We’ve talked way too much about a trade between the Rays and Royals involving James Shields and Wil Myers here at RCG. In a previous article, we concluded that the Rays should pursue Myers, but only within reason. But coming out of the Winter Meetings, we heard that a deal between the Rays and Royals never fell into place because the Rays wanted more than Myers for Shields. That leads to a question that has to be asked: when push comes to shove, will the Rays agree to do a straight Shields-Myers one-for-one trade if it comes to that?
By now, you know the players involved. Shields is a durable starter who has been great the last two seasons and is under contract for two more years at contract figures the Rays are not sure they want to pay. Myers, an outfielder, is the top prospect in baseball with big-time bat speed and power but also has never played in the major leagues and struck out 140 times last year at Triple-A. Shields may not be an ace but is an outstanding number two starter who the Rays could potentially replace without much of a hitch. Myers may be unproven but he has superstar upside and could be ready for the big leagues immediately. The Rays have pitching and desperately need more offense, and Myers gives them a chance for a middle-of-the-order bat for years. Obviously the Rays wanting more than Myers could be just a negotiating tactic, but what could possibly hold the Rays up from doing the outright Shields-Myers trade?
Right now, Shields is the antithesis of Myers. He’s a proven veteran the Rays know they can depend on. Does it really make sense for the Rays to trade a player like that for a prospect who may be as promising they come but also features enormous risk? We can take it almost for granted that James Shields will manage an ERA between 3.00 and 4.00 (likely closer to 3.00) with over 220 innings each season for the Royals in 2013 and 2014 if he’s traded to them. Myers could be a superstar by the time Shields is a free agent- or he could have failed to adjust to major league pitching, eliciting nonstop criticism from the media over the Rays trading the most dependable pitcher in their history for a risky prospect. If the Rays were trading Shields primarily for salary relief, then it wouldn’t matter quite as much how Myers did- but they’re not. They’re trying to win, and if trading for Shields hinders them from doing that in the long-term, they’ll be regretting the trade for a long time. If they’re going to trade Shields for somewhat of an unknown commodity, they want to receive other assets in return to increase their chances of coming out ahead moving forward. The Rays love upside and acquiring Myers would be almost entirely based on that. But if they’re going to give up a player they’ve been able to count on for so long, they would like to get other players in the trade as a safety net knowing that everything could very well go wrong with Myers.
So would the Rays do the trade? I can’t see them turning it down- you don’t see players like Myers on the trade block very often and it’s a golden opportunity for them a turn a decaying asset in Shields, who will be a free agent in two years, for a player who could be a central piece of their team for a long time. I don’t think the Rays do the straight swap, getting a little insurance on Myers by acquiring a decent low minors pitching prospect in addition to him, but no matter how much trepidation the Rays have at a Shields-Myers trade, at the end of the day how could they possibly pass it up? The Rays would love to get Myers and more from Shields. However, they can’t be so concerned about the possibility for failure in a Shields-Myers trade that they lose out on a player they never in their wildest dreams thought they would have the opportunity to acquire.