Even during the craziest of Major League Baseball's annual off-season free agent grab and trading frenzy it is rare to see a team trade a young potential superstar to another organization. For any reason.
Astoundingly, this year we've just seen it happen twice in two days.
On December 9th the Kansas City Royals dealt the best prospect in all of baseball, 22 year-old outfielder Wil Myers, to the Tampa Bay Rays. Then on December 11th the Arizona Diamondbacks got involved in a messy three-way with Cleveland and the Cincinnati Reds. When they looked in the mirror the next morning they had sent 21 year-old super prospect right-handed starter Trevor Bauer to the Indians.
Since it turns out there are no locks in life, it follows there are no sure-things in Major League Baseball. How many can't-miss minor league stars fizzle and flame out; how many young players put up one or two good years then can't make the required adjustments after the pitchers or hitters have adjusted to him?
Having provided the above global disclaimer, I am predicting that both the Kansas City Royals and the Arizona Diamondbacks will absolutely regret these trades in the next several years. Both Myers and Bauer were traded for the wrong reasons and for returns that have serious negative value assessments.
Wil Myers was named the 2012 Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year, which is a serious achievement. Recent past winners of that award are the Angels' Mike Trout (2011), Tampa's Jeremy Hellickson (2010), the Braves' Jason Heyward (2009), Baltimore's All Star catcher Matt Weiters (2008), and Cincy's Jay Bruce (2007).
Myers will join Evan Longoria, one of the best starting staffs in baseball, and any number of Rays outstanding organizational prospects to legitimately challenge in the American League East for years to come.
Trevor Bauer is the kind of pitcher who can bring building block legitimacy to Cleveland, a team at the nasty bottom of the MLB barrel but whose low-ranking farm system should finally start to blossom in 2013.
So why did Kansas City and Arizona make these poorly strategized trades?
The Kansas City Royals appear to be an organization on the upswing despite finishing above .500 only once in the past 18 years (2003: 83-79). With their minor league organization top-rated and the team eager to spend money in the draft, a three or four year targeted rebuild seemed reachable.
But by pulling the trigger on the Wil Myers trade, GM Drayton Moore looks like he was too impatient to wait for a real Kansas City renaissance; instead he opted for the appearance of short-term competency. Trading Myers for Tampa starting pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis will no doubt allow Moore to clamp a lock on third place (or second place) in the AL Central for the next several years. Wow, I'll alert the media.
Add to that, in the trade Tampa also got 22 year-old RH reliever Jake Odorizzi from Kansas City who could end up turning a great trade for the Rays into a spectacular trade.
The Diamondbacks trade of pitching phenom Trevor Bauer to Cleveland is almost more perplexing. MLB Trade Rumors has a wide array of reaction to this mega-deal, but the question remains: how can the Snakes take Bauer 3rd overall in the 2011 draft and then a mere 18 months later send him packing?
The biggest knocks on Bauer are that, 1) he did poorly in his first four Major League games in 2012 when he went 1-2 6.06; and, 2) he has a quirky set of pre-game preparation routines (like long-throwing from one foul pole to another). And if those are the reasons he was dumped, then I picked the wrong time to stop snorting black licorice shavings.
This could be the worst trade in Arizona's history.
On the other side of the ledger, FanGraphs noted Bauer was not just the best college pitcher in the nation in 2011, he was the best college player in the nation. Arizona received several players in the deal, specifically Didi Gregorius from Cincinnati who will be given a shot to take over at shortstop, and 29 year-old lefty reliever Tony Sipp from Cleveland.
If Arizona had kept Bauer, the starting rotation of Wade Miley, Ian Kennedy, Brandon McCarthy, Trevor Cahill, and Bauer had the potential to be one of the most dominating starting staffs in baseball for years to come. And while there's no question the Snakes' pitching still looks solid, several thousand wise baseball men and women have noted over the years that you can never have enough pitching.
Looking back on this week, the question "what if?" may haunt the front office and fans of both the Kansas City Royals and the Arizona Diamondbacks for a very long time as they watch the careers of Wil Myers and Trevor Bauer really take off.