We all knew that it was going to happen, that James Shields would leave the Kansas City Royals. Despite the memories of the Royals postseason run, and the possible lure of coming back to take care of unfinished business in the playoffs, Shields simply wanted far more money than the Royals would spend.
So now, the Royals will be receiving a compensatory pick for Shields, as he had declined their qualifying offer. This echoes the return from Ervin Santana last offseason, as he had likewise spurned the Royals qualifying offer, and Dayton Moore received a compensatory pick.
For years, when a player was on the last year or two of a contract and was about to get expensive, they would be traded for prospects. In fact, that strategy was part of how the Kansas City Royals received both James Shields and Wade Davis. Both pitchers were going to be getting expensive and would possibly depart in free agency. Looking for the guaranteed return, the Rays moved them for a package headlined by Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi.
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That strategy used to be the modus operandi of the Royals as well. This was partially because the Royals were not even close to being a contending ballclub, but also to attempt to gain as many prospects as possible, much like the Rays. The difference was, the Rays would compete while the Royals were relegated to the status of ‘also-rans’ on a continual basis.
Now that the Kansas City Royals have become contenders, perhaps this strategy is the best way that they can replenish their farm system. The Royals are keeping, and even trading for, these players to help a playoff push. Once their contract is over and their time in Kansas City appears to be drawing to a close, the qualifying offer insures that the Royals will get a draft pick, perhaps even in the first round.
The Royals may have found a new way to compete and continually restock their system. Players in that last year generally come cheaper in trades, and with the qualifying offer, the Royals can hypothetically get back another top prospect. In fact, they may be able to get back a better prospect than what they gave up. It may take a couple more years for that player to make an impact, but that prospect pipeline will remain primed.
Dayton Moore and the Kansas City Royals may have figured out a new way to compete and remain competitive. Perhaps trading away those assets is no longer the answer.