Quick. There's no time. You have to answer before the American League Wild Card Game begins. The Royals made the playoffs, and you have to answer before James Shields starts the most important Royals game in 29 years:
Were the Royals right to trade six years of Wil Myers for two of James Shields?
The Internet thought this case was solved, see. Last October, Myers was the Rookie of the Year on a Rays team that made the playoffs. The Royals were strangely proud of being over .500, with GM Dayton Moore comparing the achievement to to winning the World Series. The trade was a debacle, and nothing was going to change that.
Well, unless Shields led the Royals to the playoffs the following year. And maybe if Myers became an afterthought after missing half the season. But what were the odds of that all happening?
It's important to answer this right now because the Royals aren't quite in the playoffs. They're kinda sorta in the playoffs. The play-in game officially counts as a playoff game, and they even get to host it, but a stinker of a start from Shields isn't going to make people feel warm and fuzzy about the Kansas City Royals' 2014 playoff run.
On the other hand, if the Royals go deep into the playoffs -- say, pennant or better -- no one will question the Shields trade again. That's why it's important to take a quick second and make up your mind, once and for all, no backsies, before we know how the Royals' season ends. The two arguments:
Argument #1: Yes, it's already a good trade
If you're already of the opinion that the Royals made out well with this deal, you might be an eternal optimist. The Royals need to go 12-8 over the next month to win the World Series. Some of those games will be started by James Shields. The Royals are gonna win the World Series, everyone. Damned straight it was a good trade.
Or maybe you're an eternal pragmatist. The eventual result of the 2014 postseason isn't the most important factor in evaluating the trade. The Royals making the playoffs at all? That's the big one. For the first time in 29 years -- 29 danged years -- there will be fancy bunting around the perimeter of Kauffman Stadium. Not the regular bunting that Ned Yost does when he's down by a couple runs, but fancy bunting. Jet planes might do an obnoxiously loud flyover. The stadium will be louder than it's been in decades.
The trade is already a success. The Royals are in the playoffs, and for at least three days and two nights, their fans get to dream big. It's the first time they've been allowed to do that since Nolan Ryan was in his 30s. You might think that's a low bar to clear, and you're right. You're also blissfully unaware of just how awful it is to go 29 years between postseason appearances.
What would Myers have needed to do for the Royals in order to justify ripping that away? One Rookie of the Year award and a lost season aren't enough, not even close. Simply playing well for four more years probably isn't enough, unless it's the kind of production that made an in/out difference with the playoffs.
Also, you might think that Wil Myers is a dingus and/or overrated. That's your prerogative.
Argument #2: Unless the Royals win the World Series this year, it will never be a good trade
Flags fly forever. Wil Myers will probably hit for another four years, at least. Unless you can guarantee the flag, go with the four years.
Even if the Royals win it all, there's something to be said for criticizing the process, not the results. That's probably a Dayton Moore reference.
Considering the Royals are a longshot to get said flag, they were still fools to give up a piece that would be a part of something sustainable, something that would give them multiple shots at a World Series.A team that's struggled as much as the Royals to make the playoffs at all shouldn't frantically grasp at that one chance as if they won't get another one. They need to build something.
That's part of what rankled people the most, the thought process behind the deal. The Royals have no chance to build a perennial contender one top-tier starting pitcher at a time. They'll need cheap talent under team control for years, which is what Myers represented. The Royals should be investing in CDs and municipal bonds, not dropping all of their cash on the IPO for Mergeatroid.com. They have no business taking risks like that, not without a sustainable foundation. Teams like the Cardinals can take risks because they have that foundation. When the Braves traded away the farm for Mark Teixeira, the sting was lessened by their conveyor belt of talent constantly spitting out young, productive players.
Do you really trust the Royals to do that? Does an asterisk of a playoff berth make up for the loss of what could have been a franchise cornerstone, the kind of roster certainty that allows the Royals a chance to focus on the other 24 roster spots and make the team better?
We're talking about the play-in game to the postseason, mind you. Make the "it's worth it!" argument four years ago about a potential 163rd game, and you'll be laughed off the Internet. Nobody mortgages the franchise to get a shot at a 163rd game. Yet when you uppercase the name of the game and give it a "Postseason" label, suddenly we're supposed to take it seriously? Seems weird.
There's a poll. Scroll down if you don't want to be influenced by my wisdom and profundity.
Give me the first one, the one that says that unless Myers finishes in the top three of the MVP voting for the next few years, there's no way the Royals regret this. Even if Myers is a solid regular and occasional All-Star, the exchange of that scenario for this one is something they had to do. The Royals don't have much of a chance to re-sign Shields, but for the first time in decades, the Royals aren't a joke. They're making people feel good about their choice in teams. That's an amazing coup, and we should embrace it.
Plus, there's a chance that the Royals will draft Stondard Hendender with the compensation pick next year, and he ends up defining the franchise for generations. Also, there's a chance that the Royals were just going to screw Myers up by throwing him into the same Moustakas pit that they keep promising to cover. Know your limitations, that's what I always say.
The Royals took a gamble. The gamble has already paid off, even before Shields starts the American League Wild Card Game. Whatever he does from here out is an additional bonus. It was a bold move. It was a bold and stupid move. Looks like it was just crazy enough to work, and the Royals shouldn't regret a thing, even if this is the last playoff game they have for a while.