KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The last couple years, every time that Royals manager Ned Yost would stop to buy a cup of coffee, he would tell the barista his name was Frank.
The reason was simple: “I didn’t want them staring at me — ‘Drink for Ned!’ — after losing 90 games a year,” Yost said.
That all changed when he stopped by a Starbucks on Wednesday. Yost was accompanied by former All-Star James Shields, who along with Wade Davis arrived in Kansas City as part of a blockbuster trade with Tampa Bay over the weekend that should instantly upgrade the Royals’ rotation.
“So now,” Yost said, finishing his story, “I’m sitting there thinking, ‘I’m not going to have to use Frank much longer.’ I’m excited about that.”
The excitement extends beyond the manager, too. With the Chiefs struggling toward another losing finish, attention is already starting to shift ever so slowly to a baseball team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2003 and hasn’t made the postseason since 1985.
Shields and Davis, who were in Kansas City to undergo physicals, will be joined in a new-look rotation by Ervin Santana, who arrived in a trade with the Angels, and Jeremy Guthrie, who was a late-season revelation for the Royals and signed a three-year deal to stay with the team.
They’ll stand on the mound surrounded by one of the best defenses in the American League, and a collection of young position players who are the envy of many other franchises.
“These two guys have winning flowing in their veins,” Yost said. “They’re going to be a huge addition not only to our pitching staff, but our whole team.”
Shields immediately moves to the head of the rotation as the Royals’ opening day starter.
The 30-year-old right-hander has been a stalwart in the Tampa Bay rotation for the past seven seasons, making the All-Star game two years ago, when he went 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA and was third in the AL Cy Young voting. He was 15-10 with a 3.51 ERA in 33 starts last season.
Perhaps most important, Shields has gone over the 200-inning mark each of the last six seasons, providing the kind of durable ace that Royals haven’t had since Zack Greinke.
“I’m up for any challenge, there’s no doubt,” Shields said. “But my goal here, as well as Wade’s, is we’re going to try to feed off each other.”
Shields will make $10.5 million this season and remains under club control next season, and will get an extra $750,000 as an assignment bonus because he was traded after the 2012 season.
Perhaps some of that money he’ll ship to Guthrie.
He was introduced on Wednesday to reporters with the No. 24 jersey because Guthrie already wears his usual No. 33. Shields said he’s “in negotiations” to claim his jersey, and the texts have been flowing back and forth already, but he wouldn’t say what he’s willing to give up.
“He’s pretty stubborn, man, which I like,” Shields said. “It’s a good trait in a pitcher.”
So is an overpowering fastball, which is something that Davis brings to the table.
The right-hander started 64 games for Tampa Bay from 2009-11, but he was sent to the bullpen last season when the Rays had an abundance of starters. Davis flourished as a reliever, going 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA, in part because he said he rediscovered his fastball.
“It’s awesome to get the opportunity. Last year was a good learning experience for me,” Davis said. “It’s just a little overwhelming the past couple days, but sitting back and thinking about it, it’s a really exciting thing for me to be part of.”
Davis will make $2.8 million this season and $4.8 million in 2014, with the Royals holding three options, which means he could be in their rotation for the foreseeable future.
“It’s important that we begin trying to win every single year, so all our places feed off one another’s successes,” Moore said. “Everybody’s success is tied together, and now we believe — and I made the decision — it’s time to move forward with this group.”
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