On Dec. 9, 2012, the Kansas City Royals pushed their chips to the center of the table for the 2013 season and said this is it. This is the season they were going to finally make a run at the postseason.
They sent prospects Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi and Patrick Leonard to the Rays for James Shields -- to be their ace -- and Wade Davis. Oh, and the Royals also sent the top power hitting prospect in all of baseball in the deal: Wil Myers.
Myers' inclusion is what tilted the scales for many Internet folk. After all, prospects are near and dear for everyone with even a dial-up connection these days. And Myers was a hot one. As we're seeing now, rightfully so. Myers is absolutely the real deal and has a shot at becoming the first AL Rookie of the Year ever to not appear in at least 100 games.
As we eye the home stretch of the 2013 season, however, it's possible this trade ends up being mutually beneficial.
Due to an incredible stretch of success since the All-Star break -- the Royals are 19-5 since -- Kansas City sits only four games out of the second wild card heading into Tuesday's action. I will submit that making the playoffs alone would make this deal worthwhile for the Royals.
The Royals haven't been to the playoffs since 1985 -- the biggest drought in all of Major League Baseball, seven seasons longer than the Pirates. Just making the playoffs and breaking that drought will do wonders for the psyche of a beaten-down fan base that has routinely ranked in the bottom five of league-wide attendance in recent memory.
Remember, it's a lot easier for a fan or member of the media to say the Royals are going to regret this move in the long run because James Shields will be a free agent after next season while Wil Myers is heading for stardom and would have been under team control for the next six seasons. But what we have to keep in mind is the management in place has to worry about making money via turnstiles and merchandise. Waiting isn't always the best thing when fans haven't seen a playoff berth in decades.
The addition of Shields to the top of the rotation has altered the makeup of the pitching staff in Kansas City to the point that it sports the best ERA in the American League. The Royals are playing well enough right now to make the playoffs for the first time since the Reagan administration. If they do, expect a large attendance spike next season -- the Orioles, for example, average almost 8,000 more fans per game this season than they did in 2011 -- maybe even giving the Royals more ability to spend money on payroll. That's a discussion for a different day, however.
Now, if the Royals fall short of the playoffs each of these next two seasons, Shields walks in free agency and Myers becomes a superstar -- which I believe he's in the process of doing -- we can say the Royals lost the trade. Maybe even lost it in blowout fashion.
If they break their playoff drought, however, I'm inclined to call the trade a wash. After all, winning in real life trumps projections. Just ask the fans of the Royals who haven't seen a winner since Dick Howser managed the likes of George Brett, Steve Balboni, Hal McRae, Bret Saberhagan and Dan Quisenberry.