The Kansas City Royals have been futile for the last 10 years. In December 2012, they dealt away one of the top prospects in baseball in Wil Myers to the scorching Tampa Bay Rays and Myers is tearing it up for them. This is a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since their 1985 World Series championship. What were they thinking by dealing Myers?
Not so fast. Sometimes trades are poor for both sides. The Seattle Mariners/New York Yankees Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda deal comes to mind. There are some one-sided deals such as the then Florida Marlins sending Miguel Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers for top prospects Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, neither of whom lived up to the hype.
Then, there are deals where both teams make out well. The Royals have not had a winning season since 2003 when they posted an 83-79 campaign. Since then, they have faltered, but what do you know? They are no longer the laughing stock of baseball. On Dec. 9, 2012, the Royals sent top prospect Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and minor leaguers Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard for James Shields, Wade Davis and a player to be named later (Elliot Johnson.)
If not for Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox, Shields just might be the biggest tough luck pitcher in the game with a 6-7 record, but the 31-year-old right hander who finished 3rd in the 2011 AL Cy Young voting has a 132 ERA+ on the season. Perhaps with Shields pitching as well as he is could be why, as of Aug. 5, the Royals have the lowest team ERA in the American League at 3.58. That’s not too bad for a team that had a 4.30 ERA in 2012, good enough for 23rd in the majors.
Baseball is a game of craziness and what could epitomize crazy more than what is going on in the AL Central? The Detroit Tigers are looking to successfully defend their AL pennant and lead the Central at 64-45. They are 9-1 in their last 10. Easy, right?
The Cleveland Indians are hungry to end baseball’s second-longest championship drought as they haven’t won since 1948. Terry Francona just might be AL Manager of the Year and in his first season, the Tribe are 3 games back of the Tigers at 62-49. They are, you guessed it, 9-1 in their last 10 games. This is quite a two horse race.
But hold up. All of a sudden, the Royals are 56-52, 7.5 games back of first in the Central and just 4.5 games back of a wild card spot, currently held by the Indians and Rays. In their last 10 games they are, gasp, 9-1.
When was the last time you have seen something like this? The Royals made out big time in that trade back in December, and the crazy thing is, they may not have even won it.
Myers very well could join Evan Longoria (2008) and Jeremy Hellickson (2011) as the third Ray to win the AL Rookie of the Year in the last six seasons. He had a two run walk-off single against the San Francisco Giants on Aug. 4. He has only played in 39 games but he is batting .329 with a 154 OPS+.
Despite making the playoffs in 2008, 2010 and 2011 with good seasons in 2009 and 2012, the Rays had been noted for lacking a good bat. For the record, from 2009-2012, they fell to a perfect game three times against Mark Buehrle (2009), Dallas Braden (2010) and Felix Hernandez (2012.)
As a team this year, however, the Rays are batting .261, good enough to tie the Giants and Texas Rangers at the bottom of the top 10 list in the majors. With Myers at the plate, that is a big reason why. They remember the pain of losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2008 World Series in 5 games and they are hungry to right that wrong. They went 21-5 in July and with a 4 game lead in the AL Wild Card race, they themselves trail the 68-45 Boston Red Sox for first place in the AL East by a mere game.
With just under two months left to go in the season, both the Rays and Royals are in really good shape at the moment. They can thank that trade of theirs for being a big reason why, as both teams did excellent and it’s very well possible these two teams could meet in the postseason. If so, the MLB fan would have no choice but to look back and marvel and see come postseason who really did get the better end of the stick.