A theory I hold near and dear to my heart is that, in terms of baseball intelligence, all front offices are converging. The teams that once had the greatest intellectual advantages are seeing those advantages get reduced, as everybody learns more about the game and subscribes to contemporary analysis. In time, there will be a right way to analyze the game, and everyone will do it. In time, no teams will be lagging way behind. In time, baseball will be determined in large part by money and luck. As front offices even out, other factors become more important factors.
If front offices are all getting smarter and all blending together, it follows that there will be one final unforgivably stupid trade. There will always be trades that don't work out, because players will always be unpredictable, but as we've said time and time again, trades are to be evaluated by what's known at the time of the transaction, and eventually every trade should make sense for both sides. Teams won't make trades out of desperation or based on faulty analysis or whatever. They'll be made logically, sensibly. They'll be mutually beneficial. The days of immediately lopsided moves ought to be coming to a close.
One wonders if now, as of this evening, we've seen the last godawful trade in baseball. The answer is "no, probably," and you have to be a big believer in the theory above, but in case you hadn't heard, the Royals traded Wil Myers. The Royals received James Shields and Wade Davis. In addition to Myers, the Royals gave up three talented prospects. The Royals are trying to win now, and one might refer to this as a "bold" maneuver, if one were being exceptionally, unreasonably nice.
The trade that brought Erik Bedard to the Mariners was godawful, and it looked that way at the time. The guy responsible for bringing Erik Bedard to the Mariners is no longer a general manager. The trade that sent Vernon Wells to the Angels was godawful, and it looked that way at the time. The guy responsible for bringing Vernon Wells to the Angels is no longer a general manager. Bill Bavasi was replaced by a good executive. Tony Reagins was replaced by a good executive. Dayton Moore is still a general manager, as of this moment, but that's probably not going to last.
Now, just last week, we saw the Rockies deal value for a reliever who had previously failed a physical. That didn't make sense. The Rockies exist as a threat to the throne of incompetence, because nobody really understands whatever they're trying to do, but the Rockies haven't done anything on par with the Myers/Shields trade, and this would be a tough one to top. I really do think this might be the last godawful trade. Maybe the last godawful high-profile trade. Moore's still in position to make more moves, though. He's clearly trying to save his own ass, and individuals, when cornered, are capable of unthinkable things. Dayton Moore needs to be stopped, for Kansas City's benefit.
The hysterical thing is this isn't even a good win-now move. Yeah, the Royals upgrade in the rotation, but they still have Jeff Francoeur in the outfield instead of Wil Myers. Wil Myers is better than Jeff Francoeur, because Jeff Francoeur is bad. The Royals exchanged wins for wins. They also lost all of that future stuff and that salary stuff. The right win-now move would've been overpaying to land a quality free-agent starter like Anibal Sanchez or Ryan Dempster. Or both! And then you sit Francoeur and start Myers. That would've left the 2013 Royals in better position to contend. But Dayton Moore can't even act desperately right. He's sacrificed so much to slightly upgrade a team that isn't very good at the moment.
The parallels to the Erik Bedard/Adam Jones trade are obvious and legitimate. Think back to what that was like, if you were a Mariners fan at the time. As Mariners fans, of course we tried to rationalize the decision. We tried to find silver linings, because we didn't want to be that disappointed. We pretty much all recognized that it was a bad trade, but mentally many of us tried to spin it to seem less terrible. Now look at this trade. We can consider it objectively, because we're not emotionally invested in either party. This is how bad that other trade looked. More or less. There are differences, but the differences aren't that significant.
Erik Bedard was younger then than James Shields is now, and both were looking at two remaining years of team control. Over the previous three seasons, by ERA-based WAR, Bedard was the more valuable pitcher. By FIP-based WAR, Bedard was the more valuable pitcher. Shields' advantage is durability, and also Shields isn't going alone, what with the Wade Davis factor. Davis established himself as a quality reliever in 2012, but the Royals might try him as a starter again, and Wade Davis as a starter hasn't been pleasant for anyone but the opposing hitters.
Before 2007, a 21-year-old Adam Jones was ranked baseball's #28 prospect by Baseball America, and then he destroyed triple-A. Before 2012, a 21-year-old Wil Myers was ranked baseball's #28 prospect by Baseball America, and then he destroyed double-A and triple-A. There's no such thing as a sure-thing prospect, but Jones was ready and Myers is ready. Myers could and should be good and cheap for a long time. There are few things more valuable than an asset like Wil Myers.
And the Royals gave up other value. There was more! The Rays and Royals had reportedly been talking since October. There were a lot of proposed James Shields trades and Wil Myers trades. This was the eventual compromise. This was what both parties determined to be fair. Where the hell did Andrew Friedman begin? What were Dayton Moore's counter-proposals? How lopsided was the stuff that didn't happen, if this is what ultimately got through? The entire Rays front office, right this moment, is celebrating naked in a champagne jacuzzi. It was the cheapest champagne the corner store had available, but this champagne isn't for drinking. And besides, the Rays just saved millions and millions of dollars. The Rays cut costs and improved the organization's long-term outlook by leaps and bounds.
I was thinking about the difference between a bad trade and an inexplicable trade. This trade is not as inexplicable as the Vernon Wells trade, because here at least you can understand the theory -- the Royals thought they were an ~ace away from being a contender, and Dayton Moore is trying to save his own job. An explanation exists, even though the explanation is unsatisfactory. There was no explanation for what the Angels did. What the Angels did, though, wasn't nearly as bad as this. It was off-the-charts dumb, but this is beyond off-the-charts dumb. No self-respecting chart would even begin to try to plot the thought process behind this maneuver.
Of course, Wil Myers could suck. All of the Royals prospects could suck, and Shields and Davis could pitch the Royals toward contention. It is not literally impossible for this to work out in the Royals' favor. Odds exist, and they aren't as slim as you might think. Baseball has a way of not letting anyone look too smart for too long. Dayton Moore could conceivably emerge victorious. Brian Sabean has won two World Series in three years.
But forget what happens. What was done now was based on what's been known up until now. Myers is extraordinarily valuable. No legitimate analysis pegs the 2013 Royals as even fringe playoff contenders. Think about what the Rays could get in return for this exact same package, if they wanted. Could they get Giancarlo Stanton? Would you trade Felix Hernandez for what the Royals gave to Tampa Bay? This package would open so many doors. The Royals settled on James Shields and Wade Davis. The Royals are the Royals, and not the Rangers or the Braves or the Cardinals or whoever. The Royals just lost 90 games.
If this backfires, or if the Royals simply underachieve, Dayton Moore will probably be out of a job as a general manager. He'd probably never get that job again, just as Bavasi won't, and just as Reagins won't. Moore, when removed, will presumably be replaced by someone smarter, and less willing to do something stupid. This might be Dayton Moore's last godawful trade. This might be baseball's last godawful trade. That's not certain, but the possibility exists.