MLB Team Report - Kansas City Royals - INSIDE PITCH

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After a 29-year hiatus from postseason play, the Kansas City Royals took a wild and zany playoff ride that carried them to Game 7 of the World Series before then fell 3-2 to the San Francisco Giants with the tying run on third base when the final out was recorded.

The Royals won eight straight over the Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels and Baltimore Orioles to capture the American League championship. It was not so much the Giants beating the Royals as it was San Francisco left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who finished 2-0 with a save and a 0.43 ERA in the World Series.

"The word wasn't improbable for me, it was more like magical," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said of the year.

The curtain on the Royals' magical season has dropped, so the focus is getting back to the postseason and winning the World Series in 2015.

"We've got a really good young core of players, and I think we're going to be good for years to come," Yost said.

However, three core players -- right-hander James Shields, designated hitter Billy Butler and right fielder Nori Aoki -- may not be back next year.

Shields, acquired in a trade with the Rays after the 2012 season, brings more to the table than the 27 wins he recorded in two seasons with the Royals. He is the alpha dog in the clubhouse, unequivocally the team leader who taught the Royals how to win after more than a decade of misery and losing.

Shields is a free agent, and although the Royals would love to keep him, their small-market budget likely will prevent that. The Royals probably will be able to match offers Shields, who turns 33 in December, will receive on the open market.

If Shields' bolts, the Royals will have a big hole in their rotation. He pitched more than 200 innings each of the past eight seasons.

The Royals hold a $12.5 million option for Butler in 2015, one they will likely decline. They probably will offer a lesser figure in an attempt to re-sign Butler, who has been in the organization since the Royals drafted him as an 18-year-old in the first round in 2004. Butler, who posted career bests with a .313 average, 29 home runs and 107 RBIs in 2012, hit just .271 with nine homers and 66 RBIs this season.

Aoki batted .285, and while his .349 on-base percentage ranked second on the team, he stroked just 29 extra-base hits, including one home run. The Royals appreciated the pesky Aoki's ability to bunt and beat out infield hits, but they will be seeking more punch from a corner outfielder.

The back end of the bullpen was a strength with closer Greg Holland and setups Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera. Yost often joked he did not have to think if he had a lead after six innings since he could bring those three shutdown relievers in close out a win.

The final six outs could cost the Royals a bundle next year. Davis had a $7 million option for 2015. Holland, who logged 93 saves the past two years, is again arbitration-eligible and should get a hefty raise after earning $4,675,000 this year. Can the Royals afford approximately $15 million for those two next year?

The Royals ranked last in the majors with 95 home runs and with 380 walks this year. They need to be more selective at the plate and drive the ball out of the park with more consistency. Left fielder Alex Gordon's 19 home runs and 74 RBIs led the club.


MLB Team Report - Kansas City Royals - NOTES, QUOTES

RECORD: 89-73, second place in American League Central; won AL wild-card game over Oakland A's; won AL Division Series 3-0 over Los Angeles Angels; won AL Championship Series 4-0 over Baltimore Orioles; lost World Series 4-3 to San Francisco Giants

TEAM MVP: C Salvador Perez's .270 batting average, 17 home runs and 70 RBIs do not stand out. However, he set a major league record by starting 158 games, including the playoffs, is a two-time All-Star and is excellent at calling games and controlling the pitching staff.