KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The Kansas City Royals have slowly and methodically allowed their top prospects to climb through their farm system in recent years, piecing together a team they believe can compete in the wide-open American League Central.
All that's been missing has been the pitching.
They dipped into the farm system to solve that problem, too.
The Royals sent top prospects Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi along with two other minor leaguers to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday night for former All-Star James Shields and fellow right-hander Wade Davis, making an aggressive move to bolster a rotation that was one of the worst in the major leagues last season.
''We have to start winning games at the major league level, and the way you develop a winning culture is by winning major league games,'' Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. ''It's time for us to start winning at the major league level.''
Kansas City, which hasn't had a winning season since 2003, has long had one of the best farm systems in baseball, and slowly the cream has risen to the big league level - first baseman Eric Hosmer, shortstop Alcides Escobar, third baseman Mike Moustakas and catcher Salvador Perez form a fine nucleus. But there's been a dearth of starting pitching for years, and that's what Moore and the rest of the front office have been trying to fix this offseason.
He's already re-signed Jeremy Guthrie to a $25 million, three-year deal, and took on former All-Star Ervin Santana and $12 million of his contract from the Angels. But the trade for Shields and Davis is Moore's most aggressive move yet, giving Kansas City the ace it has been lacking since trading away Zack Greinke, along with another piece that could fit in the rotation or the bullpen.
''When you can acquire a pitcher like James Shields and Wade Davis, we have to do it, because that's what we've committed to our team - we've committed to our organization,'' Moore said. ''It's important that we start winning games.''
Along with giving up Myers, an outfielder widely voted the minor leagues' top player last season, the Royals also traded away Odorizzi, a talented right-hander who should soon compete for a spot in the Rays' rotation. Left-hander Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard also are headed to the Rays, while the Royals will receive a player to be named or cash.
''We're constantly working to balance the present and the future, and always trying to thread the needle,'' Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. ''As an organization we rely more on the contributions of our young players basically than anyone else in baseball, and with this trade we're hoping to replenish our system and add a lot of players we feel can help us sustain this run of success that we've had for the last five years.''
Shields, who turns 31 this month, has been a stalwart in the Tampa Bay rotation the past seven seasons. He was an All-Star two years ago, when he went 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA and finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting, and was 15-10 with a 3.52 ERA in 33 starts last season, when he pitched 227 2-3 innings - his sixth consecutive year of at least 200 innings pitched.
The only other pitchers to log at least 200 innings in six straight seasons are the Jays' Mark Buehrle, San Francisco's Matt Cain, Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia and the Tigers ace Justin Verlander.
''If you're going to win consistently in the major leagues, you're going to need a rotation that gives you innings, competes, helps you win,'' Moore said. ''That's what our goal is, to put together a very good rotation. We feel we've done that.''
Shields is due to receive $10.5 million this season. He has a club option for $12 million in 2014 with a $1 million buyout.
The Royals suddenly have a glut of starting pitchers with Shields, Santana and Guthrie joined by Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza, who are expected back from last year. Luke Hochevar is eligible for arbitration, while Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino will return at some point during the middle of the season after having Tommy John surgery.
Davis also could be thrown into the mix.
The right-hander started 64 games for Tampa Bay from 2009-11, but he was shuttled to the bullpen last season when the Rays had an abundance of starters. He flourished as a reliever, going 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA, creating some flexibility for him in Kansas City.
Davis is due to make $2.8 million this season and $4.8 million in 2014, with the Royals holding options on the next three years.
The jewel of the deal for Tampa Bay is undoubtedly Myers, who turns 22 on Monday.
The power-hitting outfielder batted .314 with 37 homers and 109 RBIs in 134 games at Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, and eventually could help provide some protection in the batting order for Rays star Evan Longoria. Myers showed what he could do during the All-Star Futures Game hosted by Kansas City, when he had a pair of hits and drove in three runs at Kauffman Stadium.
He'll finally get a chance to prove it at the major league level at Tropicana Field.
Odorizzi was 15-5 with a 3.03 ERA for Northwest Arkansas and Omaha, and made two late-season starts for Kansas City, going 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA in 7 1-3 innings. Montgomery was once considered one of the Royals' top prospects, but his stock slid last season, when he went 5-13 with a 6.07 ERA last season while getting demoted from Omaha to Northwest Arkansas.
Leonard hit .251 with 14 homers and 46 RBIs in 62 games for short-season Burlington.
''We're excited to add these guys, anxious to get to know them beyond the information we have on them,'' Friedman said. ''I think it's very possible that Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi will help us win games in 2013, and Mike Montgomery as well.''
KANSAS CITY, MO (December 9, 2012) – The Kansas City Royals Sunday acquired right-handed starting pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis and a player to be named or cash considerations from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for minor league outfielder Wil Myers, right-handed pitcher Jake Odorizzi, left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard.
Shields, who will turn 31 on December 20, has established himself as one of the premier pitchers in the American League. He followed up an All-Star campaign in 2011, in which posted a 16-12 record with a 2.82 ERA and finished third in the A.L. Cy Young voting, by posting a 15-10 record with a 3.52 ERA in 33 starts with Tampa Bay last season. In 227.2 innings, Shields allowed 208 hits, walked 58 and struck out 223, just two shy of his career best set in 2011 and the third-most in the league. Shields is joined by the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and the Tigers’ Justin Verlander as the only four pitchers in baseball to record at least 220 strikeouts in the last two seasons.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander has compiled an 87-73 career record with a 3.89 ERA in 218 games (217 starts) all for the Rays since making his debut in 2006. Since tossing 124.2 innings in 21 starts during his rookie campaign, Shields has won at least 11 games, made at least 31 starts and topped the 200-inning mark in six straight seasons. He joins the Jays’ Mark Buehrle, the Giants’ Matt Cain, the Yankees’ CC Sabathia and Verlander as the only five pitchers in baseball to post at least 200 innings in six straight seasons. In 2011, his 11 complete games were the most by a Major League pitcher since Arizona’s Randy Johnson had 12 in 1999.
Shields and his wife, Ryane, reside in Clearwater, Fla., with their two daughters. The couple is active with a number of charities specifically geared toward foster children and James was the Rays recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
The 27-year-old Davis made a combined 64 starts for the Rays from 2009 to 2011 before pitching exclusively in the bullpen for Tampa Bay in 2012. He went 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA last season, allowing 48 hits and 29 walks with 87 strikeouts in 70.1 innings. The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder made 29 starts in both 2010 and 2011 and finished fourth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting after posting a 12-10 record with a 4.07 ERA in 2010. Davis is 28-22 with a 3.94 ERA in 118 career outings, including 64 starts. He is 25-22 in his career as a starter with a 4.22 ERA, including an 8-2 mark with a 3.38 ERA in 30 games (18 starts) against A.L. Central foes.
Davis and his wife, Katelyn, reside in Lake Wales, Fla. Davis organized the Full Count Foundation to help children who are at risk or have special needs or chronic illnesses.
Myers, who will turn 22 on December 10, was the 2012 Baseball America, USA Today and Topps Minor League Baseball Player of the Year after hitting a combined .314 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI in 134 games for Northwest Arkansas (AA) and Omaha (AAA). He was the Royals’ third round selection in the 2009 June Free Agent Draft.
The 22-year-old Odorizzi went 15-5 with a 3.03 ERA in 26 outings (25 starts) for Northwest Arkansas and Omaha in 2012 before making two starts for the Royals in September, going 0-1. He was acquired by Kansas City in a six-player trade with the Milwaukee Brewers on December 19, 2012.
Montgomery, 23, split his season between Omaha and Northwest Arkansas, posting a 5-12 record with a 6.07 ERA in 27 starts. He was the Royals’ supplemental first round selection (36th overall) in 2008.
The 20-year-old Leonard batted .251 with 14 home runs and 46 RBI in 62 games for Burlington (R) in 2012. He was the club’s fifth-round pick in the 2011 Draft.