Any worries pitcher James Shields may have harbored about being traded to the Royals were assuaged in a late-night chat Sunday with general manager Dayton Moore.
Going from a team that has made three playoff appearances in five seasons to one that hasn’t been to the postseason since 1985 could’ve made Shields nervous.
“He told me he was excited to have us here, and moving forward, it sounds like he wants to win and he wants to win now,” Shields said in a teleconference on Monday.
“That’s what I’m all about; I’m all about trying to win next season and not worry about the next years down the road. I’m about winning right now. That’s one of the great things he told me, so I’m really happy about that.”
Moore was also pleased on Monday, one day after pulling off the six-player deal that brought Shields and fellow pitcher Wade Davis to the Royals. Davis, who was a starter from 2009-11 in Tampa before moving to the bullpen last year, will join Shields in the Royals’ rotation.
In return, Tampa Bay received four minor-league players, including two who were ranked in the top 10 in the Royals’ farm system by Baseball America: pitcher Jake Odorizzi (No. 5) and outfielder Wil Myers, who was voted as the best minor-league player in the country this season by Baseball America.
The loss of Myers was particularly difficult for some fans to swallow.
“We don’t want to trade Wil Myers, but you have to make those types of deals if you are going to get quality back,” Moore said. “We made an advance decision that we were going to do our best to acquire the most talented players that we could this offseason, knowing full well that many organizations perhaps would come after our young major-league players, our strong bullpen pieces, and we felt that we needed to do our best to hold onto those players.
“We tried to keep him and others out of the deal, but … you’ve got to give up something to get something, and at the end of the day, you make the deal and you don’t look back.”
Looking ahead, the Royals will have a thoroughly reshaped rotation in 2013.
Shields, who was 15-10 this year with a 3.52 ERA and 223 strikeouts in 2272/3 innings, projects as the staff ace. He’ll be joined by Davis and Ervin Santana, another newcomer who was acquired in an October trade with the Angels. And Jeremy Guthrie signed a three-year free-agent deal last month to remain with the Royals after he arrived in a July trade with the Rockies.
That’s four starters who weren’t on the Royals’ roster at the All-Star break last year.
Moore said that Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza will have a shot to join the rotation, with Hochevar and Chen having an inside edge.
Adding the salaries of Santana ($13 million, of which the Angels will pay $1 million), Shields (roughly $10 million) and Davis ($2.8 million) should push the Royals’ payroll to around $82 million for the 40-man roster, according to team officials.
The Royals will also pay Shields a $750,000 trade option under the terms of his contract negotiated with the Rays. Because of performance incentives in Shields’ contract, the Royals’ 2014 option for him is $13.5 million with a $1 million buyout.
Royals owner David Glass had previously projected $70 million to be a break-even point for the team’s 2013 payroll, but Moore said he won’t have to cut back after the blockbuster trade.
“Mr. Glass has always been very supportive of us getting the opportunity to improve our team if indeed we felt certain players made a difference for us,” Moore said. “This is certainly in character for what he has allowed us to do.
“We’re going to do our best to keep our roster as strong as we can. If there are other deals that make sense, we’ll look at them, but we’re not in a position where we’re trying to shed payroll. We’re trying to make our team very strong, and there are still a lot of good opportunities out there to do that.”
Shields is a believer, and he’s been part of a big baseball turnaround in the past. The Rays, who were an expansion team in 1998, had 10 straight losing seasons, culminating with a 66-96 record in 2007.
But then they won the American League pennant in 2008 with Shields tying for the team lead with 14 victories.
“The Royals are definitely on the right track,” Shields said. “The scouting department has done a phenomenal job of getting the right guys in the draft. You see a lot of the kids are homegrown, which is real good. They really remind me of the ’07 season going into the ’08 season in the Rays organization.
“I’ve been there. I’ve lost 100 games before, and I’ve also won 96, 97 games before. I really think me and Wade can definitely bring a little bit to the table about knowing how to win and knowing what it takes to win. We’re definitely going to try and do that this next year.”