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Rays Winners in Blockbuster Trade with Stronger Royals

James Shields

The Tampa Bay Rays were already a powerful nemesis to the Red Sox in the American League East, but the franchise that could once be penciled in for last place in the division has made a few moves this winter to ensure that they’ll be competing for many more years.

In a blockbuster driven by the Kansas City Royals’ need to become more competitive, the Tampa Bay Rays parted ways with starting pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis in order to acquire Wil Myers, one of the best outfield prospects in the entire game.

Royals Look to Win Now

The Royals organization may be on the brink of a long awaited turnaround, as finishing at 72-90 last year in what was largely viewed as a disappointment. KC entered 2012 with a promising lineup including Eric Hosmer, who struggled mightily with a .232/.304/.359 line, 14 home runs, and 60 RBI.

Yet KC did have a solid lineup despite Hosmer’s lack of production. Despite finishing 12th in runs scored, the Royals finished with the fourth best batting average amongst AL clubs. Their lineup has enough depth to stand up to any pitcher in the league, but their weakness has always been pitching.

With Shields in tow, along with the signing of Jeremy Guthrie and a trade for Ervin Santana, Kansas City has suddenly assembled a good rotation that should enable them to compete for a wild card spot in 2013. The cost of losing Myers is worth a shot at winning now, and the Rays capitalized on that notion.

Rays Not Going Away

The Rays lost B.J. Upton to free agency earlier this offseason, but the addition of Myers makes it hard to remember that. Myers has the promise of a top big league outfielder, and a strong spring could put him in Tampa Bay’s lineup come Opening Day.

At the cost of two starters, the Rays now have Myers for the foreseeable future and Evan Longoria, who just signed a monster extension through 2022. Meanwhile their rotation isn’t downgraded too much, as their surplus of starting pitching becomes a big advantage. While no one can be expected to fill the shoes of Shields, the Rays will hope that their young pitchers take the next step forward in 2013.

That group includes Jeremy Hellickson, who threw 177.0 innings last year while posting a great 3.10 ERA. The 2011 AL Rookie of the Year is now viewed as the natural number two starter for Tampa Bay. The rest of the rotation is filled by Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, and Jeff Niemann, each of whom are candidates for breakout years.

Indeed the Rays are a better team for the long run after the trade, but the deal is worthwhile for the Royals as they shoot for a postseason appearance. As recently as 2007, both clubs were last place teams. Now there’s a chance they’ll be squaring off in October.

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