Royals have discussed trading prospect Wil Myers for James Shields or Jon Lester

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UPDATE: Rob Bradford of WEEI.com confirms that the Red Sox and Royals have talked about a possible Lester-for-Myers swap. The two clubs have also discussed scenarios that would send outfield help to Kansas City and pitching to Boston, but nothing is considered close.

8:34 PM: We heard late last week that the Royals have dangled top prospect outfielder Wil Myers in trade talks as they try to land a top starting pitcher. Now we have some more specifics.

According to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, the Royals have discussed flipping Myers in deals involving Rays right-hander James Shields and Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester.

While the Royals are reluctant to deal him, it appears doing so could net either Shields or Lester, each of whom was an All-Star as recently as 2011. The problem: Both are expensive and on track to become free agents in two years.

Both deals have been discussed, but neither appears close at the moment. Other players could be involved, but the basic framework would be Myers for one of the two pitchers. At this point, all sides — the Royals, Rays and Red Sox — remain hesitant.

And rightfully so, especially from the Royals’ perspective. While general manager Dayton Moore appears determined to add a frontline starting pitcher to complement Jeremy Guthrie and Ervin Santana, trading one of the top position prospects in the game for two years of team control on Shields or Lester isn’t an ideal scenario. Not to mention that the Royals would likely have to find a way to move some salary off the books in order to acquire either of them.

Shields, who turns 31 next month, posted a 3.52 ERA and 223/58 K/BB ratio over 227 2/3 innings this past season. He’s set to make $9 million in 2013 while his contract includes a $12 million club option for 2014.

As for Lester, he’s coming off a down year where he posted a career-high 4.82 ERA and 166/68 K/BB ratio over 205 1/3 innings. The southpaw turns 29 in January and is set to make $11.625 million in 2013. His contract includes a $13 million club option for 2014, but he can void it if he is traded and finishes either first or second in the Cy Young balloting in 2013.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.