When James Shields broke into the big leagues with Tampa Bay, the Rays were no better than the Kansas City Royals. In his third season as a starter, the Rays reached the World Series.
After a blockbuster deal sent Shields and fellow right-hander Wade Davis to the Royals late Sunday, the former All-Star pitcher believes Kansas City can replicate the Rays’ success.
“The Royals are definitely on the right track,” Shields said Monday.
Despite the matriculation of their best prospects to the big league club, the Royals still struggled to a 72-90 record and a third-place finish in the weak AL Central last season. It was their ninth consecutive losing season, and extended to 27 the number of years it’s 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 general manager Dayton Moore has been trying to resolve this offseason.
Moore also re-signed Jeremy Guthrie to a $25 million, three-year 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.
“It looks like a good mix of people, I think, with Shield and Santana – I’ve seen Guthrie pitch for a couple years with the Orioles,” Davis said. “I’m not a 10-year veteran or a coach, but I think it’s a good mix of people.”
WHITE SOX: Jeff Keppinger agreed to a three-year, $12 million contract, giving the White Sox a versatile infielder who could fill a hole at third base.
Keppinger hit a career-high .325 in 115 games with Tampa Bay last season. He made 41 starts at third base, 23 at second, 21 at first and 19 as the designated hitter.
“I haven’t talked to anybody about where I’m going to play,” Keppinger said. “To me, it really doesn’t matter.”
REDS: Left fielder Ryan Ludwick signed a two-year, $15 million deal to stay with Cincinnati. The deal, which he agreed to over the weekend, includes a mutual option for the 2015 season.
The 34-year-old outfielder batted .275 with 26 homers and 80 RBI in 125 games last season and 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, helping the Reds win the NL Central for the second time in three years.
TIGERS: Detroit agreed to a one-year contract with catcher Brayan Pena, who had a .236 batting average with two homers and 25 RBI in 68 games last season for the Kansas City Royals.
He hit .320 in 50 at-bats with runners in scoring position last season. He has hit .248 with 14 homers and 98 RBI over eight seasons with the Royals and Atlanta Braves. The 30-year-old will back up Alex Avila behind the plate.
PIRATES: Pittsburgh re-signed free agent reliever Jason Grilli to a two-year contract worth $6.75 million.
The 36-year-old has enjoyed a career renaissance in Pittsburgh since originally signing with the Pirates in July 2011.
He went 1-6 with a 2.91 ERA in 64 games in 2012 and struck out 13.8 batters per nine innings, fourth-best in the National League.
BLUE JAYS: Toronto hired Pat Hentgen as its bullpen coach, bringing the Cy Young winner back into the team’s coaching ranks.
Hentgen previously served as Toronto’s bullpen coach in 2011. He spent eight of the past nine seasons as a team ambassador and special assistant to the organization.