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If Royals deal is bad, why were the Tigers hoping they wouldn't make it?

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider
KC deals Futures Game participants Wil Myers (left) and Jake Odorizzi (right), but keep Yordano Ventura. (Getty Images)

No surprise, the Twitter world hates what the Royals just did.

So do the Tigers.

Different reasons, obviously. Twitter loves prospects and loves the Rays. Twitter thinks Wil Myers will be a star.

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The Tigers look at James Shields and think that the Royals just became a real threat in the American League Central.

Twitter thinks the Royals "gave up a lot." The Tigers know that two teams that "gave up a lot" just met in the World Series.

As one Tigers person after another whispered during last week's winter meetings, "I just hope they don't get Shields."

They just did, and that's why when I texted one Tigers official with news of Sunday night's big trade, his response consisted of one word that I can't repeat here.

Rest assured, it wasn't "Great!"

Shields is a difference-maker. He pitches tons of innings (second in the majors to Justin Verlander over the last two years). He wins games, even when he's matched up against great pitchers.

He leads a staff. There's no way the Rays would even think about trading him, except that they don't have enough money to pay both him and David Price and still put together a lineup that can win.

The Rays did what they had to. Good for them.

But the Royals did what they had to, too.

You may get praise for holding tight to all your prospects, but you generally don't win championships that way.

With the help of those prospects, the Royals had put together a lineup that may well be ready to win. Myers may have helped make that lineup even stronger, but the only way this team was going to become a true contender (for the first time in nearly three decades) was to significantly upgrade a rotation that had a 5.01 ERA in 2012.

Adding Jeremy Guthrie and Ervin Santana helped, but the Royals still needed someone to put on top.

Pitchers like that aren't cheap, as the Dodgers proved by giving Zack Greinke nearly $25 million a year.

Do you know who baseball-reference.com lists as statistically the most similar pitcher to Greinke? Yes, it's James Shields.

Shields makes $10.5 million in 2013, which means the Royals could afford him. But the only way they were going to get him was to trade Myers.

In 2012, the Royals opened the season with Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar as their No. 1 and No. 2 starters. In 2013, Chen and Hochevar figure to compete with Wade Davis for the final two spots in the rotation.

The Royals plan to try Davis (acquired from the Rays along with Shields) as a starting pitcher. It may be that he fits better as a reliever, which is what the Rays eventually decided.

The Royals will be fine either way, if Shields does for them what he has done for the Rays.

The Royals paid a stiff price to get him. Myers is considered one of the best prospects in the game. Jake Odorizzi is a top pitching prospect. The other two players in the deal (Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard) have talent, but aren't considered to be on the level of Myers and Odorizzi.

Yes, it's a lot. But as Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski likes to say, "I never understood the idea that you're going to get talent without giving up talent."

The Royals could have held their prospects and waited. But most likely, they would have continued to lose for another couple of years, and general manager Dayton Moore would have lost his job.

Instead, they made the decision that their vastly improved young lineup could give them a chance to compete now. That's why when they began trade talks to acquire a big-time pitcher, they told teams that they would much rather deal Myers than they would Billy Butler.

Myers has a higher ceiling. It's reasonable to think he'll end up being the better player (although it's also worth remembering that many prospects never prove to be as good as advertised).

But the Royals are trying to win now. Keeping Butler gave them a better chance at it.

Getting Shields gave them a much better chance at it.

The Twitter world may not get that. The Tigers did.

They know that the AL Central just got a lot more interesting.

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