Efforts by the Royals to acquire pitcher James Shields from Tampa Bay in a deal involving outfield prospect Wil Myers shifted to hold Thursday afternoon when the Winter Meetings concluded at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.
Both sides appear interested in continuing discussions, although the Rays seem likely to wait to see if their options expand after Zack Greinke comes off the free-agent market. Greinke is believed close to a decision in choosing between the Dodgers and Rangers.
While the Royals show willingness to surrender more than Myers for Shields, they departed the Meetings without a specific request from the Rays.
“It’s not like we’re going to bend over backward,” one club official said. “We’re not going to do that. We want to make a trade to get another starter, be it Shields or someone else, but we don’t feel we have to make a trade.”
Both sides say the deal, if there is one, could come together quickly once Greinke signs.
Shields, who turns 31 later this month, was 15-10 with a 3.52 ERA last season in 33 starts and is the sort of proven workhorse the Royals dearly covet – delivering 30-plus starts and 200-plus innings in each of the last six years.
But that consistent durability is rising in cost, which why the Rays are willing to move him. Shields’ contract calls for $10.5 million in 2013 and a club option for $12 million in 2014 with a $1 million buyout.
It isn’t clear how the Royals would fit such a salary into the 2013 payroll, which is already over budget. Their projected 2014 payroll has far more flexibility.
Myers, 22, was the consensus minor-league player of the year and, coincidentally, arrived late Thursday afternoon at the Opryland to attend a Baseball America awards dinner.
“We know we’ve got a special, controllable player here,” one Royals official said. “If we make a deal, we have to make sure we get someone we believe can get us into the playoffs.”
Myers batted a combined .314 last season in 35 games at Class AA Northwest Arkansas and 99 games at Class AAA Omaha with 37 homers and 109 RBIs.
Rule 5 losses
The Royals survived unscathed through the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft but lost five players, including four pitchers, in the Class AAA portion.
Third baseman Diego Goris, 22, to San Diego: Batted a combined .333 with 13 homers and 51 RBIs in 58 games at Rookie Surprise and short-season Idaho Falls; acquired from Pittsburgh in Dec. 7, 2011 trade for infielder Yamaico Navarro.
Right-handed pitcher Ethan Hollingsworth, 25, to Pittsburgh: Was 5-11 with a 4.82 ERA in 34 games, including eight starts, at Class AA Northwest Arkansas and Class AAA Omaha; acquired from Oakland in Sept. 27, 2011 trade for first baseman Kila Ka’aihue..
Left-handed pitcher Brendan Lafferty, 26, to Philadelphia: Was 1-1 with a 4.77 ERA in 43 relief appearances at Northwest Arkansas; acquired in 18th round of the 2009 draft.
Left-handed pitcher Ryan Dennick, 25, to Cincinnati: Was 8-6 with a 4.61 ERA in 36 games, including four starts, at Class A Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas; acquired in 22nd round of 2009 draft.
Right-handed pitcher Federico Castaneda, 29, to San Diego (in second round): Was 2-4 with a 5.71 ERA in 51 relief appearances for Class AAA Mexico City in Mexican League; signed Oct. 11, 2008 as a non-drafted free agent.
“We felt all of them could have helped our organization in some way,” assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said. “Left-handed pitching is tough to lose, and we lost the two left-handers.
“I’m not surprised on Lafferty because he’s got big velocity. Dennick has a good curveball. It’s not surprising to lose guys who have tools when they’re left-handed.”
The Royals did not have a pick in the Major League phase because they have no openings on their 40-man roster. They passed on picks in the Class AAA and Class AA phases.
“If you’re going to take somebody,” Picollo said, “typically it means you’re replacing somebody. Our reports on the players available weren’t significantly more than what we have. We didn’t think there was somebody who significantly upgraded us.”
Don’t be surprised if Alex Gordon moves back to leadoff duty next season if Eric Hosmer has the sort of bounce-back season the Royals anticipate.
“I’ve got two or three guys I can put in the three spot once they swinging the bat like I know they can swing it,” manager Ned Yost said. “Ideally, I think Eric Hosmer would fit best there.
“We love Billy (Butler) in the four. Gordy can hit anywhere from one, two, three, four, five or six depending on what we’ve got. He’s the one guy who is a pretty interchangeable piece. He can handle all aspects of hitting from one to six.”
Gordon spent much of last season as the leadoff hitter before shifting to No. 3 on Aug. 24 when Yost dropped Hosmer in the lineup. Gordon batted .307 with a .379 on-base percentage and .466 slugging percentage as a leadoff hitter and had a .288/.356/.462 split when batting third.