James Shields: Will the Kansas City Royals Contend in 2013 with New Ace?

Christopher BenvieCorrespondent IIDecember 10, 2012

Most of America will be waking up this morning to read about the blockbuster deal that took place in Major League Baseball last night.

For once, it won't be a team from the Northeast involved, nor will it be the money pit that has developed in Los Angeles.

It was the Kansas City Royals making waves with the Tampa Bay Rays.

According to Scott Miller of CBS Sports, the Rays sent starting pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Rays in exchange for prospects Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard.

Truly, this move shouldn't  come as a complete surprise. Just a few short days ago it was rumored that the Rays and Royals were in talks for a Myers-for-Shields trade, as reported by Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star.

The Royals should be applauded for their efforts in fielding a contending team, sacrificing a portion of their otherwise deep farm system.

As of yesterday at this time, it appeared that the team would start the season with Ervin Santana as its ace, with Bruce Chen, Jeremy Gutherie and Luke Hochevar in the mix. 

At first glance that rotation would have looked pretty decent. However, it would be difficult to compete with the likes of the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox staffs.

By adding Shields and Davis, the Royals managed to procure two fifths of their starting five rotation without giving up a single Major League talent.

Sure, you can make the argument that Myers may be ready, but he is not an everyday player yet. As Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports points out, you can't call him Wil(lie) Mays just yet.

The 2012 incarnation of the Royals posted a record of 72-90—their ninth straight sub .500 season.

Their pitching staff was led by Chen, who posted a record of 11-14 with a 5.07 ERA. While Gutherie came on strong during his time in Kansas City, he hadn't established himself as the ace the team needed per se.

The Rays, who finished 90-72 last season, ship over Shields, who owned a 15-10 record; and Davis, who owned a 3-0 record and a low 2.43 ERA in 54 games.

Additionally, the Royals have been watching some of its homegrown talent flourish (albeit at differing paces) in the form of first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, DH Billy Butler and left fielder Alex Gordon.

The Royals finished seventh overall in 2012 in team batting average but 20th in runs scored offensively.

The Rays had the best team ERA in baseball with a 3.19. The Royals were 23rd with their 4.30.

Without stretching their budget too thin, the Royals have managed to put together a solid, seemingly balanced team.

With the addition of such quality starting pitching and anticipated development of Hosmer and Moustakas specifically, the Royals may have positioned themselves to be the 2013 version of the Baltimore Orioles or Oakland Athletics.

While it is hard to immediately label them contenders, I don't quite view them as pretenders. Purely on paper, it is fair enough to assume that they'll be significantly better than last season.

Likely, they'll end their consecutive losing season streak at nine and finish .500 or better this year. That being said, if they aren't truly contenders down the stretch, the Kansas City Royals will be a team you won't want to play while vying for a playoff spot.