It’s funny how things work sometimes. On the morning of December 10, 2012, I headed out of town on a business trip. Despite the timing, sports talk radio that morning could only discuss one topic: the Royals’ trade of Wil Myers to Tampa Bay for James Shields the day before. The radio guys seemed stunned. Royals fans seemed either shocked or mad. The Royals had dealt some very promising prospects (not just Myers, but pitchers Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi) for Shields and a no-name pitcher that most of us probably couldn’t pick out of a crowd.
Fast forward to late July 2016. The no-name in that deal has become a very popular Royal. And now the trade rumors are swirling around him. And you know what? I’m fine with it. If the Royals deal Wade Davis, I will be at peace with this decision.
Sure, it will suck a little bit. I like the guy. After so many years of bad bullpens, it’s so much fun to know that if the Royals take the lead to the ninth, they’re winning. And he was on the mound for the crowning achievement of this franchise and this generation of Royals fans.
Even a few days ago, the idea of trading Davis was a non-starter to me. Why do it, I wondered. The Royals still have a chance to be very good next year, and Davis would be a huge part of that.
But seeing what the Chicago Cubs gave up for Aroldis Chapman has changed my mind. The Cubs parted with not one, but two, of their top prospects from a very deep farm system. Plus two other minor leaguers.
Some people will tell you that the Royals couldn’t get that for Davis. I don’t know. Wade is under control for 2017, at less money than Chapman is making this year. Davis doesn’t have the off-field baggage that Chapman has (if you’ve forgotten, Chapman was suspended for the first 30 games of this season after a domestic violence incident). We can debate whether Chapman should get a second chance some other time, but the fact is, Davis has never been in that sort of trouble and some fans would not want that sort of person on their team. And finally, despite Chapman’s incredible arm, I would submit that Davis has been the better pitcher since he was moved to the bullpen to begin the 2014 season.
Here they are, head-to-head in that time frame:
Davis: 172 IP, 91 hits, 218 K, 55 BB, 0.99 ERA
Chapman: 151 2/3 IP, 84 hits, 266 K, 65 BB, 1.84 ERA.
Yes, at some level, this is like choosing between ribs at Q39 or burnt ends at Joe’s Kansas City. You can’t go wrong.
Anyway, you may be asking: “But Darin, what would the Royals do without Davis?” The good news is his potential replacement is already on the roster, has already pitched in big postseason games, and is practically as good. Also, he’s cheaper and under team control for two more seasons. Of course, I mean Kelvin Herrera. Beyond him, the bullpen admittedly gets a little more questionable. I could see the Royals bringing back Greg Holland for not a lot of money (relatively speaking), and there are plenty of good relievers eligible for free agency this winter. It might not be the four-headed monster that the 2015 bullpen was before Holland got hurt, but the Royals could still put together a pretty solid one.
The Royals are said to be asking a lot in return for Davis, as they should. If they can get two really promising prospects who are major-league ready, they should definitely be willing to deal. But the beauty of this situation is that they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do. Keep Davis, and he can be a big part of what could be a very good team (with better injury luck and some better performances from key players) in 2017. Deal him, and they can patch up a hole or two to make this a very good team in 2017.
I’ve been a fan long enough to know this is a business, but I’m still a fan. Losing Wade Davis would be sad. But the potential return would be highly likely to make me happy. I go back to that Myers trade, and before it, the Zack Greinke trade. Both times, Dayton Moore traded a very valuable asset and got back a great return. If he deals Davis, I trust he will do so again. If not, we get to enjoy Davis for another year. It’s a win-win, and let’s face it, wins have been in short supply around here lately.
Photo by John Rieger, USA Today Sports