Baseball's 'Hot Stove' season is full of talk about trades, real and imagined. Last month, the Royals provided fodder for endless conversation and angst after a Dec. 9 trade.
The big trade with the Rays brought pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City in exchange for Minor League Player of the Year Wil Myers, pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard.
The second the trade was made official the conversation started.
The swap was somewhat unusual since Myers was traded before he made his Major League debut. He will join the list of players to make their debut with a club that traded for them rather than the club that originally drafted them.
This is where the bit of angst among Royals fans emerges. Many have been following Myers' progression through the Minor League system, especially his outstanding 2012 season which included a rousing standing ovation from a sold-out Kauffman Stadium crowd at the 2012 All-Star Futures Game. The promise of a great prospect traded for a proven Major League performer is as old as the game itself. This was a true baseball trade -- something we see less and less of today -- and it carries risk and reward for both sides.
The excitement of acquiring a starting pitcher with the track record of Shields has been even more palpable for Royals fans. Shields has posted double-digit wins for six consecutive seasons, which is a feat only bettered by Royals Hall of Famers Larry Gura (1976-84) and Dennis Leonard (1975-82).
Shields has also thrown more than 200 innings in each of his last six seasons. Of the starting pitchers in the Royals Hall of Fame, only Leonard can match that workhorse status.
A mark where Shields would stand alone in Royals history is his 200-plus strikeouts in each of the last two seasons. No starting pitcher in Royals history has posted a 200-plus strikeout season for Kansas City. The four pitchers to strikeout 200 or more in a season for the Royals are Bob Johnson (206 in 1970), Dennis Leonard (244 in 1977), Kevin Appier (206 in 1996) and Zack Greinke (242 in 2009).
Shields is the second pitcher the Royals have acquired this offseason that has posted a 200-plus strikeout season. Ervin Santana, acquired from Los Angeles on Oct. 31, posted 214 strikeouts for the Angels in 2008. And you can add to that the re-signing of Jeremy Guthrie, who pitched very well for the Royals in the closing months of the 2012, and Shields' teammate Davis who has also won double figure games twice in his big league career.
For baseball fans, trades are an endless source of conversation. Who won? Who lost? Did we give up too much, did we not get enough in return? The debates often go on for many years. What is not debatable -- whether you view this trade with angst, excitement or a mix of both -- is that Shields' last six seasons with the Rays would place him among the most reliable, consistent and successful pitchers in Royals history had they come in a Kansas City uniform.
When the offseason began, Royals general manager Dayton Moore said, "I think our lineup is solidified with who we are and what we're trying to do with the future. There's stability there. Our sense and our focus is simply improving from the top down [in the pitching staff]. We want to improve what we currently have."
On that front, mission accomplished. Now it's on to Spring Training.