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.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.