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Royals unlikely to retain James Shields, will turn attention to Ervin Santana and outfield help

The Kansas City Royals have interest in bringing back James Shields and Norichika Aoki, but they could turn their attention to Ervin Santana and Torii Hunter as possible replacements.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

While the Kansas City Royals would love to bring back right-hander James Shields in 2015, they understand he is likely out of their price range, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman mentions that Ervin Santana, who played for the Royals in 2013, could return as a cheaper option for Kansas City.

Shields, who joins a free agent market headlined by Max Scherzer and Jon Lester, is expected to command a multi-year deal that will be worth much more than the $22 million he made in Kansas City for the last two years. Since 2011, Shields has produced a 16.9 WAR, 10th best in the majors according to FanGraphs, along with a 3.17 ERA during that same span. He has also made at least 30 starts every year since 2007.

Santana hits the free agent market after a one-year stint with the Braves last season, during which he posted a 3.39 FIP, which showed he was actually a little better than what his 3.95 ERA suggests. He also recorded his best strikeout rate (8.22 K/9) since 2008. Heyman says that both sides are interested in a reunion, as Santana enjoyed his time in Kansas City.

Another priority for the Royals this offseason will be finding a right fielder to replace Nori Aoki, who hits the free agent market this offseason. The Royals have not ruled out a return, but Aoki is reportedly seeking a three-year deal, which will have the Royals considering some other options as well. Among those options are free agents Torii Hunter and Melky Cabrera.

Hunter just wrapped up a two-year, $26 million contract with the Tigers, posting a .286/.319/.446 slash line in 2014. However, his -13.3 UZR/150 over the last two years shows that the 38-year-old's defense is on the decline.

Like Hunter, Cabrera enters the free agent market following a two-year deal of his own, during which he made $8 million annually with the Blue Jays. In his final season in Toronto, Cabrera posted a .301/.351/.458 slash line, and he will likely seek a multi-year deal this offseason, though the attachment of a qualifying offer could detract some of his value.