Rays make bold move in trade with Royals
Credit the Tampa Bay Rays for being bold and impressive with their latest move.
The Rays traded not one but two quality pitchers in a seven-player deal with the Kansas City Royals announced Sunday night.
Most major league teams would love to add hurlers such as James Shields and Wade Davis, not deal them away.
With the trade, Tampa Bay acquired several players who could help solidify the future and keep the club very relevant in the American League East.
"We're constantly working to balance the present and the future and always trying to thread the needle," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said.
"As an organization, we rely more on the contributions of our young players than anyone else in baseball. But with this trade, we're hoping to replenish our system and add a lot of players we feel can help us sustain this run of success we've had for the last five years."
The Rays found the perfect partner in Kansas City, owner of a rich farm system but desperate to win after 18 years that have included only one winning season. Rumors surrounding the Rays last week at the baseball winter meetings involved dealing a front-line starter (Shields) to help fill the outfield and offensive voids created when B.J. Upton signed a free-agent contract with Atlanta.
Tampa Bay’s haul includes outfielder Wil Myers, right-hander Jake Odorizzi, left-hander Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard.
Myers, 22, is the star acquisition. Perhaps the minors’ top hitting prospect, he has the athleticism to play center or right and could offer protection in the lineup for slugger Evan Longoria.
Myers hit a combined .314 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI at Double-A and Triple-A in 2012.
Odorizzi, 22, was the starter in the 2012 All-Star Futures Game. He has four quality pitches, including a fastball that routinely hits 92-93 mph on the radar guns. He could compete to replace Shields in the rotation.
Montgomery, 23, was an underwhelming 10-23 with a 5.69 ERA and 133 walks the past two seasons. However, he went a combined 15-10 with a 2.27 ERA, 220 strikeouts and only 79 walks from 2008-10.
Leonard, 20, is further away. Besides, he’s a right-handed hitting third baseman -- the Rays already have that in Longoria. Leonard figures to make a position switch or perhaps be traded again down the road.
"I think it's very possible that Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi help us win games in 2013, and Mike Montgomery, as well," Friedman said.
Young players unproven on the major league level are no guarantee to fulfill their promise. Still, the trade was a risk worth taking for the pitching-rich Rays.
To harvest such a Royals crop, Tampa Bay gave up Shields, Davis and a player to be named later.
Shields, who will turn 31 on Dec. 20, earned the nickname “Big Game” while being a stalwart in Tampa Bay’s rotation the past seven seasons. His durability will not be replaced easily. He’s one of five big-league pitchers who have pitched at least 200 innings each of the past six seasons, and he leaves as the Rays’ all-time leader with 87 wins, 217 starts, 1,250 strikeouts and 1,454-2/3 innings.
The right-hander was an All-Star in 2011 when he went 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA. He was 15-10 with a 3.52 ERA last season.
Although money was not the motivation for this trade, the Rays rid themselves of paying Shields $10.25 in 2013 and a club option for $12 million in 2014.
The Rays still have a bunch of pitchers vying to join American League Cy Young Award winner David Price in the rotation — Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Jeff Niemann (coming off injury), Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and Odorizzi.
Davis, 27, went 25-22 as a starter from 2009-11 before flourishing as a reliever last season (3-0, 2.43).
To regularly compete with big-market teams such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, the Rays need to be patient, smart and, at times, bold. Sunday night was one of those times.