The Royals will have some decisions to make with the starting rotation this season, but the top remains solid with James Shields.
And he would welcome any discussion to extend his stay beyond the one year remaining on his contract.
“I definitely would be open-minded to it,” Shields said Friday during the Royals FanFest at Bartle Hall. “I think a player in my position, with one more year left before free agency, would be open to it.
“I like Kansas City, I like the organization and I like the direction we’re going.”
If the Royals and general manager Dayton Moore want to speak to Shields about baseball beyond 2014, he’s listening.
“If Dayton wants to talk about it I’m more than willing to sit down and talk about it,” Shields said. “But during the season my main focus is to win games.”
Shields, who became a Royal as part of the blockbuster 2012 trade with the Rays for Wil Myers, also struck down a report that he was looking for a contract similar that of former Royals Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, who signed a $147 million, six-year deal with the Dodgers last season.
“That’s absolutely not true,” Shields said. “I have no idea where he got that from, to be honest with you.”
The Royals exercised their $13.5 million option on Shields’ contract after he went 13-9 with a 3.15 ERA in 2013.
His clubhouse leadership was considered a major factor in the team’s resurgence as the Royals’ 86-76 record reflected the club’s most victories in a season in more than two decades.
To manager Ned Yost, the Royals’ other three starting pitchers this season are likely to be Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen, who agreed to a one-year deal Thursday.
Vargas, a left-hander who went 9-8 with a 4.04 with the Angels last season, was acquired by the Royals when it became apparent the team wouldn’t re-sign Ervin Santana, who remains a free agent.
Guthrie went 15-12 with a 4.06 ERA in his first full season with the Royals, and Chen was terrific in the second half of the season, when left the bullpen and returned to a starting role. He finished 9-4 with a 3.27 ERA.
“I think we’re going into it probably looking at Bruce having one of the five spots,” Yost said. “My mind-set is you can’t evaluate Bruce in spring training. He’s not one of those kinds of guys that can compete because he’s not a spring-training pitcher.
“But once the bell rings, he’s been phenomenal for us. He’s been as consistent as anybody can be. You know what you’re going to get with Bruce. You’re going to get six or seven (innings) for the most part, he’s going to keep you in the game. Unless something dramatically happens between now and then, Bruce will probably be slotted in one of those five slots.”
That leaves several candidates for the fifth starting spot, including Luke Hochevar, Wade Davis, Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, Brad Penny and Kyle Zimmer.
All want it.
“I’m definitely going in to start,” said Davis, who opened last year as a starter but wound up in the bullpen. Hochevar took a similar path after spending his first five years as a starter.
The young Ventura showed electric stuff in three major-league starts last season.
“I’ve been working hard, and resting my arm because I want to pitch 200 innings,” Ventura said.
Whoever emerges as a starter, the Royals’ bullpen, which was baseball’s best last year, figures to be strong again this season.
“The beauty of spring training is you can lengthen guys out, especially early, and you can adjust guys off of it,” Yost said. “When we put (Hochevar) in the pen last year, that changed our bullpen from a darn good one to a phenomenal one. And when we put Wade Davis in toward the end of the year, it was a lights-out bullpen.
“It’s going to be all about what puts us in a position to win more ball games.”