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Swaps Meet
JOE SHEEHAN
December 24, 2012
It looks like the Royals and the Blue Jays made similar trades, but not all prospects-for-pitching deals are equal
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December 24, 2012

Swaps Meet

It looks like the Royals and the Blue Jays made similar trades, but not all prospects-for-pitching deals are equal

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Wil Myers isn't the only top prospect to be traded this month. On Monday the Blue Jays reached an agreement to send catcher Travis d'Arnaud, minor league starter Noah Syndergaard, veteran catcher John Buck and outfielder Wuilmer Becerra to the Mets for NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. (As part of the deal Dickey agreed to a two-year, $25 million contract extension with Toronto.) The trades of Myers and d'Arnaud seem of a type: Teams on the brink of contention dealt their best prospect for immediate starting pitching help. Look more deeply, though, and you see differences that make the Royals' move questionable and the Blue Jays' strong.

First, Myers is a better prospect than d'Arnaud. He's nearly two years younger (d'Arnaud turns 24 in February), had a stronger season at the plate (d'Arnaud hit 16 home runs and had a .975 OPS at Triple A, compared with Myers's 37 homers and .987 OPS across two levels in 67 more games) and he didn't miss the second half with a knee injury as d'Arnaud did. Myers is ready to step in as a major league rightfielder; d'Arnaud may need at least a half season more in the minors. The Royals also gave up more in the trade, most notably starter Jake Odorizzi, swaying their deal in a way that the hard-throwing Syndergaard doesn't in the Jays' package. And even though he's 38, Dickey has been a better pitcher than 31-year-old James Shields (the main piece acquired by Kansas City) over the last three seasons and projects better for 2013.

The biggest reason to judge the deals differently is the teams they create. The Royals would have been better off sticking Myers in rightfield, benching or releasing incumbent Jeff Francoeur and signing a free-agent pitcher with the money they'll be paying Shields and righthander Wade Davis. That would have upgraded two positions, one of them significantly. (Francoeur was one of the worst everyday players in baseball last year.) On balance the Royals are not much better off, a .500 team hoping a weak division helps them sneak into the postseason.

By contrast the Blue Jays get their rotation upgrade at little current cost. d'Arnaud may have pushed starting catcher J.P. Arencibia by midseason, but the gap between the two players would be small in 2013. The Dickey trade makes the Jays about four wins better even if the knuckleballer reverts to his '10--11 levels of performance. That's enough to bump Toronto from a fringe wild-card team to one that could steal the AL East.

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