Buster Olney reported in an insider-only piece on ESPN about August trade rumors that multiple executives across the league assume the Boston Red Sox will pursue Kansas City Royals starter James Shields this off-season.
The Red Sox have bolstered their offense by acquiring Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig in separate deals for starters Jon Lester and John Lackey. Certainly a move for Shields would make sense, as Shields appears to be the biggest pitching prize of the upcoming free agent class.
The news does not bode well for Kansas City’s hopes of retaining Shields to remain the leader of their staff. Right now, that role would fall to Jason Vargas as a high-performing veteran. Yet, over his career, Vargas is too much of a middle-of-the-road pitcher to really feel secure in such a role.
The report about the Boston Red Sox makes clear that the currently 32-year-old Shields will have numerous suitors as a free-agent. I don’t see him coming back to Kansas City, unless he is willing to give the Royals a discount because he likes the city and the club.
Right now, I’m not holding my breath.
The Royals, however, do have some trade pieces that they could move in order to acquire a starter in the off-season. They could pair one of their power arms like Kyle Zimmer, Miguel Almonte, or Sean Manaea with set-up man Wade Davis, especially with Luke Hochevar returning from Tommy John surgery next season. Hochevar will be a free-agent, but might be a bargain sign coming off his injury.
Of course, Dayton Moore’s inability to pull the trigger at the trade deadline does not engender great confidence that he can reshape the Royals roster next winter.