KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ever since the Royals made the blockbuster trade to acquire James Shields from Tampa Bay last December, the assumption has been that he was simply a two-year rental.
The common acceptance has been that the Royals will exercise their club option of Shields’ contract for $12 million in 2014, and after that he will fly away to free agency.
Well, not so fast.
Shields, 31, told FOXSportsKansasCity.com that he likes the direction the Royals’ organization is headed and that he certainly could envision playing here beyond his present deal, and perhaps even finishing his career here.
“I think it’s a great city,” he said. “I’ve known a lot of players who have come to Kansas City and then wound up making Kansas City their home. And it’s a good family environment around here and they really love their baseball. It’s a good wholesome town.
“I like it here. It’s a great organization, a great town. The fans are great.
“It’s just something (Royals general manager) Dayton (Moore) and I will have to talk about in the future. I’d be more than happy to stay here and make my family home here. Sure.”
Moore said he was pleased to know that Shields feels that way.
“That’s good to hear,” Moore said. “James Shields is terrific competitor. He’s a winner. He loves being at the ballpark and he’s everything you want in a big league player.”
The question, of course, is whether the Royals will have the budget in 2015 to extend Shields’ contract.
“Like I’ve said before, it’s our goal to put together our most talented team we can and we’ll approach him like everyone else when it comes time,” Moore said. “But he’s the type of player you always want on your team and in your clubhouse. That’s why we acquired him.”
Shields, whose permanent home is in San Diego, will be 32 when his present deal expires but he said he still feels young and that he has many good years in front of him.
“I’m going to play until baseball kicks me out,” Shields said. “I still feel great. My body feels outstanding. I feel better now than maybe I ever have in my career. That’s the truth.”
Shields said playing for the Royals has been better than even he imagined.
“You know, from the front office down to the coaching staff and the training staff, top to bottom, it’s definitely a first-class organization,” he said. “I expected we would have a good team. I think Dayton did a good job of getting players in here and also developing talent within the organization.
“The future looks good here. I think that’s where it all starts, with the development of the players and the scouting department.
“I always knew it was a good organization when I played against the Royals. Now I’ve gotten to see it firsthand myself.”
The Royals may wind up falling short of the playoffs, but Shields said he is not discouraged.
“Obviously, we’ve had our ups and downs this year, but we are in it and it’s September and that really counts for something,” he said. “It has been fun. This team, we’ve been losing a lot of years and now we’re on the winning side. It feels good.”
And one of the teams Shields and the Royals have been chasing is his former team, Tampa Bay, which leads the race for the second wild card.
“Tampa Bay is always going to be a good team,” he said. “They always have pitching and they hit the ball pretty good this year. That’s a good team over there. I knew they were going to be in it regardless of whether I was on the team or not.”
As for who “won” the trade, Shields shrugs his shoulders.
“It’ll take a couple of years to determine if the trade is effective for either team,” he said. “Wil Myers is a young kid. He’s obviously a good hitter and he’s struggled a bit lately because the league adjusts quickly.
“But it’s OK if both teams come out on top.”
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.