Surely Matt Silverman has lost his mind. That's your first thought.
Why in the world would the Rays' boss trade a young slugger, a potential superstar who was the American League rookie of the year just two seasons ago? Especially when that slugger is only 24 years old. Especially when you have a team that always seems to be in search of a big bat. Especially when you gave up big-game pitcher James Shields to get him. And especially when that slugger is still pretty cheap for a franchise that's always counting pennies.
Especially crazy, right?
Not at all.
As hard as it is to trade what could be a future All-Star in Wil Myers, this deal actually makes sense.
Maybe not at this moment, and maybe not for opening day or all of 2015. But in the long run, this is a trade that could put the Rays back among the top teams in the always-competitive American League East. The thing is, it might take a little luck and a couple of years to get back there.
Give Silverman credit for knowing what he had and what he needed. When he looked at his roster, broke down the numbers and added them up again, he realized this complicated trade is in the best interest of the long-term future of the Rays.
That's because even if he won't say it out loud, he is honest enough to realize that the short-term future of the Rays — meaning 2015 — isn't all that bright, even with Myers.
Talk all you want about the deep starting pitching and good defense. Let's not forget what this team was last season. Even with ace David Price for four months, it was a fourth-place team that lost 85 games and finished 19 games out of first place. When you projected next season's team and realized it probably wasn't going to look all that different from last season's, building for the future seems like a smart idea.
It's not a total rebuilding project, but this deal is definitely made with an eye toward the future, even if Myers is still a kid.
The Rays reportedly end up with two young pitchers, a future first baseman, a starting outfielder with some upside and a reliable catcher.
The part that scares you is the risk that Myers will go to San Diego and turn into one of the best players in baseball. That's certainly possible, though it seems less likely now than the day the Rays traded for Myers two years ago. You have to go back to 1967 and Tommie Agee to find a player traded so soon after being named AL rookie of the year.
No doubt, it takes some guts. If this trade turns sour, it will be in the first sentence of the story about Silverman's firing someday. And this trade comes a month after the Rays traded the 2011 AL rookie of the year, Jeremy Hellickson.
When it came to trading Myers, Silverman might have been thinking one of three things.
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One: Silverman was never sold on Myers and was never on board with the trade that brought him to Tampa Bay to begin with.
Two: Silverman and the Rays were spooked by Myers' injury-plagued, disappointing 2014 season, when he batted .222 with only six homers and 35 RBIs, and had 90 strikeouts in 87 games. Maybe the Rays looked at that and predicted the future Myers will look more like the 2014 version than the 2013 rookie-of-the-year version that hit 13 homers and had 53 RBIs in 88 games.
Three: Silverman knew the Rays needed lots of help and Myers was his best asset, assuming he had no desire to trade Evan Longoria or any of the starting pitching.
My guess? A combination of two and three. The Rays are worried Myers isn't going to become the player they once projected and they were able to trade him now for valuable pieces that could make up the nucleus of a contender in 2016 and beyond.
It all comes back to this: Silverman in October took over the baseball decisions for an organization that has a shortage of promising prospects. After a good run of bringing up young players — Longoria, Desmond Jennings, Kevin Kiermaier and all that starting pitching — the well has run dry. In order to help replenish the system, Silverman has to trade a valuable asset. Myers is that asset.
Are the Rays giving up on Myers? Yeah, maybe they are. But I think this is as much about what they are getting than what they are giving up.
If this trade is all about looking a couple of years down the road, the next order of business is to consider trading a few others, most notably Ben Zobrist.
Zobrist, who turns 34 in May, is still a productive player, but his numbers are trending down. He still has value but probably won't by the time the Rays figure to be truly competitive again. Why not trade him now while you can still get something decent in return?
At the very least, maybe Zobrist becomes 2015's version of Price. The Rays start the season with Zobrist and see if their pitching is enough to keep them in the race. If they are in the hunt come midseason, they keep Zobrist. If they fall out of the race by June, then auction him off to a playoff contender in need of a veteran. Maybe do that for James Loney, too.
Bottom line: As strange as it seems to trade a young player such as Myers, the Rays are hoping that in a few years — perhaps when it's time to open a new ballpark — they will be poised to make a serious run at a World Series title.
It's really not as crazy at it sounds.