The Royals can win this trade even if Myers blossoms — and they can lose it even if he flops

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Because it’s the Internet overreactions abound with respect to the Royals-Rays trade. Some people are saying this is the dumbest trade ever for the Royals, some saying that they won it. Some are totally overvaluing prospects like Wil Myers, acting as if he’s cant-miss, while some are totally discounting Myers and acting like James Shields is an ace when he is merely a good starter.

My view, as I’ve said a couple of times, is that I think the trade is a bad one for the Royals, and that’s the case even if Myers turns out to be nothing special. That’s because judging the value of this trade from the Royals perspective only with reference to Myers’ future is the wrong way to look at it. Even trades that involve a prospect that goes on to great things can be “won” by the team that traded them away, and even trades that involve a prospect that flops can be lost by that team.

Think back to the trade that is, erroneously, thought of as one of the worst of all time: the Tigers 1987 trade of John Smoltz to the Braves for Doyle Alexander. People slag on that one because Smoltz is probably going into the Hall of Fame someday and Doyle Alexander was out of baseball two years later, ending his career with an 18-loss season.

But the Tigers wanted one thing and one thing only from that trade: they wanted to win the AL East. And, despite trailing the Blue Jays by a game and a half on the day of that deal, they beat ’em out thanks to Alexander, who went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA after coming over, including a must-win game against the Jays in game 160.  The Tigers wanted to make the playoffs. They traded off the promise of a prospect (though a not particularly well thought of prospect) in order to do it. Sure, they would have been better off with Smoltz for the next 20 years, but they were trading for 1987, and to a team like the 1987 Tigers — veteran-laden, in win-now mode — 1987 was all that mattered.

Turning to the Royals: trading for James Shields and Wade Davis is a “win-now” move.  They believe that the AL Central is weak and that adding a couple of pitchers will put them in the playoffs. They could be right. I think they need way more than that — they were a 72-win team last season — but that’s the calculus. As such, if Shields and Davis put the Royals in the playoffs for the first time in 27 years, they have accomplished what they set out to accomplish, and that’s the case even if Will Myers turns into a perpetual All-Star. It’s a tradeoff of promise for present, and Dayton Moore is well aware that there is a chance that Myers could be something special. We can disagree with him making that gamble with this Royals team, but that’s what he’s thinking.

But it’s also the case that the Royals could lose this trade if Myers turns into the second coming of Ben Greive and is out of the league before he’s 30. They lose it if what they wanted — that playoff spot — doesn’t come to fruition.

Maybe it won’t matter a ton because in that case Myers wouldn’t have helped much either, but this trade isn’t merely a function of Moore valuing Myers vs. Shields. It’s about Moore getting the Royals to win a lot more games and make the playoffs. And that’s how, from the Royals’ perspective, it should be judged.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.