The Royals' blockbuster trade with Tampa Bay for James Shields and Wade Davis shows that they're ready to start mortgaging their future to win in the present, something that hasn't happened around Kansas City for years.
To do it, the Royals gave up outfielder Wil Myers, widely regarded as the top prospect in the minor leagues, and right-hander Jake Odorizzi, considered their top pitching prospect. They also sent left-hander Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard to the Rays for another player to be named or cash considerations.
Shields is a former All-Star who immediately slides into the top spot in the rotation. Davis will also join the rotation after spending last season in the Tampa Bay bullpen.
"We have to start winning games at the major league level, and the way you develop a winning culture is by winning major league games," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "It's time for us to start winning at the major league level."
Kansas City, which hasn't had a winning season since 2003, has long had one of the best farm systems in baseball, and slowly the cream has risen to the big league level — first baseman Eric Hosmer, shortstop Alcides Escobar, third baseman Mike Moustakas and catcher Salvador Perez form a fine nucleus. But there's been a dearth of starting pitching for years, and that's what Moore and the rest of the front office have been trying to fix this offseason.
He's already re-signed Jeremy Guthrie to a $25 million, three-year deal, and took on former All-Star Ervin Santana and $12 million of his contract from the Angels. But the trade for Shields and Davis is Moore's most aggressive move yet, giving Kansas City the ace it has been lacking since trading away Zack Greinke, along with another piece that could fit in the rotation or the bullpen.
"When you can acquire a pitcher like James Shields and Wade Davis, we have to do it, because that's what we've committed to our team — we've committed to our organization," Moore said. "It's important that we start winning games."
Shields, who turns 31 this month, has been a stalwart in the Tampa Bay rotation the past seven seasons. He was an All-Star two years ago, when he went 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA and finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting, and was 15-10 with a 3.52 ERA in 33 starts last season, when he pitched 227 2-3 innings — his sixth consecutive year of at least 200 innings pitched.
"If you're going to win consistently in the major leagues, you're going to need a rotation that gives you innings, competes, helps you win," Moore said. "That's what our goal is, to put together a very good rotation. We feel we've done that."
Shields is due to receive $10.5 million this season. He has a club option for $12 million in 2014 with a $1 million buyout.
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