The Kansas City Royals are featured among one of the six Sports Illustrated 2013 MLB Preview Covers as Opening Day approaches on March 31. The Royal blue cover shows James Shields, the newly acquired ace via trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, firing a pitch from the mound and through the camera lens’ point of view.
“THE REAL DEAL: Big Games Await James Shields and the Revamped Royals” the cover reads, creating quite a buzz for a team that hasn’t played a big game — or at least postseason season game — since 1985.
Other SI regional preview covers featuring pitchers include the Rays’ David Price, the Detroit Tigers‘ Justin Verlander the New York Yankees‘ C.C. Sabathia and the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ Clayton Kershaw. Of those teams, only the Dodgers posted fewer than 90 wins last season and or failed to make the playoffs in the past three seasons. L.A. did finish with 86 wins last year compared to the Royals’ 72 and claimed the NL West as recently as 2008 and 2009.
This sudden thrust into the limelight was the product of an extremely aggressive Royals front office this offseason, which is far from par for the course in K.C. But this past winter Royals general manager, Dayton Moore, went to the hot stove with a culinary eye. By Christmas, the organization made its atypical splash in snagging Shields along with fellow Rays pitcher Wade Davis.
At the time the move was widely bashed by the media — and still very much is — but is still at least paying dividends on the publicity end. Time will tell if sending away top prospects Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi along with two other minor leaguers was worth it.