The Royals have exercised their $13.5MM club option on ace James Shields, the team announced on Twitter. Shields' option was one of the easiest calls among the many contract options that are facing Major League teams.
Shields, 32 in December, was acquired along with Wade Davis last offseason in a blockbuster trade that sent top prospect (and 2013 AL Rookie of the Year front-runner) Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard to the Rays.
In his first season in Kansas City, Shields racked up a league-leading 228 2/3 innings, posting a 3.15 ERA with 7.7 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 41.6 percent ground-ball rate. Baseball-Reference pegged his value at 4.1 wins above replacement, while Fangraphs was even more of a fan at 4.5 WAR.
Shields will return to the rotation alongside Jeremy Guthrie, but the Royals will need to offer up some serious coin to keep fellow front-line starter Ervin Santana in the fold. Other internal candidates for their rotation include Davis and top prospects Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura. Barring an extension, Shields will be eligible for free agency following the 2014 campaign.