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Updated: 2018-01-21T11:00:01-05:00


Has the Tommy Joseph breakout passed us by?


With Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana in the mix, is there any room for the popular pick for a 2017 breakout? It may feel like a decade ago by this point, but it wasn’t actually that long ago that we were staring down the barrel of 2017 Opening Day. There were innumerable questions facing the Philadelphia Phillies: Would Odubel Herrera be able to back up solid seasons in 2015 and 2016 with another productive year? Was there going to be a prospect from slightly off the radar to sneak up on everybody and raise the hope for the future? Was Tommy Joseph going to break out and be the next big thing in Philly? While the first two questions were definitely answered in 2017 with a “yes” and a “Rhys Hoskins,” the answer to the third question was a little murkier. And murkier might be a bit generous. Many would lean toward a hefty “no.” Before the season, Joseph was a 25-year-old first baseman coming off a season in which he hit .257 with an isolated power of .248. He walloped 21 home runs in just 107 games (a 32-homer pace over a full season), and he was making lists such as FanGraphs’ “2017 Breakout Candidates at First Base.” (Sorry, Brad, I was all over him too, which is kind of the point of this article.) As we get ready for the 2018 season, Joseph is now seemingly an afterthought, as his downer of a 2017 season — combined with the Phillies’ signing of free agent first baseman Carlos Santana — leaves Joseph’s name in headlines more like: “Who’s on first? Santana signing leaves Phillies’ Joseph as odd man out” and “Phillies likely done with first baseman Tommy Joseph in 2018.” How did we get here? Well, a season like Joseph had in 2017 will do the trick. Joseph saw his batting average drop from .257 to .240, but even more noticeably, his ISO also dropped from from .248 to .192. Despite playing 35 more games in 2017, he tallied only one more home run, and when added to his subpar defense, he was the least-valuable Phillie of 2017, per FanGraphs WAR (-1.1), which is obviously saying something on a team that finished with only 66 wins. His wRC+ of 85 easily ranked worst among qualified first basemen in 2017. It’s tough for a defensive-minded middle infielder to post a wRC+ of 85 and still demand a spot in the lineup; if you’re a defensive liability at first base and posting a wRC+ of 85, it’s a borderline crime. Now, the Phillies had time to be patient in 2017. They weren’t planning on winning last season, and they executed that whole “not winning” thing to perfection. A season sunk into a player who just turned 26, and had shown potential at other times in his career, was likely a smart and calculated move. Prospect growth is far from linear, and giving up on Joseph only to see him pop up as a 35-homer first baseman somewhere else in the league (a la Logan Morrison) would be far more detrimental to the Phillies’ long-term plan than giving Joseph a few extra at-bats as a 26-year-old to try to figure things out in a season where they probably would rather end the game with an L than a W. Again, Joseph posted a wRC+ of 112 in over 100 games as recently as 2016. That being said, there are now a glut of first basemen in Philadelphia. You don’t need reminding that Rhys Hoskins did his best Barry Bonds impression in 2017, shattering rookie records left and right. Despite playing in just 50 games, Hoskins was the Phillies’ third-most valuable player in 2017 (per fWAR), and in terms of raising Philadelphia spirits (pWAR?), he was easily the most valuable. Hoskins started off mostly in left field after his promotion to the big leagues, but the Phillies gradually slid him into more and more time at first base as the season wound down. This makes sense: Hoskins is a first baseman first and foremost, as he played 105 of his 108 games in Triple-A at first base last season before his call-up. Of course, Philadelphia’s big offseason move was also to bring in a man who has played almost exclusively first base — or DH, which the NL obviously doesn’t have — over the past[...]

Blue Jays trade for Cardinals’ Randal Grichuk


Toronto’s roster is starting to take shape, somewhat. After a mum start to the offseason, the Blue Jays lately have begun to make acquisitions and signings that are shaping their roster. Yesterday, they added another outfielder — Randal Grichuk from the Cardinals, whom they acquired for reliever Dominic Leone and prospect Conner Greene. This came on the heels of them signing Curtis Granderson to a one-year deal worth $5 million. Grichuk is a 26-year-old outfielder who’s under team control through 2020. He’s been in the league for parts of four seasons, slashing .249/.297/.488 for a 108 wRC+. He’s shown some power during this time, with 20+ home runs in each of his last two seasons. He’s also a good defender, roughly splitting time equally in each corner. He may not be a threat to steal bases, but he does bring some speed to a mostly slow line up and is a good base runner. In fact, his BsR in 2017 would have easily put him as the best base runner on this Bluejays team. On the flip side, his on-base percentage is terrible, and he strikes out nearly 30 percent of the time he steps to the plate. Most of Grichuk’s success is against fastballs and offspeed pitches, while he tends to struggle against breaking stuff. According to Brooks Baseball, he’s whiffed on 21.4 percent of sliders and 11.6 percent of curveballs as a big-leaguer. Here are his numbers against all pitches in the major leagues: Image via Brooks Baseball Even though he was coming off a down year (with a wRC+ of 95), one can see why the Blue Jays were intrigued. Grichuk is young, he’s under control for three seasons and he has the potential to get better. With a move to a smaller park, it’s safe to assume that he can continue to see his power go up. Given that he’s never posted a high walk rate at any level, it’s probably unrealistic to expect he’ll improve his on-base percentage, but if he could make more contact, he could improve his overall numbers significantly. His best year with the Cardinals was in 2015, when he posted a 138 wRC+ and slashed .276/.329/.548. With the trade, the Blue Jays now have 5 outfielders on their 25 man roster: Grichuk, Granderson, Kevin Pillar, Steve Pearce and Ezequiel Carrera. In addition, they have 4 everyday outfielders — Anthony Alford, Dalton Pompey, Teoscar Hernandez and Dwight Smith Jr. — in Triple-A Buffalo, three of whom made their Blue Jays debut last year (while Pompey was mostly on the DL). With a logjam like this, I’m not sure how they plan on proceeding. Do they want to carry these five outfielders to Toronto in April, make a deal or hold a garage sale for outfielders sometime between now and the start of the season? Of this group, Pearce seems to be the most dispensable. Originally brought to potentially platoon with Justin Smoak in 2017, he seems a bit redundant going forward — Smoak seems to have locked up first base, while Kendrys Morales will be holding the DH spot for the majority of the at-bats. Andrew Stoeten recently mentioned that the Jays could look to platoon Kendrys and potentially give some of his at-bats against righties to Granderson, meaning there wouldn’t really be a place for Pearce. Carerra’s reverse splits against lefties mean he can be a fourth outfielder and platoon with Granderson, while Grichuk and Pillar would likely be everyday starters. The parts of the deal who head to St. Louis, reliever Dominic Leone and prospect Conner Greene, are a tantalizing pair. Leone had a career year last year — in 70 1⁄3 innings, he posted a 2.94 FIP and 1.5 WAR to help give the Blue Jays surprisingly strong depth in their bullpen behind Roberto Osuna. Greene, on the other hand, had an up-and-down year, mostly in Double-A, where he continued to struggle with his control. However, given that he had the ability to light up the radar gun with triple digits, it’s mildly surprising that the front office gave up on him without trying him out as a reliever. That could also mean that Blue Jays must feel that Gri[...]

Beyond the Box Score “elects” class of eight to the Hall of Fame


Suffice to say, our staff isn’t a small-hall group. Hall of Fame season is upon us! MLB will announce the former players who have made the cut on Wednesday, and based on Ryan Thibodaux’s invaluable research, it looks like more than a few have a chance at induction. Us plebes at Beyond the Box Score aren’t BBWAA members, but that won’t stop us from making our voices heard. We surveyed our writers and our readers to see which players they thought deserved a spot in the Hall of Fame. We’ll break down the results from the latter group in a couple of days; for now, let’s focus on the former. The 18 writers who took part had some differences in opinion, but we all agreed on one thing — there are a ton of great players on this ballot. Overall, eight men surpassed the 75 percent standard for enshrinement, and a few others came close. Let’s look at those players whom the BtBS staff thought were deserving of a spot in Cooperstown. Barry Bonds BtBS writers: 94.4 percent BtBS readers: 56.0 percent Question No. 1: Is Barry Bonds arguably the greatest hitter of all time? Answer: Yes. Question No. 2: What is the purpose of the baseball Hall of Fame? Answer: To enshrine the greatest baseball players of all time. Okay, so what’s the holdup, then? If you need to stare at the numbers for some crazy reason, have at it. Let us arrange for orange and black petals to rain down upon the main thoroughfare as Barry Bonds struts triumphantly through the Hall of Fame’s gilded doors, posthaste! But...he cheated! Oh, yes. Still hung up on that, are we? Listen. Barry Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs at some point during his (late) career. Everyone knows it. Everyone also knows that the particular era that housed Bonds’ greatest feats, known colloquially as the “Steroid Era,” was full of such players. We don’t have an exact figure on the peak of usage, but we do know that many players of the period have claimed it was rampant. The main argument against steroid users being inducted is that the drugs gave a player an advantage over his peers. Well, how many of Bonds’ peers were dabbling in the cream and the clear? 10 percent? 30 percent? More? What if it were determined that, on average, Bonds’ faced one starting pitcher and one reliever a series who was also on steroids? Would that change the perception of him as a gigantic cheater? Perhaps not. And yet, chances are pretty good there are already steroid users in the Hall of Fame (sorry, Joe Morgan), so the idea of keeping the hall “clean” rings hollow. It’s not that I don’t think we shouldn’t recognize that his lofty numbers were forged with a little bit of illicit help. Just slap an asterisk next to his plaque and be done with it. — Thomas Bennett Roger Clemens BtBS writers: 100 percent BtBS readers: 54.9 percent Photo by Scott Wachter/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images Roger Clemens is arguably the greatest pitcher ever. He’s certainly the greatest pitcher of the live-ball era. His Hall of Fame merits need no discussion, but let’s discuss them anyway for fun. His 70 ERA- ranks second all-time among pitchers with at least 3,000 IP since 1920. His 23 percent strikeout rate is one of the best ever, and his 4,671 strikeouts are the third-highest ever. Those numbers are incredible for a short career. The fact that Clemens did that for 4,916 2⁄3 IP over 24 seasons… there are just no words to describe that level of dominance. He won a whopping seven Cy Young awards, and it should have been more. He even won an MVP as a pitcher! Clemens’s ~140 WAR is the third-highest ever, and the highest of the live-ball era over Tom Seaver by almost 30 WAR. He had two seasons over 10 WAR, six seasons over 8 WAR, and ten seasons over 7 WAR. His 66.3 WAR7, the sum of his best seven seasons by WAR, is the best ever in the live-ball era. There is no baseball argument against putting Roger Clemens in the Hall of Fame. The problem is that the Hall of Fame’s[...]

Trade Retrospective: The Tigers acquire Omar Infante and Aníbal Sánchez from the Marlins


The Marlins got a good return for a departing free agent and a utility player. For the third straight offseason, BtBS is looking back on some of the biggest trades from years past. Check out all the entries here. Not long before the 2012 trade deadline, the Miami Marlins sent Omar Infante and Aníbal Sánchez to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Jacob Turner, Rob Brantly and Brian Flynn. This also marked the first time in MLB history that draft picks were traded. Conventional draft picks are not allowed to be traded, but “competitive balance” picks are. The Marlins had a pick between the first and second round, while the Tigers had their pick between the second and third round. Those picks were swapped. In this trade retrospective series, trades will be evaluated based on what was known at the time. That is the only fair, logical way to evaluate trades and strip luck out of the equation: process over results. Having said that, we will still take a look at how the trade worked out for both parties. The Deal That season Tigers were in the midst of a tight divisional race. They were riding a five-game winning streak that brought them from 3.5 games back to a 1.5-game lead over the White Sox. It was the first time they held even a share of first place since May 1st. Teams always want to avoid the Wild Card game, of course, but with the competitiveness of the American League in 2012, not winning the division could mean missing the playoffs entirely. Then-GM Dave Dombrowski was well aware of this, and as we all know, has never been shy about leveraging the farm system to bolster the major league team. At the time of the trade, the Tigers had one of the best rotations in baseball, but they lacked depth. Doug Fister had missed time due to injury, and Drew Smyly was on the DL. The newly traded Jacob Turner was actually the starter in the Tigers’ last game. It was only his sixth start since debuting about a year earlier. He was okay in that start, pitching 5 1⁄3 innings and giving up three runs with three strikeouts. The thing is that he had a career 8.64 RA9. It was only six starts spread out over the course of a year, but Dombrowski appeared to want to go with proven major league talent as opposed to giving a developing prospect consistent playing time during a tight divisional race. Aníbal Sánchez was heading into free agency, so Dombrowski was trading six cost-controlled years for two months of him and a year and two months of Infante. This trade would be an overpay if Turner was projected to be more than a mid-rotation starter, but that was not the case. Furthermore, owner Mike Illitch had recently turned 83 years old and had not witnessed a World Series championship since he bought the team in 1992. Sánchez was a solid mid-rotation starter at the time of the trade who would easily be a substantial upgrade over whomever would have started in Smyly’s place. Since 2010, he had a 4.09 RA9 and 8.2 bWAR, albeit with unremarkable strikeout and walk rates. He had also overcome shoulder problems from earlier in his career and had pitched nearly 200 innings in each of the previous two seasons. He was a great solution in providing depth and upgrading an already great rotation. Omar Infante was never much of a hitter, but he got by as a good defensive second baseman. That might not be a glowing endorsement of Infante’s skills back then, but that is a huge upgrade over what the sub-replacement lever players the Tigers were trudging out previously. The newly rebranded Miami Marlins wanted to draw fans to their new monument to taxpayers buying stuff for billionaires, so they signed José Reyes and Mark Buehrle in free agency. Unfortunately, the team still was not any good. They were 44-51 and 11.5 games back at the time of the trade. The Marlins have done plenty that is worthy of heavy criticism, but this trade is not one of them. Trading Sánchez and Infante for a projected mid-rotation starter and a couple of lottery pick[...]

Finding glimmers for a new Pirates window of winning


They got out of the doldrums in 2013, but with this reset, PIttsburgh needs to find new stars to build around. The PIttsburgh Pirates trading away Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen could rightly be seen as a white flag being displayed by the organization. Cole and Cutch were supposed to pair up to lead the Pirates to the promised land, the ace challenging for Cy Youngs and leading the pitching staff to dominance while the star center fielder won MVPs and paced the offense. For a brief moment at least, this was the case. McCutchen earned a top-five MVP vote from 2013-15, winning the award in 2013. That 98-win season included Cole finishing 4th in Cy Young voting, and was supposed to be a beginning of contention, not the peak before a steep fall. It was the Pirates third winning season in a row after two decades of losing. Now, only two years later, a new losing streak has been born. Cole was sent to Houston, shortly followed by McCutchen being traded to San Francisco. Pittsburgh is at a crossroads. When can they get back to winning again? On paper, the Pirates did do everything right. Maybe their players’ timing could have been a bit better, but McCutchen is the age he is, no matter how much more ideal his being two or three years younger would be. Aside from Cole and Cutch, the Pirates planned to have a collection of good young talent that would all grow together and flourish at the right time and challenge for division titles and pennants. Gregory Polanco is still just 25, Starling Marte is 27, Josh Bell is only 24. This is what a core of players you build around is supposed to be - a dazzling collection of outfield talent and a big, powerful first baseman. Unfortunately, the development has stalled: This isn’t a death knell of course, but for all three of these guys the luster has kind of worn off. Marte has the steroid suspension that makes one question the pair of great seasons immediately prior, Polanco has parts of good season surrounded by subpar stretches, and Josh Bell simply has yet to show the power expected from his position. To be clear, I don’t think those guys all stink, and it’s all over for the Pirates. Particularly Bell - he’s going to be 25 and has been an above average offensive player so far. He hits the ball decently hard - 87.7 mph exit velocity in 2017 - and has a big frame with room to bulk up. They also have some decent arms on the staff, even with Cole leaving. Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl and Tyler Glasnow are all still under 25, and all have very solid stuff even if the numbers aren’t there yet: Fastball velocity isn’t everything - Cole regularly tops 97 MPH but has yet to consistently realize his scouted potential despite that - but it’s a good starting point, and allows for some wiggle room while a pitcher matures. Only two of these youngsters struck out more than 20 percent of hitters he saw this past year, but again, they have time to grow. With all that hard throwing talent, it’s Trevor WIlliams with his league average fastball that was the best of the bunch in 2017. Which says something, though we’re not sure what. Maybe that not having the raw stuff forces early development of secondary pitches? That could be something. So the Pirates have some potential still. They’re still young, and if Taillon or Glasnow in particular realize their potential at least one of them could become the ace Cole teased. If another pitcher breaks through, that’s the bones of a strong rotation. Bell could flesh out and become a legit 30 home run guy in a couple years. And maybe Polanco could figure it out. Marte on the other hand, maybe not. He’s running out of rope, and post suspension was not good. But the other issue is, the Pirates don’t have a big-time guy in the farm system - a Lindor or Correa or Seager - to hope to be the capstone on a second rebuild. Their best pitching prospect, Mitch Keller, was 15th in Baseball America’s mid-season rankings, and[...]

The Pittsburgh Pirates trade Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros


The Pirates finally pulled off the trade, but they should have held on to Cole for a better return. “I believe that it is very unlikely that we will see a trade this lopsided again anytime soon. Front offices are too smart nowadays. They understand player value.“ That was written at the end of my trade retrospective of the Wil Myers trade. That take didn’t even last a week! While the Gerrit Cole trade does not rise to that level, it is certainly an uneven exchange of talent. After a false alarm about a week ago, the Pirates traded Cole to the Houston Astros in return for Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz, Colin Moran, and Jason Martin. A Houston rotation that ranked in the top five in runs allowed and DRA just got better and now has a ridiculous level of depth. The Pirates were not even able to get a player that is likely to land on a top-100 prospect list when the updated rankings are released. The PIrates chose Cole with the number one overall pick in 2011. As a high velocity pitcher with good secondary stuff, he was seen as having ‘ace’ upside. He debuted in June 2013 and missed time due to injury in 2014, so he did not pitch a full season until 2015. Although he was not an ace that season, he was very good. He had a 3.07 RA9, 24.3 K%, and 5.3 BB%, all of which are career bests. The 2016 season saw Cole struggle with injuries, and he made only 21 starts. He was by no means bad, but his run average shot up to a 4.42 RA9 and his strikeout rate dropped below 20 percent. What is especially disappointing is that Cole made 33 start last season and barely amassed more value than he did in his injury plagued 2016 season. His strikeout rate rose back up to his career rate, but he lost all ability to keep the ball in the park. Going into the 2017 season, Cole had a career 1.5 HR%, but that number more than doubled in 2017 to 3.7 percent. His homer to fly ball ratio was also over double his career rate. Even the lively ball does not explain that trend. With the quality and depth of the Astros’ rotation, Cole’s impact will be minimal if he is no better than he was in 2017. The team might be a win or two better. That in addition to the depth they are getting is a great return for the lower level prospects that they are parting with. I can’t imagine that Cole will be anywhere close to that homer prone in 2018, but it appears that it depressed his trade value considerably. Cole is a mid-rotation starter with top of the rotation upside and two years left on his rookie contract. He is making only $6.75 million in 2018 and will probably barely crack $10 million in 2019. At this level of compensation, a trade should have included at least one blue chip prospect. The Pirates could not even get a player that projects to me more than an everyday regular. That potential everyday player is Colin Moran. Of the prospects included in this trade, Moran ranked the highest at Baseball Prospectus, though still only at ninth in the system. No other player included in this trade was ranked. Moran raked in Triple A, hitting .301/.369/.532, but he repeated the level and he played in the Pacific Coast League, which is a hitter’s paradise. Both his bat and his glove will make playing third base a challenge. If he has to move to first base, he is really going to be in trouble, as it’s doubtful he has the bad to justify being at first. With the Pirates having a need at third base and the Astros being set there with Alex Bregman, Moran was a perfect fit for this trade. He just shouldn’t be the player headlining it. In a way, Musgrove resembles Wade Davis in the sense that he was terrible as a starter (career 5.46 RA9) but outstanding as a reliever (career 1.26 RA9). The Pirates are really going to need their pitching coach Ray Searage to work his magic in order to get Musgrove to be a viable starter. It is unlikely to happen, but this trade is going to work out even more poorly for the Pirat[...]

The greatest shortened seasons of all time: 1900-1909


I begin a new series here at Beyond The Box Score. Here at Beyond The Box Score, I am beginning a new series. Over the next few weeks, I will look at the best injury-shortened seasons by decade from 1900 to the present. Using WAR, I will analyze all the best injury-shortened ideas and consider what they could have been. Like almost all of my article ideas, this article began with a baseball-related rabbit hole. You probably won’t believe it, but this series started with the trade of Yangervis Solarte to the Blue Jays. After seeing this news, I began researching Blue Jays infielders and came to Troy Tulowitzki’s FanGraphs player page. In 2014, while he was still with the Rockies, Tulowitzki posted 5.3 fWAR in just 91 games, having his season cut short with a hip injury. Had “Tulo” finished the season, he may have won the MVP award. This inspired me to dive into baseball history — where, I’ll admit, I’m not the best at recalling myself — and “remember” some of the best short seasons in Major League Baseball history. (You’ll have to wait a few weeks before you get to see where Tulowitzki’s 2014 season ranks among the players of his decade.) Fair or not, I’m considering only seasons in which the player missed at least 40 percent of his team’s games. MLB began playing a 140-game schedule in 1900 before upping to 154 in 1904 (with an odd 140-game season in 1919) and again to today’s 162-game season in 1962. For 140-game era players, this allows them to play up to 84 games; 154-game era players can play up to 92 games; 162-game era players can play up to 97 games. Yes, 40 percent is a completely arbitrary number, but I wanted to allow players to have the time to accumulate enough fWAR to really have made an impact, all the while having them miss a significant amount of time. That’s how I settled on 40 percent, rather than 50 percent or even 60 percent. Eligibility aside, games played differences within the rankings will be alleviated by using WAR/600, or how much WAR the player would have been worth in a 600-plate appearance season. As a result, I am forced to establish a minimum number of plate appearances to become eligible, too. This I am setting at 100, which would require players to have played in approximately 33 games (at a minimum) to work. Of course, players will be omitted if it was determined that their missed games were due to a circumstance other than injury (i.e. military service, demotion to the minor leagues, etc.). For historical players, I will use the information that I have available to me, but just note that it’s likely some of these players missed time to something other than injury, especially the older ones. All tie-breakers will be settled by which player played more games. With the rules finally laid out, I present to you the best injury-shortened seasons from 1900 to 1909. 10. 1902 Davy Jones, 3.0 fWAR in 79 games, 5.1 fWAR/600 Davy Jones had a law degree while in the Major Leagues. As the Chicago Tribune wrote in 1902, “He signed so many contracts last winter that a half dozen lawyers could not have made a worse tangle.” Unfortunately for Jones, he was only good while on the field. He contracted typhoid in August of 1902 and missed the remainder of the season. In the 79 games he did play, though, he slashed .291/.384/.363 over 351 plate appearances with the St. Louis Browns and Chicago Cubs, switching teams midseason. 9. 1901 Nixey Callahan, 1.2 fWAR in 42 games, 5.5 fWAR/600 “Nixey” Callahan wasn’t actually called Nixey during his career. He was known as Jimmy Callahan, his actual name, and Nixey became his nickname after his playing career. Prior to the 1901 season, Nixey became one of the first players in Major League history to jump to the newly-formed American League, as he went to go play for the Chicago White Sox. Callahan was a great two-way player, and even though he[...]

Trade Retrospective: Royals trade Wil Myers to the Rays for James Shields & Wade Davis


In one of the most famous trades of the decade, one would be hard-pressed to find a similar lopsided trade with such surprising results. For the third straight offseason, BtBS is looking back on some of the biggest trades from years past. Check out all the entries here. In December 2012, the Royals and Rays made one of the most memorable blockbuster trades of my lifetime. It was memorable for all the wrong reasons, though. The Royals sent Wil Myers, one of the best prospects in baseball, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard to Tampa Bay for James Shields, Wade Davis, and Elliot Johnson. It was seen as a huge win for the Rays and a huge blunder by the Royals. Of course, we all know how much the results favored the Royals. In this trade retrospective series, trades will be evaluated based on what was known at the time. That is the only fair, logical way to evaluate trades and strip luck out of the equation: process over results. In this particular trade that is especially important. Having said that, we will still take a look at how the trade worked out for both parties. It should be noted that a short retrospective was recently covered by Pete Grathoff at the Kansas City Star. The Deal In the heartland, the Royals had not made the playoffs since their World Series win in 1985. General Manager Dayton Moore had done an excellent job building an historically good farm system, but the team really did not look all that close to contending. They were coming off a 72-win season where two of their prized prospects, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, disappointed. They also had multiple holes in the lineup and a poor starting rotation. Wil Myers was universally seen as one of the best prospects in baseball. He was expected to be the Royals’ star corner outfielder for years to come. He is exactly the kind of player that small market teams need. That is why the Rays acquired him. James Shields was still a good pitcher on a team-friendly contract, but a team like the Rays has to constantly think about the future, even when they are competitive. It is a moot point, actually. The return for Shields and Davis was high enough that any team would have made the deal, regardless of where they were in their competitive window. Myers, Shields, and Davis were the major players in the deal. The rest were more or less throw-ins. The fact that the Rays were able to get players in addition to Myers is unbelievable. Both sides were dealing from a position of strength. The Royals had a historically good farm system. The Rays had one of the best starting rotations in baseball. What they needed was some outfield help. Ironically, the Royals needed an outfielder even more than the Rays did, and even more than they needed rotation help, but they traded Myers anyway. This deal was almost universally panned. FanGraphs Managing Editor Dave Cameron accused the Royals of being desperate and mortgaging their future. He said it was worse than the trade of Eric Bedard for Adam Jones. ESPN’s Keith Law basically said the same thing. Yahoo Sports’ David Brown did not feel as strongly as most, but he still called it a bad trade. Ben Lindbergh, then the editor-in-chief at Baseball Prospectus, was also critical of the deal, but he gave a more interesting, nuanced take. Rany Jazayerli, one of the founders of Baseball Prospectus and possibly the world’s most famous Royals fan, ripped the trade at Grantland. He compared the trade to the Mark Teixeira deal in 2007. Here at SB Nation, Craig Brown echoed a similar sentiment. Law and former GM Jim Bowden, then of ESPN, surveyed their many sources in front offices and in the scouting world to gauge the industry’s thoughts on the deal. They reported that their sources loved the deal for the Rays and hated the deal for the Royals. Interestingly enough, Baseball America did something similar. They aske[...]