There was a conversation that took place yesterday on The Drive on 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City that really piqued my interest. I don’t remember Steven Spector’s exact quote, but he argued the Royals basically punted on a playoff opportunity in 2017 when they traded Wade Davis.
This is something that I have believed since the day they made the trade. This is not some new idea that I have. In fact, I wrote about it recently. In my opinion, the Wade Davis trade for Jorge Soler was a half-way move for the Royals. Half-way playing for “now”, half-way rebuilding. Half-way moves almost never work out, and the Wade Davis trade has come back to bite the Royals so far.
As good as the Royals were in parts of the 2017 summer, they got off to an absolutely abysmal start in April, part in thanks to an awful bullpen. Kelvin Herrera did not appear to be ready for the closer role and Joakim Soria was hit or miss early on. Scott Alexander was the lone bright spot in the bullpen but he couldn’t pitch every day. What the Royals needed, of course, was Wade Davis.
The Royals finished the 2017 season just five games back of a Wild Card opportunity and were in a playoff position on July 31. The Royals became buyers at the trade deadline, but one trade in particular ended very poorly for Kansas City. The Royals traded pitchers Matt Strahm and Travis Wood, along with 2B prospect Esteury Ruiz for pitchers Ryan Buchter, Brandon Maurer, and Trevor Cahill.
When I first heard about the trade, I honestly didn’t mind it too much. I was upset with the loss of Esteury Ruiz, as I think he could blossom into a top 100 prospect soon, but Strahm has been injury plagued and we all know what Travis Wood wasn’t. What I was excited about was what Brandon Maurer (lol) and Ryan Buchter were going to bring to the Royals bullpen. The Royals bullpen had been okay, but I sort of expected Maurer, who hadn’t been awful in San Diego, and Buchter to take it to another level.
The Wade Davis trade was problematic on several fronts. For one, like I've mentioned 1,000 times but want to hammer the point home, trading Wade Davis screamed “hedging our bets.” The Royals were playing it safe, and it backfired. Jorge Soler wasn’t the starting right fielder that the Royals hoped he’d be and Jorge Bonifacio blossomed into a serviceable player at the same position. Wade Davis went on to pitch in the All-Star Game for the Chicago Cubs and the Royals were struggling to finish games.
On the surface, here’s what the Wade Davis trade looked like:
Royals receive: OF Jorge Soler
Cubs receive: CL Wade Davis
Here’s the problem: this isn’t the entirety of what resulted in the trade. The Royals lost Wade Davis, sure, but that’s not all they lost when they traded for Jorge Soler. Here’s a real list of what the Royals have given up to acquire Soler:
- One year of Wade Davis
- Matt Strahm
- Esteury Ruiz
- A compensation round A draft pick when Wade Davis signed for $50M+
- A chance at the playoffs in 2017
The Royals would certainly not make the trade with San Diego if Wade Davis hadn’t departed Kansas City. Kelvin Herrera would’ve presumptively held down the 8th inning role for KC and Joakim Soria was certainly adequate enough for the 7th inning. Scott Alexander and Kevin McCarthy were also nice surprises in what would’ve been a good bullpen with Davis.
I can’t stress enough how big of a mistake it was to trade Wade Davis before the 2017 season. It doesn’t matter if Jorge Soler goes on to win MVP awards. The Royals had a very real chance to make the playoffs in 2017, and they traded the league’s best closer before the season ever started. I’m not suggesting that the front office quit on the team by any means, but that team, those players, THE FANS, deserved one more shot with that World Series championship core.
Here’s the point I'm getting at: the Kansas City Royals can never win the Wade Davis trade, no matter how good Jorge Soler plays. The Royals willingness to take away an All-Star closer from their team in 2017 makes it an impossible situation to win. The Royals can only hope to make that trade look less bad as time goes on. If Jorge Soler wins three MVP awards in Kansas City, but never wins a World Series, the trade will be for nothing. The ultimate price to pay for Soler, a playoff opportunity, two legit prospects, a first round draft pick, and Wade F. Davis, is a price that will be infinitely insurmountable. Even if Jorge Soler does help win another World Series in Kansas City, nothing can replace the feeling that would’ve been one last playoff run with Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer in Kansas City. So, while it’s awesome that Jorge Soler is succeeding, and I think he has a chance to be really special, let’s go ahead and shelve the “who won the trade” debate, because that debate ended with the Royals 2017 regular season.
*Disclaimer: I am not a Jorge Soler “hater”. In fact, I am probably higher on him than most people reading this. I think he has a chance to be a fantastic baseball player in Kansas City and love the start he’s had to 2018. I don’t think he was given a 100% fair shake last year and the point of this article has nothing to do with his performance. In fact, that’s kind of the point.
Do you think the Royals can "win" the Wade Davis trade?
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