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Rays History 101

Tyler Kepner's take on the big trade is, as usual, as sober and even-handed as possible. And I've been impressed with James Shields' good-natured reaction to being traded from a perennial contender to a perennial also-ran. Or maybe he's just an inveterate optimist. That's my guess, based on this:

"The scouting department has done a phenomenal job of getting the right guys in the draft," Shields said. "You see a lot of the kids are homegrown, which is real good. They definitely remind me of our ’07 season going into our ’08 season, in the Rays’ organization. I think there’s a good possibility we can step in that direction."

In 2007, the Rays finished in last place with a worse record than that of the 2012 Royals; in 2008, the Rays played in the World Series. And the Rays did have a lot of young players in '08.

Where I think the comparison breaks down is with the starting pitchers. Heading into 2008, the Rays' rotation was composed entirely of young starting pitchers -- at 26, Shields was the oldest -- who, generally speaking, hadn't pitched well in '07 but seemed to have some real up-side. Or maybe it just seems that way in retrospect, because in fact all five of the Rays' starters pitched well. Nobody was great, but Shields, Scott Kazmir (24) and Matt Garza (24) were really good, while Andy Sonnanstine (25) and Edwin Jackson (24) were both perfectly decent.

Kansas City's rotation next season will be completely different ... that is, aside from also featuring James Shields, who will be 31. As will Ervin Santana. Jeremy Guthrie will be 34. Bruce Chen will be 36. The kid will be Wade Davis, who a) will be older than the Rays' oldest starter in '08, and b) hasn't been a really good starting pitcher since he was in the minor leagues.

Meanwhile, Shields is the Royals' only projected starting pitcher with an ERA better than league-average last season. Which isn't to say there's no up-side for those guys; every pitcher has some up-side. It's just easier to get excited about the up-side with a young pitcher than an old one. And for all the Royals' kids, they're going to have a relatively grizzled rotation. Which is wholly unlike the Rays in 2008.