If you have a pulse and have read anything baseball related on the Internet over the last few weeks, you probably already know that the Kansas City Royals are in the market for a top-flight starting pitcher.
While recent rumors have suggested that they may take a run at Tampa Bay Rays’ right hander James Shields—which is very possible—I’m more intrigued by the news that the Royals and Red Sox have discussed a potential deal for Jon Lester, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com.
In return, it’s presumed that the Royals would be forced to part with top prospect Wil Myers. The outfielder is fresh off a breakout campaign in which he batted .314/.387/.600 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI in 134 games between Double and Triple-A, and nearly big-league-ready.
Why the Trade Makes Sense
Headed into the offseason only Jacoby Ellsbury and the recently-acquired Jonny Gomes are locks to see significant playing time in the Red Sox's outfield in 2013. Beyond that, however, is seemingly endless uncertainty as there’s a host of replacement-level (at best) outfielders who will battle for a spot on the Opening Day roster.
According to MLBDepthCharts.com, the leading candidates are Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish and Ryan Sweeney, though Jerry Sands could also receive consideration. If the Red Sox plan to be a player in the fiercely-competitive American League East, then none of the aforementioned players can be considered a viable short-term option.
While Nava’s ascent to the major leagues is a great narrative, his career .730 OPS in 148 big-league games speaks for itself. Kalish, 24, has posted a .644 OPS in 89 career games and missed significant time due to various injuries.
The 27-year-old Sweeney has the most experience of them all with 535 career big-league games, but has seemingly been on the disabled for a portion of each season and owns a career .715 OPS. Sands, 24, has played in 70 big-league games over the last two years with the Dodgers and posted a .701 OPS.
To their credit, the Red Sox do have a pair of outfield prospects who are on pace to make their big-league debut in 2013. Bryce Brentz, the Red Sox's first-round draft pick in 2010, posted an .814 OPS with 17 home runs last season and reached Triple-A Pawtuckett. However, the 23-year-old has holes in his swing (131/46 K/BB) and many question how his game will translate to the major leagues.
The other option, Jackie Bradley, just completed an impressive full season in which he batted .315/.430/.482 with 55 extra-base hits (42 doubles) and 24 stolen bases in 128 games between high-A and double-A. At the same time, the left hander’s lack of power and questionable arm strength make him more projectable and valuable as a centerfielder.
Free Agent Market
As usual, the Red Sox will likely be in the mix for a top free-agent outfielder this winter, and may try to land either Josh Hamilton or Shane Victorino. Both players are on the wrong side of 30 and would almost assuredly have a high price tag. Myers, on the other hand, has just one year of minor-league service time and would be a steal given his relatively high ceiling.
Because the organization began re-stocking its farm system last season, they lack the impact prospects needed to pull off a major trade.
Wil Myers: Background and Potential Impact
Ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the game following the conclusion of the 2012 season, Myers nearly reached the major leagues late last year after raking at two minor-league stops. Coming off an injury-plagued season in 2011 in which he batted .254/.353/.393 with only 32 extra-base hits, the 21-year-old quieted skeptics with a monster offensive campaign in 2012—easily the top among all prospects.
At 6’3”, 205 pounds, the right hander has an explosive swing thanks to plus bat speed and above-average bat-to-ball skills. Exploding from an upright, slightly-open stance, Myers has a leveraged swing that yields plus raw power to all fields. He hits his share of towering home runs, too, a trait that would bode well at Fenway Park.
However, as he demonstrated last season, he’s willing to sacrifice his plate discipline (140/61 K/BB) for loud contact. But that’s something that will likely improve with more experience at advanced levels, including the major leagues.
Drafted as a catcher, the Royals moved him to the outfield prior to the 2011 season with the hope of expediting his arrival in the major leagues. So far it’s proven to be a wise decision. Not only has his bat flourished, but Myers has also developed into an above-average defensive outfielder with good instincts, decent range and an accurate, plus arm. Although he’s seen time at all three outfield positions over the last three years, he profiles best at either corner spot.
If the Red Sox ultimately land Myers, I would assume he’d receive consideration for a spot on the Opening Day roster as the team’s right fielder. If he doesn’t break camp with the team, it shouldn’t take long for him to reach the major leagues. Either way, if the Royals are willing to part with their highly coveted prospect, the Red Sox would be wise to jump at the opportunity.