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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.

Gerrit Cole set to begin throwing program

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 24:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates sits in the dugout in the second inning during the game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on August 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.

The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.

The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

The White Sox wanted Astros’ top prospects for Jose Quintana

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 27:  Jose Quintana #62 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field on August 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.

It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:

We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.

While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.

Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.