Widgets Magazine

The Royals Rays Trade By the Number$

Written By on 10th December, 2012

Update: Sky Kalkman pointed out my calculator wasn’t adding correctly. The figures have been changed, but the piece is almost exactly the same.

Dayton Moore finally pulled the trigger on trade with Andrew Friedman late Sunday night, swapping Wil Myers, a consensus top 5 prospect, and other minor leaguers for James Shields and Wade Davis. Rather than execute Moore and owner David Glass, let’s take an unbiased look at the deal.

In James Shields, Moore acquired a front of the rotation arm that has consistently pitched over 200 innings a year since 2007 while maintaining strong strikeout (~23%) and walk ratios (~7%). Shields is clearly talented but, he has been lucky too. The 31-year-old has spent his career pitching in front of a talented Rays defense and in Tropicana field, both  make him look better than he actually is. Fangraph’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) does an excellent job of isolating a pitcher’s contributions to his team and the statistic says has consistently been a four win pitcher for the past six seasons. Of course, adding an all-star caliber player to the Royals will improve their dismal rotation; prior to the trade no one in the rotation projected to be above a two win player. But, there are other important factors in addition to wins and losses, so let’s look at James Shields the asset:

JD uses Sky Kalkman’s value calculator which he tweaked to add annual inflation.

Shields is making less than he’s worth, which is great for the Royals. Moreover, the second year is an option. If Shields’s performance plummets or an injury occurs in 2013, the Royals have the option to buy him out for $1 million. This clause does have value and the Royals will receive a first round supplemental compensation pick when he opts for free agency in December, 2014. Adding those factors, let’s say James Shields is worth $25 million.

In addition to Shields, the Royals acquired Wade Davis. Davis, once a top 50 prospect, who failed to impress in the rotation and moved to bullpen where he found far more success. In all, Davis has been approximately one win above replacement level each year since he earned a full time role in 2010. If that trend continues, Davis isn’t a very valuable asset.

Wade Davis was terrible as a starter, posting strikeout rates of 6K/9IP and 5K/9IP to go along with 3BB/9

He has a $2.5 million buyout on his option years so the Royals may be inclined exercise their options and retain his services despite the right-handed pitcher being worth less than he’s being paid. But, let’s be optimistic and say Davis’s improvements were  not due to a move to the bullpen and the Rule of 17 – the rule the states a starter will see a 17% increase in his strikeout rate, a 17% decrease in his homerun and hits allow rates, with his walk rate remaining constant. Instead, let’s assume he figured out something mechanically that will translate to his new role as a starter.

Davis saw an increase in his fastball velocity in 2012 in addition to striking out over 11 batters per 9 innings.

If this optimistic projection is accurate, Davis may even earn himself a qualifying offer from the Royals. Due to the slew of club friendly options and the compensation pick, let’s call Davis a $50 million asset. Under the best of circumstances the Royals could realize a $75 million dollar gain from Shields and Davis. Of course, we haven’t discussed what they traded for these two arms.

The cornerstone of the piece was Wil Myers. When the off-season lists are finalized you should expect to see Myers no lower than fifth. Jurickson Profar and Dylan Bundy are only two prospects I expect to be ahead of him, but there is a case for Oscar Tavares and a few others. Personally, I rank Myers second ahead of Bundy because I prefer his bat to a starting pitcher, but reasonable minds will defer on that perspective.  Thanks to research from Victor Wang and Sky Kalkman we know top 10 hitting prospects were worth $36.5 million in 2009. But, there are a few caveats that need to be noted. First, prospecting has come along way since Wang’s study, which analyzed players from 1990-1999. Second, Wil Myers isn’t merely a top 10 hitting prospect, he’s a top 5 hitting prospect and Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year. While we can adjust that figure for inflation to around $50 million, let’s look at Myers instead.

As noted below, Myers has a very strong chance of exceeding this level performance. All arbitration numbers were given little consideration.

This is a very conservative projection for Myers, yet he’s almost as valuable as Davis and Shields without considering the rest of the package (Odorizzi, Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard). And recall we’re using a very optimistic projection for Davis. It’s far more likely the pair of arms acquired isn’t worth much more than James Shields’s $25 million. But, Myers may be worth even more than that projection. Scott McKinney’s research tell us there is a 63% chance that a top 10 ranked hitter will produce over 1.5 wins per controlled year. Moreover, there is a 40% chance that population will produce over 2.5 wins. But, McKinney’s research clearly shows that all top 10 prospects are not created equally.


Myers is on the far left of this graph

This graph shows a clear difference between a hitter ranked in the top 10 and a hitter ranked in the top 5. There will always be players who don’t work out, and Wil Myers could be one of them. But after watching Wil Myers a lot on MiLB.tv this year, I believe he’ll have a similar career trajectory to Ryan Braun. Here’s an example of what his value could look like if that’s the case.

This is only one possible outcome. I see Myers as an above average to elite hitter playing average defense in an outfield corner. Again, arbitration numbers and the projection are entirely fictional.

Entirely fictional, but extremely impressive nonetheless. Even if Myers fails the Rays have secured the services of three other minor leaguers who make this deal lopsided. Each of which will be under team control for six years. Odorizzi, who will pitch in the major leagues for the Rays this season, is likely a third or fourth starter. But the Rays will be paying him nothing for three and a half seasons before he reaches arbitration. The truth is, he alone may be more valuable than Shields and Davis due to his contract, especially if Davis underwhelms.

It’s impossible to know why Dayton Moore made this trade. Maybe he was trying to save his job. Maybe he really believes that Myers will not hit for power – as reported. Maybe ownership wouldn’t okay buying another free agent starter after committing $12 million to Ervin Santana and $26 million to Jeremy Guthrie. These factors and more may have forced him to make this trade.

But, there is hope for the Royals. In all, there is a lot of upside on their squad. The defense is very good; Moustakas, Hosmer, Cain, Duffy and Perez should all be healthy and could improve; Francouer could regress towards the league average, making him more useful than he was in 2012; the same could be said for Wade Davis and Santana too. Still, a lot needs to break right for Royals to win an additional 20 games and beat an improved Detroit team.  Holding onto Myers and Odorizzi should have allowed Moore to reinvest the salaries of Shields and Davis into the roster ($11M in 2013, $24M in 2014, including Francoeur) while keeping his young talented core intact. It’s possible Moore has given Royals fans what they want, a playoff team. But, it’s far from certain the Royals are better in 2013 because of this trade and it’s nearly certain they will be worse in the future.

JD Sussman
JD Sussman
About JD Sussman

JD is a co-founder of Bullpen Banter and muses about prospects, sabermetrics, and often intermingles law and baseball in his work. In addition to managing the site, JD is awaiting admission to the New York Bar. Additionally, he sporadically contributes a prospect column toFangraphs. Be wise and follow him on Twitter. He can be reached via e-mail at jdsussman@bullpenbanter.com.

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One Comment on "The Royals Rays Trade By the Number$"

  1. Profile Photo
    Chris Blessing December 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm -

    I pimped this out earlier without reading it knowing it was good work!  And I was right!