The Kansas City Royals are in the playoffs for the first time in 29 years and are on the brink of the World Series thanks in large part to a huge gamble they took on a trade two years ago.
In December, 2012, the Royals had just completed a season in which they lost 90+ games for the ninth time in ten years. That is usually a sign of a team that needs to build from the bottom up with prospects and young, cheap players.
But the Royals felt they were close and did something a lot of people thought was a terrible idea. They traded one of the best prospects in baseball, outfielder Wil Myers, to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of a 6-player deal for veteran pitcher James Shields and reliever Wade Davis.
Grantland.com called the trade “A Royal Blunder.”
Even though baseball is in an era where prospects are more valuable than ever, the trade has paid off big time.
Shields has been one of the best pitchers in the American League this year posting a 3.21 ERA in a league-leading 34 starts and has been worth 3.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
In addition, Davis has turned into one of the best relievers in baseball. His 3.1 WAR was second amongst all relievers in baseball this season. At one point, Davis went 33 straight appearances without allowing a run.
Meanwhile, Myers has hit just 19 home runs for the Rays in two seasons and spent a large portion of this season on the disabled list as the Rays missed the playoffs. Another player in the trade, Jake Odorizzi, has turned into a decent starting pitcher for the Rays, but may end up in the bullpen in the long run.
Here is a look at how much value in terms of WAR the two teams have received from the players involved in the trade.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the Royals “won” the trade. Shields will be a free agent after this season and is headed for a monster pay day. Meanwhile, the Rays players are much younger and will remain in Tampa Bay for several more years.
But it is clear now that making this deal was a genius move even if the Royals sacrificed some of their future. They are eight wins away from being World Series champions and they would not be here without Shields and Davis.
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