Royals have talked about Shields, Lester, Dickey in effort to trade for top starter

The Royals, who are searching for a top-of-the-rotation starter and have checked in on Jon Lester and James Shields, talked to the Mets about R.A. Dickey as well.

While several young Royals players would work for the Mets, Kansas City has no interest in trading young catcher Salvador Perez and isn't looking to trade top outfield prospect Wil Myers. The Royals would prefer to send the Mets a package of younger prospects in any Dickey deal.

Dickey probably isn't the perfect fit for Kansas City. He is 38 and currently under contract for only one more year. The Mets have been talking about a contract extension for Dickey for two months, but have also considered trades for Dickey in parallel talks.

The Mets' goal is to keep Dickey on a two-year extension, but if they did trade him would most prefer a catcher and outfield help. (As Mets GM Sandy Alderson said a few weeks ago regarding their roster, "What outfield?")

Lester and Shields may be better fits for Kansas City, but the Red Sox are looking to add pitching and the Rays have put a premium on Shields, who has thrown more innings than every pitcher but Justin Verlander the past couple years, as Fox's Ken Rosenthal recently pointed out. Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star first reported about the Royals' interest in Lester and Shields.

The Rays are willing to talk about just about anyone (except the recently extended Evan Longoria), but they love Shields' durability, and seem willing to live with his $10-million salary, which is high for them. Jeremy Hellickson is a pitcher who might fit for the Royals, but they are at the moment looking for an ace after already adding Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie this winter.

"Our rotation is going to better, but we're still looking for the opportunity to improve on what we've done,'' Royals GM Dayton Moore said by phone.

The Royals have a terrific stash of prospects to dangle, and apparently would consider dealing even Myers in the right deal, but aren't looking to trade from their young nucleus that includes Perez, third baseman Mike Moustakas and first baseman Eric Hosmer.

They see Alex Gordon and Billy Butler as close to untouchable as they don't want to break up a strong homegrown positional group. They've also gotten a lot of calls of inquiry about shortstop Alcides Escobar, but they aren't inclined to trade him, either.

The Royals are believed to have up to $6 million to spend so they are not in the market for a top free-agent pitcher (that includes their old fried Zack Greinke), though they could increase their spending power slightly if they could trade Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen or Jeff Francoeur.

The Royals have developed a very nice atmosphere, but Moore, a longtime Braves scout and executive who's been with the Royals six years, admitted they still need to build a "winning culture'' at the major-league level. Adding an ace pitcher would go a long way toward doing that.