Emergency Transaction Analysis: The Wil Myers Trade
The stakes of these off-season trades just keep getting bigger and bigger. It was one thing when the Marlins dumped half their roster on the Blue Jays — I mean, the Marlins do that every half-decade or so. But a trade like this is arguably even more rare. Yes, elite prospects get traded all the time. You don’t even have to go back 12 months to find a top-10 prospect who got traded (Jesus Montero). However, the last time a reigning Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year was traded was all the way back in 1998. Paul Konerko was the 1997 award winner and was dealt from the Dodgers to the Reds (yes, he did play 26 games for the Reds) in July of 1998. Other than that? Never.
With that said, I do think the Rays certainly got the better end of this trade — and I think you’ll understand why when we get into the individual player values affected below. But first, here’s the trade in its entirety:
Kansas City Royals receive James Shields and Wade Davis (plus a PTBNL/cash)
Tampa Bay Rays receive Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard
The clear winner from a fantasy angle in this trade is Davis. There was going to be no room for him again in the Tampa Bay rotation for 2013, and it was a long shot at best for him to get saves. Now, he’s moving to another pitcher-friendly park, which comes in handy when you have a 43% career fly ball rate, and he’s going to be given every chance to make the Royals rotation. Now, with all that said, I don’t expect great things from him. At this point, I think the best you can hope for with him in the near-term is that he can throw 180 league-average innings (4.00 ERA or so) with a 7.0 K/9. So even that would make him a solid #4 in a mixed league rotation. I’m very curious to see where the hype train goes with him through February and March, as he has very real and serious concerns about staying in the rotation long-term. But he will get his chance.
I’m sure I’ll write a lot more about Alex Cobb this off-season, but needless to say, I’m a big fan. He was very nearly a #holytrinity pitcher in 2012, with a 7.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and 59% GB rate, and has much higher upside than most people realize. The important thing here is that while he won’t be an absolute lock for the rotation, he is likely the Rays #4 starter in 2013 with Shields gone. He also threw 178 2/3 innings last season between Triple-A and the majors, so he shouldn’t be on any sort of innings limit.
Jeff Niemann/Chris Archer
Both of these guys were looking as though they were on the outside looking in at rotation spots in Tampa before the trade, but it appears as though there will be room for one of them now. Realistically, it will probably be Niemann to start the year so that the Rays can keep Archer’s service time down. Then when Niemann gets hurt, which he inevitably will, Archer will come up, throw smoke and the Rays won’t miss a beat.
Montgomery is only in this group because his value had become so depressed as a member of the Royals. Some pitchers just don’t figure it out in some organizations and need a change of scenery. If I was going to hand pick one organization to take a crack at fixing this one time top-25 prospect, it would definitely be Tampa Bay. So, while he is still a flier at this point, he just became a more interesting one.
Ugh, but yes, Franceour is your Royals starting RF again. Nothing to see here in mixed leagues, but in AL-only, he’s back on the radar as an end-game pick.
Myers is going to be very good, whether it was going to be with Kansas City or anywhere else. Unfortunately for him, he’s not moving anywhere with better park factors for power, as Kauffman Stadium and Tropicana Field have similar numbers for RH power. Any advantage he’ll have from playing in a division with more hitters parks will be offset by playing in a division with better pitching. There are a million ways to dissect this trade, and Myers is the biggest chip involved, but I don’t think there’s any reason to think that he has different value in a dynasty league than he did a week ago. Yes, there’s an opening in RF for him in Tampa on Opening Day 2013, but with the Rays you never know whether he’ll start there or not.
I guess you could make the argument that Leonard should be in the value up category because people actually know who he is now, but I’m not that generous. My favorite quote about him came from Rany Jayazerli, who said that Leonard was “the safety-deposit box the Rays snatched up on their way out of the bank vault”. That about sums it up perfectly.
While Myers is the key to the trade, Shields has the ability to make it look more even than it does today. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is going to happen. If you look at his stats, you would think that James Shields is a legit front-line starter for fantasy — but unfortunately, I don’t think this is going to carry over to his new team. The reasons for this are two-fold, and we’ll start with the smaller one first: Shields does have pretty significant home/road splits for his career, and by that I mean he has a 3.33 ERA at home and a 4.54 ERA on the road. Now this isn’t that big of a deal because he’ll be going to another home park that suppresses HR (which can be an issue for him), but Tropicana suppresses total offense more than Kauffman. According to Stat Corner, Kauffman is around league average in 1B/2B/3B for both righties and lefties, while Tropicana is below league average in all of those places.
On top of that, the one thing which he’ll certainly notice is the defense behind him. Over the last two seasons, when Shields has been extremely effective, the Rays have had the lowest team BABIP against in baseball (.271) by far. The Royals on the other hand, were at .305, good for 2nd worst in baseball. This means more hits fall in and more runs score. And you can really tell the difference as there’s a full half a run swing from the Rays’ FIP underperformance to the Royals’ FIP outperformance. A lot of this stems not only from the defensive skills of the players behind him, but from the shifts that the Rays put on — which the Royals do not do. I love Shields from a skill standpoint, he is a #holytrinity guy after all, but I don’t see elite numbers coming from him in KC. He will likely be just outside my top-20 SP for 2013.
This one’s pretty simple. A guy with no dominant pitches, but a good idea of what he’s doing on the mound, is not a recipe for success in the AL East, even while pitching half his games in Tropicana. He gives up a ton of fly balls, so the Rays tendencies to shift won’t help him nearly as much as all of their other pitchers. I just don’t see this working out all that well, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tampa flip him during the season.
I wonder what part of KC’s BABIP allowed can be attributed to their awful SP staff. According to B-Ref, the average SP LD% allowed in ’12 was 19%. Here’s what KC’s starters did:
Will Smith: 23.0
Bruce Chen: 22.4
Luke Hochevar: 21.7
Jeremy Guthrie: 20.9
Luis Mendoza: 20.8
Everett Teaford: 20.2
So maybe the awful BABIP allowed may be an illusion due to horrible pitching instead of horrible fielding.
There may be some residue of that in the numbers, but my opinion is that it’s not much. I used the last three years worth of numbers to filter out some of that noise, and when you do that, the batted ball profiles of the two teams are very similar. These are 2010-2012 numbers:
Rays: 18.9% LD, 43.7% GB, 37.4% FB
Royals: 19.6% LD, 43.2% GB, 37.2% FB
The Rays have a significantly better defensive team than the Royals and the shifts they’ve employed under Maddon have only worked further on favor of their pitchers. With a full season (hopefully) of Lorenzo Cain, the Royals should have an improved defense, but Frenchy should still give a lot of that back. Meanwhile, the Rays may also be better with the addition of Yunel Escobar.
It’s not like I’m dropping Shields out of my top-30 or anything, but the change in teams will likely leave a bit of a mark on his fantasy value.
I agree with Gorillakilla34 in that measuring the Royals defense by BABIP and FIP is probably a mistake due to those stats being at least somewhat dependent on the skills of the pitchers involved. Though there is no doubt that the Rays defense is far superior and a large part of that is the style of the manager.