KANSAS CITY -- The trade that helped both teams is generally more rhetoric than reality. Most trades produce two things: one winner and one loser.
But right here in Kauffman Stadium this week we have an example of a trade that really did help both clubs. This trade was so good that it deserves a merit badge for making a huge difference in the fortunes of two American League franchises.
The trade in question was between the Royals and the Rays on Dec. 9, 2012. The Royals traded four prospects, the most prominent being outfielder Wil Myers, the consensus Minor League Player of the Year in 2012. Two young pitchers who were also highly regarded, Jake Odorizzi and left-hander Mike Montgomery, went to Tampa Bay in the deal, along with infielder Patrick Leonard, a fifth-round Draft choice in 2011.
The results were there for all to see last season. Shields not only solidified the Royals' rotation. but led it. Myers, brought up to the Majors in June, became an indispensable part of the Rays' lineup and was voted AL Rookie of the Year.
The Royals took a giant step forward in the standings, from 72 victories in 2012 to 86 last year. With a strong second half they established themselves as legitimate postseason contenders for 2014. The Rays, meanwhile, with Myers giving their lineup a sizable boost, qualified for the postseason for the fourth time in the last six seasons.
The two teams opened a three-game series Monday night with Kansas City defeating Tampa Bay,4-2, as the Royals' Jason Vargas gave up just one run in eight-plus innings. It was the Royals' seventh straight victory over the Rays at Kauffman Stadium, dating back to 2011.
But regardless of the outcomes here, the benefit the trade has delivered to both teams is clear.
"I think it's been good for both sides," Rays manager Joe Maddon said Monday. "I really do. I think James has probably brought a different perspective to their pitching in general, just the way he goes about his business and how he competes. I know he has been a force multiplier within that group. Wade, to a certain extent, I know that he has done his job. But James is the guy that makes the difference.
"Wil, on the other hand, we don't get to the playoffs [in 2013] without him. And he wins Rookie of the Year honors. So they almost got to the playoffs last year, based, I think on the impetus that was provided by James, whereas I think Wil helped us get over the hump last year. Anytime both teams benefit, you want to see that. You want to see a good trade from both sides."
The Royals had to improve their pitching and they did with Shields, plus the addition of Davis, who is now working in a setup role.
"We knew we needed pitching to get us over the hump and sometimes you need to go get it," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We got one of the best starters in the American League -- and Wade.
"It wasn't an easy decision to make the trade. But, in the end, we felt like if we got some starting pitching, we had a chance to compete and that's exactly what happened."
The Rays appear to have the edge in long-term potential from this trade. Shields will be eligible for free agency after this season. Odorizzi, 24, has stepped into Tampa Bay's rotation, and threw six shutout innings in a victory over Texas in his first 2014 start. Montgomery, 24, once a leading prospect, is working through mechanical issues in the Minors and is still a long-term possibility.
"Odorizzi, you know, he's a quiet kid, not demonstrative," Maddon said. "He's got the baby face not unlike [Rays righty Jeremy] Hellickson. But he's very good and he's very competitive.
"Everybody's been talking about Wil through this whole thing, but Odorizzi pitched really good his first time out. Had a good camp. He's learning [Rays righty Alex] Cobb's split and that's a big addition to his other stuff. He's got a good curve, he's got a good slider, he's got a good fastball with good life on it. And now he's got this other pitch. He's not afraid to throw it and it causes him to present himself differently to left-handed hitters. So you take the long-term potential with Wil and Jake and it's pretty interesting."
What beckons now is a successful season for both the Royals and the Rays. They have both been significantly helped by that rarest of commodities, the trade that actually helped both teams.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.