Opinion Corner: Royals going all in

The following Opinion Corner ran in Tuesday’s issue of The Jamestown Sun. It was written in an explosion of sports writing that lasted about 25 minutes.

If you’ve been paying any attention to offseason baseball in the AL Central, you’ve probably noticed one team going all in on a gamble that hopefully ends with the trip to the postseason.

Earlier this week the Kansas City Royals shipped Wil Myers, the top hitting prospect in all of baseball, along with three other solid pieces to Tampa Bay for two years of No. 1 pitcher James Shields and Wade Davis, who is coming off a solid season as a reliever for the Rays, but is likely to start for the Royals.

Similarly, I’ve seen this play out over in the NL Central when the Milwaukee Brewers dumped farm system studs for a shot at the playoffs — first acquiring CC Sabathia and making a playoff run in 2008, and then Zack Greinke and making the NLCS in 2011.

Kanas City hasn’t made the postseason since 1985 — the longest such draught in professional sports — so a shakeup move like this certainly seems justified.

The scouts are split on Myers and he has the potential to be great. In exchange they receive Shields who is as close to a dominant pitcher as can be without getting the ace moniker.

Shields posted a 3.52 ERA pitching in the AL East against the Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays.

If Shields, who has two years left on his contract, hit the open market this offseason, he would undoubtedly command upwards of $20 million a season. KC will pay him $10.5 million next season with another team-friendly option for $12.5 million in 2014.

It’s a small market strategy that has played out for other teams in the past and could spell big things for the Royals.

Big pitching names don’t come cheap, and the best way to land those names are from weak teams looking for prospects to build back up.

Greinke, who won the Cy Young in Kansas City in 2009, will be earning close to $25 million a year as a Los Angeles Dodger, and he was just the best on the market.

Hurlers like Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw would probably have a market value right now closer to $30 million a season, or roughly $1 million per start.

It’s insane to fathom, but it’s the evolving reality in a sport that isn’t hampered by a salary cap.

So raiding the farm system here was a good calculated risk for Kanas City. Shields, or a pitcher of his caliber, really couldn’t have been reeled in any other way.

Still, lots of things have to happen right for Kansas City. First baseman Eric Hosmer needs to develop that power scouts saw not too long ago. Catcher Salvador Perez will need to stay healthy, and Mike Moustakas, the team’s third baseman, will have to take another step in the right direction. A miracle out of right field couldn’t hurt either.

But don’t forget this is Major League Baseball and there will be 162 games played this season. Myriad things, amazing or horrific, can happen in that time span.

But for the first time in a long time, fans of the Kansas City Royals can go into a season with something they have not felt in a very long time — hope.

Ben Rodgers is a frequent contributor to the Opinion Corner