Kansas City, Mo. — Royals ace James Shields is open to staying in Kansas City beyond this season.
That news should make the thousands of fans, already flying high over the team’s strong finish a year ago, feel even better as they turned out for their annual FanFest on Friday.
The Royals exercised their $13.5 million option on Shields’s contract shortly after going 86-76 last season, their best finish since 1989. The durable right-hander was a big reason behind the success, going 13-9 with a 3.15 earned-run average in a league-leading 2282⁄3 innings.
Shields told a small group of reporters at Bartle Hall that he was willing to discuss an extension, but he said those talks with general manager Dayton Moore have not taken place.
“I’d definitely be open-minded to it,” Shields said. “A player in my position, where I have one more year left before free agency, I mean, I’m definitely open to it. I like Kansas City. I like the organization and I like the direction we’re going.”
Pitchers and catchers are due to report to Surprise, Ariz., for the start of spring training on Feb. 14. The first full-squad workout is Feb. 20.
Most of the Royals’ key pieces return from last season, when they contended into September for the first time in a decade. Their two biggest holes were filled by trading reliever Will Smith to Milwaukee for right field Norichika Aoki and signing Omar Infante to solidify second base.
“I didn’t think our defense could get any better,” Shields said, “but they’re definitely filling some holes that we had. And they’re great additions to our lineup.”
Then there’s the starting rotation, where Ervin Santana has become a free agent. While the right-hander has yet to sign elsewhere, the Royals appeared to move on when they signed left-hander Jason Vargas to a contract early in the offseason.
Along with Jeremy Guthrie, the first three spots in the rotation are set. That leaves two up for grabs among a handful of candidates, including starters-turned-relievers Wade Davis and Luke Hochevar, veteran Bruce Chen, left-hander Danny Duffy and flame-thrower Yordano Ventura.
The Royals agreed to terms Friday with reliever Aaron Crow on a $1.475 million, one-year deal that leaves Greg Holland as their only unsigned arbitration-eligible player. Crow went 7-5 with a 3.38 ERA in 57 games last season.