Since the contract extension given to Evan Longoria the Tampa Bay Rays have been one of the most active teams of the 2012-2013 postseason. Signing first baseman James Loney and trading for shortstop Yunel Escobar preceded the blockbuster trade of James Shields on Sunday night. Shields, along with Wade Davis and a player to be named were traded to the Kansas City Royals for four prospects. One of the prospects is 22-year old Wil Myers who is projected as a middle of the lineup bat for years to come.
Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard were the three other prospects acquired by Tampa Bay.
The deal is a major risk for Kansas City, Myers can be an outfielder in the major leagues throughout his prime years and Shields is projected to become a free-agent in two years. Wade Davis is a good addition for Kansas City and can be used as either a starter of reliever. The Royals organization must believe that the window to win is now and dealing youth for pitching indicates a push for AL Central contention.
For the Rays this trade is perfect in many ways. Wil Myers is a right-handed power bat and slugged 37 homeruns last season in the minor leagues. In triple-A Myers hit 24 homers and 79 RBI while batting .304. Myers was named Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year and is exactly what the Rays need in their lineup. James Loney has a career .282 batting average and played a solid and consistent first base for the Los Angeles Dodgers for six seasons before being traded to Boston in 2012. Loney is an upgrade from Carlos Pena at the plate and in the field, not to mention much more affordable.
Yunel Escobar is the kind of risk the Rays organization must take to stay in contention in a wild AL East. The Rays haven’t had a consistent shortstop since Jason Bartlett and one the most crucial positions in baseball has been filled by a hodge-podge of Rays over the last few seasons. Escobar is a solid shortstop but is a risk, the 30-year old Escobar was part of the big trade between Toronto and Miami earlier this offseason. Miami obviously had no interest in Escobar so the Rays traded minor leaguer Derek Deitrich to the Marlins. Escobar also has a career batting average of .282 and the prevailing theory seems to be if Joe Maddon can’t fix the Cuban shortstop then his career may be at a crossroads. Escobar was suspended in 2012 by Toronto for writing a homophobic slur on his eye black while playing the field for the Blue Jays. Escobar began his major league career with the Atlanta Braves but was subsequently traded to the Toronto Blue Jays because manager Bobby Cox was not a fan of the youngster’s antics. The trade is good for Tampa Bay because Escobar is a major upgrade for the Rays at shortstop, but exactly what the Rays will get from Escobar is now one of the biggest topics for the Rays in the 2013 season.
Another interesting product of the trading of James Shields is the freeing up of millions of dollars. The money that would have been used on Shields should now be given to David Price. If Tampa Bay can re-sign Price to a similar contract like Evan Longoria’s then they Rays will prove to their fans and the rest of the league that they are contenders now and for the future.
The obvious needs for the Rays have been addressed and it’s not even Christmas yet, upgrading first base, shortstop and acquiring a bat to bolster the lineup have all been taken care of and now the countdown to spring training begins. Well, maybe it’s a little early for that…