It’s Time for the Royals to Trade James Shields

On June 17, the Royals took sole possession of first place in the American League Central, as they stood a half game up on Detroit in the division race. Since that date, the Royals have gone 10-17, while the Tigers have gone 18-10, and Kansas City now finds themselves in third place, seven games behind the Tigers and a game and a half behind the Indians. They’ve even fallen to sixth in the AL Wild Race, which isn’t exactly overflowing with dominant teams at the moment.

As things stand today, our Playoff Odds model gives the Royals a 2.6% chance of winning the division and a 7.9% chance of winning a spot in the Wild Card game. A Wild Card game that would almost certainly be on the road, against either the A’s or the Angels, inarguably the two best teams in baseball to this point of the season.

In other words, even if they manage to sneak past Cleveland, New York, Toronto, and Seattle — and hold off the charging Red Sox and Rays — their reward would be a road game against a significantly better team. Anything can happen in one game, of course, but when deciding whether to buy, sell, or hold at the deadline, the realistic upside has to be evaluated, and the Royals best case case scenario is still a probable loss in Game 163.

However, there’s a lot of upside in being the team selling a fall-back plan to the teams who lose out in the David Price sweepstakes. According to most reports, the Mariners, Dodgers, and Cardinals are the most interested teams in Price, and at least two of them are going to be disappointed that they didn’t get him. And when they look around for alternatives, they’re going to find… A.J. Burnett? Bartolo Colon? John Danks?

The market is ripe for the Royals to step in and fill the void with an available starter who is a legitimate upgrade for most contenders. The final two months of Shields’ contract will be far more valuable to another team than they will be to Kansas City.

Shields projects for about +1.4 WAR over the rest of the season, which is not quite Price-like but is far ahead of guys like Colon or Burnett. Because Jeff ran the numbers on a Price trade last week, we can crib off his data and estimate that acquiring Shields would lead to something like a 10% boost in playoff odds for nearly 10 teams. Even if we cross out the Indians, Yankees, and either the Mariners or Cardinals — assuming one of the two pays the David Price tax — then there’s still a half dozen teams who could significantly benefit from having Shields in their rotation for the final two months, plus a much more likely playoff series.

Maybe 10% doesn’t sound like a lot, but for many of these teams, the addition could easily end up being the difference between playing in the Wild Card game and getting a pass through to the division series. For a team like the Orioles or Blue Jays, they have a real chance to host a couple of postseason games, and reap the the revenues that come along with a playoff berth. Some estimates have the revenue gains associated with a postseason run at between $20 and $70 million, depending on how deep a team goes and how much the playoff push can invigorate a fan base.

For instance, the Pirates are up an average of 3,000 fans per game this year compared to last year. Even as TV money takes a larger role in a team’s financial picture, an extra 250,000 tickets sold at an average price of $40 apiece is $10 million in extra revenues. Sure, a good chunk of those fans would have still bought tickets this year even if the Pirates hadn’t made the division series last year, but there’s no question that their 2013 playoff run led directly to a revenue boost in 2014.

There’s a reason the A’s traded one of the game’s very best prospects for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. For mid-market teams who can’t count on getting to the postseason every year, it is imperative to take advantage of opportunities when they come. Those are the very same teams, however, that probably can’t afford to trade the farm for David Price, and are not going to see a big enough improvement to justify giving up real prospects for the back-end starters other teams are selling.

Even with Shields having a mediocre first half, he would fill a significant void in the market and give the Royals a legitimate chance to recoup a lot of the talent they gave up in acquiring Shields in the first place. They’re not going to get Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi back, but they might land a couple of good prospects that could turn into good players sooner than later.

The odds of the Royals re-signing Shields this winter are slim. Realistically, given their payroll, they shouldn’t even really be that interested in keeping him for his decline years. And other teams will pay more in value than the draft pick they’d get next summer by making him a qualifying offer and letting him leave via free agency.

It might be a tough pill for the Royals to swallow, given where they were just a month ago, but the right move for the Royals franchise is to put Shields on the market and play for 2015.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

81 Responses to “It’s Time for the Royals to Trade James Shields”

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  1. Steve says:

    This just makes me sad for Royals fans.

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    • Jeff Francoeur says:

      Don’t feel bad at all Steve. Now that the Padres are having a fire sale, KC should be able to get me and my 60 RBIs for even less than they gave up for Shields.

      This is the year!

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  2. Cave Dameron says:

    I love articles like this, featuring a scenario that can be guaranteed not to occur. The Royals seemingly never use analytics to make decisions, especially when it comes to players with emotional attachments. 2.5% playoff odds? So you’re saying there’s a chance….

    I guarantee that last sentence is their mindset right now.

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    • Pale Hose says:

      Even if Dayton Moore knew it was the correct decision he still wouldn’t do it. He might as well attach his resignation letter to the James Shields trade papers.

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      • BMac says:

        You got that right. Good analysis, except that the actual human being(s) in the KC front office involved cannot do it, because of the optics.

        If there were massive injuries to the starting 25, or a few key stars, to account for their performance, then maybe you could get away with it. (I think the Rangers front office is protected from harsh judgment this year, for example.) But the only thing that went wrong for KC is massively poor evaluation of talent.

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    • pitnick says:

      Playoff Odds are actually at 10.7%

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  3. Detroit Michael says:

    I don’t see this happening at all.

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  4. :) says:

    Typo: “reap the the revenues”

    Sorry, it bothered me, I’ll slither back into the shadows again. Great stuff regardless.

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  5. Angel dust in the outfield says:

    It would be cool if they could package Shields and a RP, and get a young power OF and a maybe high K/upside young SP to replace Shields. That would be ideal.

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    • Complete absent any sense of irony says:

      But where is the precedent for a team willing to give up a power-hitting OF and a SP prospect with upside for James Shields?

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      • Luke Appling says:

        Milwaukee could throw in Jeremy Jeffress again.

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        • munchtime says:

          Except there isn’t any room for Shields in the rotation. He’d be a short-term upgrade over Nelson, but the Brewers aren’t going to send him back to AAA after the season he had down there unless he totally falls apart. Which isn’t going to happen between now and the trade deadline.

          The only way the Brewers make a move for starting pitching is if it is for a guy like Price, who is good enough to justify sending Nelson back down to AAA. Of course, the Brewers don’t have the prospects to make a trade like that.

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  6. siggian says:

    I really depends on how secure GMDM feels with his job. Many speculated when he acquired Shields, DM was doing so because he felt pressure to produce a winner. If that is the case, DM won’t be trading him. He’s pot committed.

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    • Pirates Hurdles says:

      Bingo, the Pirates went through this with Dave Littlefield as GM. His entire plan was to win 82 games and end the losing streak. He had no comprehension of him chasing the wrong goal and as a consequence no real plan to ever build a real winner.

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    • wallysb01 says:

      +1 on the pot committed analogy.

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  7. pitnick says:

    I wonder, what are the revenue benefits (if any) of staying in contention later into the year, even if it doesn’t result in a postseason berth?

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    • JH says:

      What’s your definition of in contention? 3.5 games back in the wild card and behind 3 other teams certainly isn’t out of it, but you’re starting to stretch it. One 3-game losing streak and they’ve pretty muh gone from the edge to officially out.

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      • “Playoff contention” is different by fan base. A lot of royals fans I meet here in Missouri are pretty much as stupid as the front office. They still think they have a shot.

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  8. dtpollitt says:

    Trading James Shields is akin to goddamn Dayton Moore waving the white flag, and thusly, his career.

    I encourage both.

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  9. GilaMonster says:

    It is time for the Royals to trade James Shields.

    It is NOT time for Dayton Moore trade James Shields.

    If you are Moore, you have to gamble on the 8% chance of making the playoffs if you want to keep your job

    +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • BigGuyDon says:

      This is exactly the reason Moore should be fired immediately. He went “all-in” when he traded Myers and Odorizzi for Shields and Davis. When you go all-in and lose the hand, you’re done. There’s no pulling your money back when you don’t get the card you need on the River.

      The franchise has come a long way in the last 8 years, but it’s clear Moore doesn’t have the chops to build a contending roster. He can’t be allowed to make desperate moves, or fail to make the right long term move, just to save his job.

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  10. Jason Frasor says:

    Not a chance. They didn’t go after me just to throw in the towel.

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  11. bookbook says:

    I’d gather there’s no way the Royals do this now. How much might their playoff odds drop in a week?

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  12. Wil Myers says:

    Jim Shields and his 4.30 postseason FIP don’t scare me. As soon as I’m back of the DL, I’m hit the beejeezers outta that baseball!

    Price stays.
    Go Rays.

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  13. Marsupial Jones says:

    If I’m not mistaken, Royals have one of the weakest second half schedules. Must be very tempting to hang onto him and try to make a run. Even if trading him is probably the best idea.

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    • Ruki Motomiya says:

      The Royals do, getting a little over 0.5 WAR from RoS schedule, but unfortunately the Tigers get the most. I feel sad the Royals went on this 10-17 streak: I was (and am) hoping they’d make the playoffs and this really hurt ‘em. Depending on what they could actually get back for Shields it might not be worth trading for him.

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      • Wobatus says:

        Yeah, rough stretch. They struggled to get to .500 and were cold right around this time last year, and were 46-51 after 97 games. Then they got hot and went 40-25 the rest of the way but it wasn’t enough. Dave is right, even a hot streak likely isn’t quite enough for it to make sense, even with the wild card distinctly possible. After such a long drought even a play in game would be like the world series.

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  14. Preston says:

    I don’t see it. The Royals still have a chance. Even getting to the play in game and losing would be awesome for a team that has been out of it for so long. And then there is the draft comp pick. For 12 starts of James Shields they might be able to get a top 100 prospect in return. But I think the comp pick plus those twelve starts of James Shields helping the Royals go for it now, makes the value about equal. At least close enough to justify it.

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    • inresponse says:

      If not doing so ruins the team future, it is not worth it?

      Right now they will have no money to find an ace, DH, rightfielder and bullpen for next season. The busting guys brought is not the way to go inp from the best system in the history of ever are about to get expensive, while what will be the only guaranteed good player in 2015 will likely be playing his last for the club. One lottery ticket draft pick, something Moore has not been good at cashing in on, is not going to help bridge the gap. The only real shot KC has at a near future is to get a couple good cheap players to support what we have and a prayer people like Moose and Hos can fulfill their potential over the same time.

      If KC doesn’t trade James for fairly immediate help, we might as well go full rebuild now and trade everyone. Holding Shields because of a10% shot at a 162nd game, at the expense of the future, is not the way to go either way. Moore won’t, but he should make a deal

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      • inresponse says:

        Cell fail in 2nd sentence of 2nd paragraph. Is not the way to go should not be there, up should

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      • Preston says:

        The mid-season trade of James Shields does not fix any of the things you’re talking about either. You’re not getting Wil Myers and Jake Odirizzi back. What you need to be considering is whether the value of Prospects acquired is greater than a first round pick and James Shields. So basically you’re comparing this chart to this chart

        If you get one prospect in the 60-100 range, vs. a pick in the 30s, you’re talking about maybe expecting 6 WAR from the prospect and 4 WAR for the pick. Zips projects Shields to be worth 1.4 WAR ROS. So basically the value is the same. Except in one scenario you get to try to compete this season. Something with all the problems you pointed out might not come around again soon. Of course maybe I’m wrong. Maybe somebody will completely overpay. But unlucky for Dayton Moore, he doesn’t get to make trades with Dayton Moore.

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        • inresponse says:

          2 games under .500. Only a game above 4th place White Sox in Central, a spot they might hit with this series in Chi. 9th place in AL with surging Rays and Sox hot on tail. Besides, if you assume about 88 wins will be needed to land the single playoff game, the team will need to go 40-24 (.625) the rest of the way already. 2014 is over unless a freak stroke of luck takes over.

          Value is then only Supplemental Pick or who you can get at this point. Doesn’t have to be Wil & Jake, maybe a lower ceiling high floor guy and bit player, both who are looking ML ready. That is if you want to cross your fingers on a 2015/2016 shot while the greatest farm in ever can still possibly figure it out to make an impact. Otherwise full rebuild, trading James for further away better ceiling players, plus anyone else you can move. Like the article says, should be able to get better than draft pick for Shields in that instance.

          Moore won’t though as would mean admitting not only failure, but that he doesn’t deserve the job according to his very own words. See his statements about knowing what you’re doing and the timescale of plans. “Plans turn into no plans at all” would fit either way, but he might be able to talk his way into another year with smart moves at deadline here. Staying course is not such a move

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        • Preston says:

          If you’re going into full rebuild then the return you get from Shields isn’t the difference maker. Unless you disagree with me on what the 12 starts of James Shields will bring. I might be wrong. But like I said the expected return of the comp pick will be around 4 WAR. The expected return for the return is probably 6 WAR. That’s plenty close enough in value to allow the team to indulge their fantasy that they might compete. You might be pessimistic about it. But a lot of their jobs depend on it.

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        • inresponse says:

          I feel 6 WAR from one 60-100 ranked prospect is much better than 4 WAR from one comp pick. If they fail to reach potential, you could be talking the difference between a still usable player against a replacent player.

          More importantly, you better get to choose the position they play and timeframe for ML impact if traded for.

          Besides, you seem to be assuming they receive only one 60-100 prospect. They will be getting more than one player though, even if the others are unlikely to make a huge impact

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  15. Phillies113 says:

    Maybe they can trade Shields to Tampa Bay for Wil Myers!

    (does research) Oh…

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  16. Marco says:

    The flipside of the revenue bump from the playoff run is the revenue dip from the white flag trade.

    Combine with:

    The loss of the comp pick
    The loss of the slim chance at the postseason
    The loss of DM’s job

    And I’m not holding my breath for the trade to go down.

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  17. vivalajeter says:

    While it’s not as sexy, perhaps the headline should have been “It’s time for the Royals to explore what they can get in a James Shields trade”. Trading him now wouldn’t really make sense though. There are 10 days left this month. What if they pick up three games on Detroit? Then they’re 4 games back with 2 months to go, which is surmountable. On the other hand, maybe they lose three games in the standings between now and July 31st. Then they’re 10 games back, and it would have been productive to see what teams are willing to give up for Shields.

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    • Roy in Omaha says:

      The Royals are currently 9 game back in the loss column behind the Tigers as I write this the night of July 21st. And, another little thing, the Tigers are a manifestly better team than the Royals.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        I’d be much more concerned with how many games back they are on July 31st than July 21st. It’s not like they would get a great return by trading him today, and a mediocre return by waiting until the deadline.

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  18. by jiminy says:

    They don’t have to MAKE the playoffs to save Moore’s job. They just have to stay within striking distance and keep fans interested. If they finish within five games of the playoffs they can make excuses and say they came close. If they trade him now, it’s season over, fans go home, Moore failed, etc. So I’d have to agree with the skeptics: Moore won’t trade him. Even if he should.

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  19. Patrick says:

    I don’t mean to be harsh, but I think this article reflects Fantasy baseball more than real baseball. Specifically there is an implicit assumption in most baseball analyses ( not just here) that revenue is more or less fixed. I don’t think that’s true.

    Some teams (e.g. Red Sox, Cardinals) have revenues that are much greater than one would expect based upon market size. Neither of these teams waves the white flag unless they are truly out of it.

    Some teams have smaller revenues (e.g. Rays, Marlins) than one would expect given the size of their markets. These teams often seem to want to start their fire sales in April.

    Revenue is a function of creating an expectation of winning. You can’t create that expectation if your best players are perpetually being discussed as subject to trade.

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    • You also can’t when you mortgage your future for 2 mediocre years. Build for a 6 year window regardless. Short terming is a quick way to long term mediocrity. Which is what DM has done.

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      • Patrick says:

        I agree!

        But your comment and mine are not mutually exclusive.

        I thought the Royals overpaid for Shields when the trade was made, but trading Shields now will, in my opinion, only compound the error.

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      • Rrr says:

        So they trade one prospect out of that “vaunted” farm system and they short-terming it?


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        • inresponse says:

          Wil, Jake and Monty all came from that group. The failure rate being so high for the others, removing 3 is that much more questionable. Value to value with cost consideration indicates we already lost the trade. Move undercut anything past 2014 instantly and that has only been made worse by contracts since given.

          This is all in, and we will likely need to go 40-24 to have a shot. Next year will be rough

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        • Yes, trading 6 years of guys with “big league regulars” as their most likely floor and a lottery ticket in Mike Montgomery to pick up 2 years of an expensive starter who only takes you from slightly sub .500 to slightly above .500 is short terming it.

          Patrick, how will trading Shields now compound the issue? The main issue with Shields vs Myers is that Myers gave 6 years of value (longer window) and Shields shortened it. Trading Shields for 2 major league ready prospects and you lengthen your window again, somewhat making up for the Shields trade.

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        • Anthony says:

          To “inresponse” you completely called it, since they went 40-23 after the publication of this article…

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  20. Joe says:

    Too soon to give up. 3.5 games can change quickly.

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    • KHAZAD says:

      They are 4.5 games back right now,with a losing record, and more importantly, have 4 teams that they must leapfrog just to get into the second wild card spot, and another team just behind them. In a vacuum, against one team, you can hope that you have a great couple of months and that they lay an egg or are just mediocre.

      This is not a vacuum. Even if you play very well, (an unlikely enough task for a .490 team) you have to count on ALL 4 or 5 other teams not matching you, and the more teams that are involved, the less likely the possibility becomes in an exponential fashion.

      The second wild card game seems to somewhat “paralyze” alot of teams into believing that they still have a chance, and keeps them from making moves that might improve their chances more in future years. Indeed many of them make moves that somewhat lessen their future. It keeps them mediocre until it all comes crashing down, and for the Royals, this is coming sooner rather than later. If there were still one wild card, the Royals would be 10.5 games back, which would not noticeably increase their 1.9% chance of winning the Central, and they would be sellers.

      In today’s game, the 8.5% point that they are at right now (about 75% of that probability being one road playoff game) with a week left to trade definitely SHOULD make them sellers, but it won’t.

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      • Joe says:

        It was 3.5 when the article was written. And if I had it my way, I’d only have two teams in each league make the playoffs. But the wild cards exist, so you have to make a run if you have a shot. That being said, I’d just wait until the last minute before the deadline to see if a deal needs to be made

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  21. How much would they even lose next year in productivity? Sign a 2 WAR SP in the off season and if you trade Shields for a few MLB ready prospects who combine for 3 WAR and you win right?

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    • Jason B says:

      I don’t disagree with the thrust of your point, but Shields is not likely to return “a few MLB ready prospects”.

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  22. DC has been writing about the demise of the Royals for a while now. I’m still waiting for the piece saying that the Mets should have traded Jose Reyes and David Wright…

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  23. Over the Royals says:

    Trading Shields would be the smartest thing the Royals could do. Which is why they WON’T do it. As mentioned in a couple of posts above, this team is predicated on maintaining mediocrity. Dayton Moore will eventually be replaced as GM. When is finally gone, he will land another job with another MLB club as perhaps an assistant GM ala Allard Baird in Boston. He will blame the horrible record on the Glass family’s tight control of money. Nevermind that other clubs with lesser payrolls are FAR more successful (Rays and A’s) than KC. Trading Shields should be done soon. Replacing him this year or next year won’t even be that hard. He’s on the decline and it has showed this year. Folks, this is the Royals. They are fully ingrained and fully immersed in a culture of mediocrity at best and apathetic loser”ness” in the norm. What’s new?

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    • YABooble says:

      Dayton Moore’s knowledge of baseball made him useful in a different environment, but doesn’t necessarily make him the best guy to be a GM in today’s baseball environment.

      So he’ll find a job elsewhere like Baird did.

      But, wasn’t KC the model franchise once upon a time? Without being any bigger a market than they are right now? Maybe this is all just a cycle.

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  24. KC Oracle (@KCOracle) says:

    Smart stuff. Sure, the Royals should trade Shields. And almost just as surely, they will not do so. But they could trade him without giving up on this year. They can trade him for a bat, preferably RF. Even if it was a guy in the last year of his contract, the Royals could turn it into a compensation pick next year, the same as for Shields.

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    • John C says:

      Problem is, that makes too much sense. KC’s defense is so strong that just about any pitcher who’s halfway competent can look great, like Jason Vargas has this season. Kauffman Stadium does the rest by neutering any and everyone who swings for the fences.

      Problem is, they don’t have very many people who can hit. They needed Wil Myers more than they ever needed James Shields.

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      • Marsupial Jones says:

        You mean the Wil Myers who had a .666 OPS over the first 50 games before getting hurt?

        People really need to stop penciling Myers in as a great player. The jury is still very much out on him.

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  25. Frank says:

    Two things I don’t like about this article. The first is, it doesn’t consider the boost to playoff odds that the Royals could get from hanging onto Shields and instead trading to improve RF. Even at the current 10 odd percent odds, the Royals clearly still have a chance.

    Second, downplaying the chances of winning the wild card playoff on the basis that they would play one of the two teams with the best record is not appropriate for a one game playoff. The chances should be compared based on the projected pitching matchup, the Royals would fancy their chances with James Shields going against the best that either they A’s or Halos have to offer. When you look at it like that, then all of a sudden, you would like the Royals chances in a one game playoff much more.

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    • Roy in Omaha says:

      Uh, have you ever seen “Big Game James” post season record?

      I’ll give you a hint. It is not good.

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  26. First World Problem says:

    Dave never wrote out “James Shields” in the entire article, so there is no direct link to his player page.

    I had to type in “shie” in the search box and click his name there… like a barbarian.

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  27. Rrr says:

    Do they want Myers and Odorizzi back?

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  28. Roy in Omaha says:

    Shields isn’t going anywhere for the same reason that Eric Hosmer is still playing 1B and Mike Moustakas is still playing 3B. Moore has hitched his future to these and some other players and to do anything else would be to admit abject defeat of “The Process”. For him, he has made it a political impossibility to do so. His fate is tied to what is left of the Royals season.

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  29. jdbolick says:

    It’s interesting that the narrative surrounding the Royals’ slump is that they’re bound to do the wrong thing with the “right thing” being trading for prospects, only to ignore that their slump derives from the struggles of their once widely praised prospects. They’re taking a lottery ticket either way. They’re unlikely to make the playoffs and they’re unlikely to get a meaningful player in return for Shields. Given the compensation pick and how much the small chance of making the playoffs would mean even if it’s only for one game, I say go for it.

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  30. Dave Cameron Moron says:

    Nice job, Dave

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  31. Dan says:

    Wow Dave you were so wrong.

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  32. Darius says:

    This is embarrassing now Dave. I mean just wow.

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  33. Parker says:

    Hurts to miss this one…

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  34. Sandy Kazmir says:

    Still think the Royals should have traded James Shields? #youknownothingstatnerds

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  35. Dewon Brazeltron says:

    How long before this post is taken down?

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  36. Sandy Kazmir says:

    Some of you guys must feel awfully dumb right now, but my guess is that you don’t have the humility to admit it so I can’t wait to read a bunch of articles about how lucky the Royals and O’s have been. Just suck it up and admit you don’t know anything about baseball, people, it’s what keeps the game young and fun.

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  37. tz says:

    Stats of the day:

    Royals wins at the time of this article: 48 (with 50 losses)

    Royals wins since posting this article: 48 (with 23 losses)

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  38. Anthony says:

    Not only did they leapfrog all of those Wild Card teams, they actually held home-field advantage for that Wild Card game, and are now in the World Series. Their season went from, in Cameron’s opinion, “probable best case scenario loss in game 163″ to “Terminate Oakland, Beat Detroit, Sweep Baltimore.” Where they were in mid-June justified keeping Shields, especially with current whispers they might make a legitimate run at re-signing James Shields this winter. Dayton Moore deserves credit where credit is due. He kept Shields, his team went on a run, and now they’re forever known as the 2014 American League champions. If they had followed Cameron’s advice, the 2014 season could be very, very, very different.

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  39. wint says:

    This is almost as good as #6org

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  40. J.Hoglund says:

    This guy is a total fucking moron. Does he get paid to write this trash? Murray Chass is less of an embarrassment.

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