The trade that sent Wil Myers and three more prospects to Tampa Bay and James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City is probably the last big move of the offseason for Kansas City. There is still a random utility infielder and bullpen arm that could potentially be signed, but barring something completely unforseen, the players currently on the roster is the team Dayton Moore and company will field next season.
Plenty of Pop-Tarts and Orange Juice have been spilled on Royals Review this week discussing the blockbuster trade, and it's probably time to move forward. Still, I have a collection of thoughts spawned from the trade that I want to throw out there before everyone moves on.
I'm currently of the opinion that if the Royals are attempting to make the playoffs, then they might as well completely go for broke. Empty the rest of the farm system for R.A. Dickey, then sign him to a two-year extension. Improve second base and right field without hurting the major league roster.
As someone who is old enough to remember exactly one winning Royals season, simply reaching the playoffs would do a lot of good for my mental health as a fan.
I also believe that the Royals really hurt themselves after 2015 by trading Myers, so I want the team to take advantage of the two-year window that Shields will pitch for Kansas City. I don't think Dayton Moore, however, shares the assessment that he damaged the team long-term.
I do not claim to understand exactly why Moore chooses to make the decisions he does, but as best as I can tell from his quotes regarding the trade, he believes Shields will help improve the team in the short-term and the long-term. His short-term impact will consist of his pitching, while his long-term impact will be helping to change the "losing culture" around the Royals.
The losing culture topic fascinates me, and is obviously a large focus for GMDM. Joe Posnanski discusses Moore's attempt to change the culture in Kansas City in a recent article for Sports On Earth, and Moore offered this quote when discussing the Shields trade:
"If we want our young players to reach their ceiling, you've got to win games at the Major League level ."
I think that quote offers a decent amount of insight into Moore's thought process. If you asked me, I would say that the young players need to reach their ceiling for the Royals to win games at the major league level, but Moore says that the Royals need to win games at the major league level for the young players to reach their ceiling.
It doesn't seem like a large change, but I think it clearly shows differences in thought. Moore wants to surround the young players with "winning-type" players to help the team win more now, which will help Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Salvador Perez reach their potential.
I imagine if you asked Moore, he would blame some of the young player's struggles on the fact that the team didn't win games. I would guess that Moore also believes that if the team is winning, future young players will perform better because the team is winning.
"Do prospect fulfill their potential more often on winning teams than losing teams?" is certainly an interesting question to ask, although I don't think it's verifiable. You could test if players exceed their expected value more often on teams that are winning, but that might be completely unrelated to the culture. The winning team might have better scouts that help them find superior players, coaches that help players unlock their potential, or better luck than a losing team.
It also seems plausible that a losing team would have prospects that reach their potential more often because they select better prospects.
Regardless of whether it's true that young players reach their potential more often on teams that win instead of team's that lose, I'm fairly certain that Moore holds that opinion. If you don't believe that young players can reach their potential unless surrounded with "winning-type" players, then you surround them with winning-type players.
Having a team full of these winning players would also help the second wave of talent, which I think Moore is placing a lot of faith in. If the team is winning, than the prospects who come up in the future will reach their potential quicker than this first wave prospects, because the team is winning. Therefore the second wave of prospects that arrives will be able to step in quickly, because of the change in culture and attitude.
Of course, I do not have a clear understanding of what Dayton Moore's definition of "winning-type" player is, other than if he declares you a "winning-type" player, than you are one. The Jeff Francoeur facts twitter account is full of information about the maligned right fielder's statistical futility, but theoretically one could be a "winning-type" player if one played on winning teams throughout his career. Except, Frenchy has not done that either. Below is a table with the record of each team he has played for while has been on their roster.
That is what frustrates me the most about much of the discussion that surrounds players who are "winners," or "competitors," or have a "good attitude." Far too often it seems these designations are used to justify a player who is not worth keeping around based on his talent alone.
If the Royals finish a few games behind the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central, some people will reflect on games the bullpen blew, claiming that the team should have won those games. Instead, we should lament the fact that the Royals went into 2012 with replacement level players at second base and right field, and chose not to upgrade those positions because those players are "winners."