Takeaway from this month? The Royals have been really good.
You want to know how the Royals won the American League? Jay Jaffe’s written an excellent primer; read it, and you’ll be well-prepared for whatever comes next.
However, Jay’s analysis does come off the rails a little for just a moment, right about here:
Count me among those who didn’t believe that the December 2012 trade centering around Shields and top prospect Wil Myers was merited, given how far from contention the 2012 club (which went 72-90) appeared to be. It still didn’t look good when Myers went on to win AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2013, but that evaluation undersold the value of Shields’ 220-plus innings of above-average work in both subsequent seasons, particularly when it came to preserving Duffy and Ventura. It also didn’t see Davis’ shift from a sub-replacement level starter (-2.1 WAR in 2013) to shutdown setup reliever coming.Article continues below ...
Reviews of the December 2010 trade of ace Zack Greinke to the Brewers weren’t so scathing, but it’s worth remembering that the deal netted both Cain and Escobar — a pair of young, inexpensive, up-the-middle players — as well as Jake Odorizzi, who was sent to Tampa Bay in the Myers deal.
On that note, while recent Royals history is full of sob stories about players who got too expensive and departed Kansas City — Greinke, Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon, and so on — the long-term extensions for the homegrown Billy Butler, Gordon, Escobar and Perez have helped keep the team’s largely homegrown nucleus together, even as some components of it (Hosmer and Moustakas, in particular) have come along more slowly than hoped.
Let’s leave the blockbuster trade for another day, as plenty enough electrons have been spilled already and nobody’s mind is changing until at least 2018. However, I have no idea how Shields’ presence relates to Ventura’s and Duffy’s workloads … Would the Royals have rushed those guys if Shields hadn’t been around? I doubt it. Without Shields, the Royals aren’t competing for a playoff spot. So there wouldn’t have been much reason to rush them.
And when writing that reviews of the Greinke trade “weren’t so scathing,” Jay implies that they were at least somewhat scathing. Is that true, though? Not that I can recall. What I remember thinking (and probably writing) is that the Royals caught a pretty good haul for Greinke.
Oh, hell. I’ll do some research … Here’s a bit of Rany’s column at the time:
I think the Royals did well. Maybe even very well.
Those opinions run all over the map. I have colleagues who love this trade for the Royals (Kevin Goldstein). I have colleagues who think the Royals did poorly (Keith Law and Joe Posnanski). I have colleagues who think the Royals could have done better (Christina Kahrl). I have colleagues who think the Royals did alright, considering (Joe Sheehan and Rob Neyer).
Well, okay. Gotta give Jay this one. Gotta take Rany’s word about Law (that link doesn’t go anywhere useful), and Posnanski seemed merely skeptical, calling the trade “curious” from the Royals’ perspective. But, okay: It’s certainly worked out better than maybe anyone but Goldstein expected. Bonus points to Dayton Moore for sure.
But the mention of long-term contract extensions is largely a canard, having very little to do with the current team’s successes. Billy Butler’s been awful this season, and even worse in October. His deal, however team-friendly, has not benefitted the club in 2014. Escobar’s extension might have kept him from earning a big raise via free agency … but he couldn’t have become a free agent until after this season. Salvador Perez would still be far, far from free agency. Alex Gordon’s contract extension did preclude free agency last winter. So that’s a big win in 2014, for sure.
But let’s not overstate the case. We all love Perez’s contract, and the others (except Butler’s) look pretty damn good, too. Let’s just not conflate good long-term moves with the season the Royals are having right now.
And you know, we should be able to enjoy the Royals’ 2014 in all its crazy, improbable, thrilling pleasures without twisting ourselves into intellectual knots. Without their wildly improbable win over the A’s in the Wild Card Game, how many people are bending backward right now to explain how the Royals are so much better than everyone expected? Newsflash, friends: Win that game against the A’s or lose, the Royals are almost exactly the same team. Which is why we should, if we’re being honest with ourselves, try to resist making any grand pronouncements about The Future of Baseball and whatnot.
Anyway, I’ve already sworn to ignore 2015 until after the World Series … But you know, Opening Day will be here a lot sooner than we think. We’ll be revisiting this subject before long, but in the meantime there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying every single second of the 2014 World’s Serious.