When James Shields started Thursday night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, the start may have been more than an attempt to get the Royals back on the winning side of the ledger. For the Blue Jays, it may have been a prime opportunity to scout a potential trade target before the trading deadline.
According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the Blue Jays are expected to look to make a move for the Royals ace this summer, instead of focusing on players under contract, such as a Jeff Samardzija. The reason being is that the Blue Jays feel that trading for a pitcher like Shields, who is set to become a free agent after the season, would carry less of a price tag than acquiring someone like Samardzija.
With the Royals only being consistent in their inconsistency this season, it would make sense for national pundits to regard the Royals as a possible seller at the deadline. Yet, trading James Shields would be the ultimate sign of failure for the Royals this season, the concession that the Royals were not nearly as good as Dayton Moore believed they would be.
Shields was brought in from the Tampa Bay Rays for one purpose – to be the ace that the Royals needed to get back to the playoffs. He has certainly fulfilled his end of the bargain, posting a 19-12 record with a 3.20 ERA in his time with the Royals. His presence helped guide the Royals to their best season since 1989 last year, when they won 86 games and fought their way into the playoff picture. Yet, the point of bringing Shields in was not to come close to the playoffs, but to actually END that postseason drought.
Right now, even with the Royals struggles this season, they find themselves only 2.5 games behind in the hunt for the Wild Card. Yes, it is still early, yet for all of the Royals foibles thus far, another run like they had in 2013 would put them right back into the hunt. To have that type of performance, the Royals would need James Shields fronting the rotation.
A true ace with a proven track record in the postseason is a valuable commodity. Should Shields come available, the Blue Jays would likely have stiff competition to acquire his services. However, regardless of the return that the Royals would receive, trading Shields would prove to be an undeniable white flag on the 2014 season. A season that appeared to have a lot of promise would have turned into just another disappointing year for the Royals.
As June approaches, trade speculation is about to heat up. A strong month will likely end talk of James Shields being sent packing. Hopefully, the Royals can do just that, and we can get to see Shields standing on the mound in a Royals uniform, throwing pitches in October.