KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When James Shields broke into the big leagues with Tampa Bay, the Rays were no better than the Kansas City Royals.
They lost more than 100 games his first season and fared little better the following year. But by his third season as a starter, the Rays had turned the corner, many of their prized prospects forming the nucleus of a team that upstaged AL East stalwarts Boston and New York and advanced all the way to the World Series.
Now, after a blockbuster deal that sent Shields and fellow right-hander Wade Davis to the Royals late Sunday, the former All-Star pitcher believes everything is in place for Kansas City to replicate the Rays’ success.
“The Royals are definitely on the right track,” Shields said Monday. “I’ve been there when we’ve lost 100 games before. I’ve also won 96, 97 games before, and I think me and Wade bring a little of that to the table, knowing how to win and what it takes to win.”
The Royals haven’t known what that’s like in years. Despite the matriculation of their best prospects to the big leagues, the Royals struggled to a 72-90 record and a third-place finish in the AL Central last season. It was their ninth consecutive losing season and extended to 27 the number of years it has been since the franchise last played in the postseason.
The biggest reason for the lousy finish was a dearth of starting pitching, and that’s something that general manager Dayton Moore has been aggressively trying to resolve.
Along with acquiring Shields and Davis, Moore re-signed Jeremy Guthrie to a three-year, $25 million deal and acquired Ervin Santana and his $12 million salary from the Los Angeles Angels. That means Kansas City’s top four starters next season weren’t on their Opening Day roster this past year.
“Our goal is to add as much pitching depth as we can, as every organization tends to do, especially this time of year,” said Moore, adding that Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar and Luis Mendoza could compete for the final job in spring training.
The Royals mortgaged their future to put it together. Tampa Bay’s biggest prize in the six-player swap is outfielder Wil Myers, widely regarded as the top prospect in the minors. The 22-year-old hit .314 with 37 homers and 109 RBIs last season, and he starred during the All-Star Futures Game, driving in three runs.
He also sent righty Jake Odorizzi, the Royals’ top pitching prospect, left-hander Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard to Tampa Bay. Kansas City also will receive another player or cash.
GREINKE DEAL OFFICIAL:Flush with cash after the team’s sale, the Los Angeles Dodgers are busy spending it on pitching.
The team introduced left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin on Monday, making him the first player to go directly from the Korean league to the major leagues. And he was just the setup man.
The Dodgers finalized a six-year, $147 million deal with right-hander Zack Greinke later in the day.
“We were definitely hoping for Zack,” said Magic Johnson, a partner in Guggenheim Baseball Management, which bought the team last spring. “Zack is a proven winner. When you put him together with Clayton (Kershaw), man, we feel really good.”
Greinke split last season with Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Angels. He went a combined 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA in 34 starts and was 5-0 with a 2.04 ERA in his last eight starts.
Ryu signed a six-year, $36 million after talks went down to the final seconds of the negotiating window. The Dodgers paid $25.7 million for the right to negotiate with Ryu.
LUDWICK RETURNS: Left fielder Ryan Ludwick signed a two-year, $15 million deal Monday to stay with Cincinnati.
He agreed to the deal over the weekend. It includes a mutual option for the 2015 season.
The 34-year-old batted .275 with 26 homers and 80 RBIs in 125 games last season. He started 107 games in left field. When first baseman Joey Votto got hurt at midseason, Ludwick emerged as one of the team’s most consistent run producers.
Around the majors
The White Sox agreed to a three-year, $12 million contract with infielder Jeff Keppinger. ... The Pittsburgh Pirates re-signed reliever Jason Grilli to a two-year contract worth $6.75 million. ... The Detroit Tigers agreed to a one-year deal with catcher Brayan Pena.
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