Only yesterday I wrote that whilst the Kansas City Royals had been quiet at the Winter Meetings it should not be taken to mean that they would be quiet for the rest of the offseason. And they weren’t. General Manager Dayton Moore had gone into the winter looking for not only pitching in depth, but for someone to lead the rotation. The initial thought was that the Royals would look in the free agent market, but the rumour started during the Winter Meetings that a trade for someone might instead be the path. That is what transpired today; the Royals picked up James Shields from the Tampa Bay Rays in addition to Wade Davis. They will also get a player to be named later or cash. Needless to say, this all came at a high cost: the Royals lost top prospects Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard as well.
The loss of such high prospects is a bit of a surprise, but this is clearly a major coup for Moore. The Royals rotation now looks not only competitive, but actually strong. Shields will lead the line and be supported by Davis (one expects, though he has been in the bullpen a lot too), Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, Bruce Chen and maybe Luke Hochevar. (Not necessarily in that order.) Shields and Santana will both eat up innings, something the Royals badly need, and Shields allows the likes of Guthrie and Chen to pitch in the middle or the rotation where they will be more effective. At some point the Royals will also have Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy return, though it is not yet clear how they will slot back into the rotation. But it is clear that the rotation will have few holes at least at the start of the year. Chen, who has lead the team in victories three years running, may actually find himself the fifth starter such is the improvement. Regardless of the specifics when the team leave Surprise in late March, that is a rotation that will give the team a chance to win much more often than not.
The question then becomes: can the Royals not merely hold their own in the AL Central next year, as they were hoping to do before this trade, but actually compete for the title? Although there has certainly been a bit of ‘contender’ talk bandied about even in the few hours since this deal was announced one must not get ahead of oneself. The Royals have what they most dearly wanted, but the Detroit Tigers are still a very good team. It will take a lot to beat them and whilst the Royals now have to team in place to possibly have a go there is still so much that could happen over the course of a season. But one would certainly rather go into the season having made this deal than not and it is never too early to be optimistic. And Royals fans absolutely should be optimistic now.