Late Sunday night, after word broke of the major trade that sent James Shields and Wade Davis from Tampa Bay to Kansas City in exchange for Wil Myers et al., there was no shortage of knee-jerk reaction to the news around the internet. There are varying opinions on just how good or bad this deal was for the Royals, but two things were (are) fairly clear:
(1) They got better for 2013.
(2) They got worse for 2015 and beyond.
I happen to believe that the Rays got the better end of this deal, but that’s not going to be my point here. My point is that while the Kansas City Royals are almost certainly better today than they were yesterday, they’re not that much better. Or, at least, there not so much better as to challenge the Detroit Tigers for the American League Central crown.
The Royals finished 16 games behind the Tigers last year, which is a significant gap to bridge. The additions of Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, James Shields, Wade Davis, and a full season of Salvador Perez might add up to seven wins (I feel like I’m being pretty generous), which would still put the Royals around .500 and seven (or so) games behind where the Tigers finished a season ago. And that’s assuming the Tigers didn’t improve at all this off-season (hint: they did. A lot.). Even if you account for players returning from injury (a whole season from Salvador Perez) and the young core of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar improving, they still seem to come up well short of the Tigers.
Similarly, and probably more scientifically, “Extremely Early and Completely Useless 2013 Projected MLB Standings” were run at the Replacement Level Yankees Weblog (home of the CAIRO projections) with these players on their new teams, and the Royals – now in showing up in second place – came up still seven games short of the Tigers.
Perhaps simply being projected to finish in second place makes one a “contender”, but the projected spread here between first and second place – seven games – is the second largest in baseball (behind the eight game spread of the NL East). Detroit’s 91 win projection is the second best in the American League while Kansas City’s 84 projected wins ties them for eighth.
Adding an (that is one, single) ace – and that of the workhorse variety, not necessarily the dominating variety – does not so quickly turn a bad team into a contending one. It turns a bad team into an average-or-slightly above team, perhaps, but it’s going to take a lot more than Shields and Davis to put the Royals over the top in the division.