Flanagan: What if Royals hadn’t made Shields-Myers trade?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. –- The debate over the Royals’ blockbuster trade last December that brought James Shields to the Royals and shipped super prospect Wil Myers to Tampa Bay likely will rage on for years.

But Royals general manager Dayton Moore has no doubt where the Royals would be right now if he hadn’t pulled the trigger on the deal that also brought right-hander Wade Davis and infielder Elliot Johnson to Kansas City.

“We wouldn’t be close,” Moore said.

The Royals, entering Tuesday’s game against Cleveland, stood just 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Tribe in the American League Central.

Of course, arguments against the trade will cite that for the trade to be viewed as a success, the Royals need to do more than just contend for the playoffs – the all-in philosophy behind the trade mandates the Royals need to make the playoffs this year or next.

Moore said he understands that, but that the goal from now on is to continue building a contender anyway.

“We’re not done reshaping our roster by any means,” Moore said. “That was one deal. We will continue to make deals.”

Acquiring Shields has been a major reason why the Royals are at least still in the conversation in the Central.

While Shields is just 3-6, he has done a phenomenal job of keeping his team in games with his 2.99 ERA. In all, the Royals have won nine of his starts, including the last six in a row.

Davis, viewed as the wild card in the deal, has been just that – at times good, at other times serviceable, and at other times horrible. He is 4-6 with a close-your-eyes 5.55 ERA. But the Royals have won seven times during his good or serviceable starts.

It’s unlikely the Royals would have gotten those 16 wins in Shields-Davis starts out of Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen or Will Smith, who would have been the top in-house candidates to replace them.

“Not a chance,” one Royals official said. “Not even half.”

Yet there’s also little doubt the Royals already would be benefiting from the presence of Myers in their painfully anemic offensive attack. Myers is hitting .293 with three homers, including a grand slam, after his recent call-up by the Rays.

But how much one hitter can improve an offense is at the very least debatable.

“I don’t think one (hitter) can change a whole team,” Shields said. “It’s a collective thing.”

Still, another very logical argument against the trade has been that Moore and the Royals could have kept Myers, thus filling their gaping hole in right field, and then used that $13.5 million spent on Shields, Davis and Johnson to fill at least one gaping hole in the rotation with a comparable free-agent pitcher.

Here’s a look at some of the popular choices among fans in free-agency back then that were at least somewhat within the Royals’ financial means:

Shaun Marcum: Signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the Mets. He is 1-9 with a 5.08 ERA.

Joe Blanton: Signed a two-year, $15 million deal with the Angels. He is 2-10 with a 5.07 ERA.

Edwin Jackson: Signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the Cubs. He is 4-10 with a 5.75 ERA.

Dan Haren: Signed a one-year, $13 million deal with the Nationals. He is 4-9 with a 6.15 ERA.

Kyle Lohse: Signed a three-year, $33 million deal with the Brewers. He is 3-6 with a 3.63 ERA.

Ryan Dempster:
Signed a two-year, $26.5 million deal with the Red Sox. He is 5-8 with a 4.11 ERA.

Hiroki Kuroda: Signed a one-year, $15 million deal with the Yankees. He is 7-6 with a 2.95 ERA.

And here were the financial bargains in free-agency.

Francisco Liriano: Signed a two-year, $14 million deal with the Pirates. He is 7-3 with a 2.23 ERA.

Bartolo Colon: The 40-year-old signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the A’s. He is 11-2 with a 2.79 ERA.

Scott Feldman: Signed a one-year, $7 million deal with the Cubs. He is 7-6 with a 3.46 ERA.

And it should be noted that the Royals were never in the market for Anibal Sanchez, who signed a five-year $80 million deal with the Tigers, or Zack Greinke, who signed a six-year, $147 million deal with the Dodgers.

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com