James Shields may very well be making his last starts in a Royals uniform the next week or so as he is an impending free agent. Previously, it was thought Big Game James would easily price himself out of the Royals budget, and the Royals would be left with a draft pick as compensation for the premiere free agent. Jon Heyman writes today, that may not be the case, and the Royals may make a run at James Shields this winter due to their post-season run.
The Royals were originally believed only to have a shot to keep Shields if they went far in the playoffs, but sources say the team informed Shields' agent Page Odle way back around the trade deadline -- well before their amazing postseason run, which will bolster their revenues big-time -- that they would indeed make an effort to keep him with a multiyear deal. The playoff success only enhances their chances -- though obviously it may still be hard for the Royals to compete with the Red Sox, Dodgers and other possible big-market suitors for the star pitcher's services.
Heyman writes that Shields will be seen as a more affordable alternative to Max Scherzer and Jon Lester, both of whom will also hit the free agent market this winter.
Kansas City is expected to at least attempt to retain him, even after Shields rejects a one-year, $15 million qualifying offer, but the competition in the market should be fierce. Boston has emerged as the early favorite for his services, but plenty of other clubs should be in the mix.
Rival executives expect him to fetch a five-year deal worth somewhere between $80 million and $110 million. The largest contract in Royals franchise history was their $55 million pact with Gil Meche. The team did not attempt to engage in contract negotiations with Shields before this season began, and have made contingency plans for his potential departure.
My first cynical thought is that this is just public relations and the team covering their butt now that they've made a nice run and revenues and ticket sales will certainly increase next year. The club will be under a much greater scrutiny to invest in the club and succeed, and retain the talent they have. The Royals will make a token competitive offer that comes in well below what other suitors offer, say they tried, but they can't compete with big-market clubs for free agents, and sign some one like Kevin Slowey or Aaron Harang to keep a rotation slot warm until Brandon Finnegan is ready.
But all this winning has gotten me to BELIEVE. What if they really did re-sign James Shields? Would that even be wise? James Shields is 32 years old with a lot of mileage on his arm. He would require at least a four-year deal, probably a five-year deal, taking him through his age 38 season. Would the Royals be comfortable paying $15-22 million to a 38 year old pitcher?
The emergence of Brandon Finnegan should make the loss of James Shields more palatable than ever. Say what you will about Dayton Moore, but he has done a pretty good job assembling a pitching staff, even if he has overpaid for some guys. Perhaps the best course of action is to let James walk anyways, and find his replacement at a fraction of the cost, and save the money to invest in the offense.
But it sure would be fun to have James Shields for one more year.