of getting to know him, being around him, watching the way he works, observing the way he goes about the process of getting better in every facet of the game... The first impression has been very strong. So we're anxious to spend the next four or five weeks around him and continue his development."

There seems to be no doubt in anyone's mind that Myers will be a major league athlete, potentially even an All Star. The question is simply when he will arrive, and it will not be at the start of the season.

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