Aug 1, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher James Shields (33) walks off the field after completing the fourth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Zack Greinke Money = James Shields Value?

Hunter talked a bit about James Shields and his desire for a Zack Greinke sized deal come next off-season.  Let’s put pen to paper (meaning play around in Excel) to see what the Royals should offer for Shields with reference to our former Cy Young pitcher.

There is one gigantic difference between Greinke last year and Shields a year from now.  When Zack signed his deal he had just turned 29, and Shields will be 33.  Greinke got 6 years and $147 million, but at the end of the deal he will be finishing up his age 34 season rather than Shields who on a similar deal would be 38.  See the pitcher aging curve:

So Our expectation for Shields should be diminished velocity and K rates over the life of any contract.  His strike outs have already come down some as Hunter pointed out, though so far the velocity has been fine.  Not that the expectation for Greinke was to improve, 28 and on is also generally a downward trend, but Greinke’s peak was a lot higher than Shields and he had a couple of years before the sharper drop-off was to be expected.

Shields has one advantage over Greinke, durability.  He has thrown 7 consecutive 200+ inning seasons.  Not that Zack should be considered a low durability guy hitting the 200 inning mark 4 out of 5 seasons prior to his contract and 171 2/3 in the one year he missed the mark due to a basketball injury during spring training.

For the coming season Hunter, projections (Oliver and Steamer), and myself all put Shields somewhere near a 4 WAR pitcher.  Greinke has hung around that except for

Sep 27, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher James Shields (33) reacts to a play made by left fielder Alex Gordon (not pictured) on Chicago White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez (not pictured) during the sixth inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

his other worldly 2009 Cy Young year.  Shields has never approached that type of year and had a really rough year in 2010 that is much worse than anything Greinke has done since his mental break from baseball/bullpen comeback.  Let’s start at 4 WAR and see what sort of value that brings.

If we steal Dave Cameron’s methodology here, That would put a 6 year contract for Shields in the realm of $110 million (109.35 to be exact).  I want to use his $6M/WAR beginning point, though that might be a little light and I tend to agree that each additional WAR from a singular player is worth more than the last, just to establish another estimate in present value terms.  Then I will go on to a less number driven approach.

Discounting WAR by various rates (production this year worth more and more certain than future production)as well as adjusting for different rates of performance decline leads to range of present values as follows:





So the min/max present value of Shields’ contract should be between 50.3 and 95.5 million dollars.  The Greinke contract if started in 2015 at a discount rate of 10% would have a present value of $116 million (19M the first year, 26, 25, 26, 25, 26).  That means Sheilds needs something less by quite a bit, and I feel like the 10% discount is probably generous given his age and the idea or risk/return where his ceiling is not much above the 4 WAR being assumed as his next year performance and as a starting point for the contract.

Using the $110 million from a couple paragraphs ago we get a little closer.  Evenly spread ($18.3M/year) has a PV of 87.8 million.  If you back load a contract like that some it starts to get a little better.  If the Royals could talk him into 15, 15, 17, 17, 23, 23 the PV drops to $85.4 million.  Still a little higher than I would like, but pitching seems to be pretty expensive though Clayton Kershaw is not a good comp for Shields, Jason Vargas getting 4 years and $32 million seems expensive to me.  Talking about the Dodgers attempting to break baseball will have to wait for another time.

A lot of things here qualitatively should be figured in as well.  Who else will be available as a free agent, the ones that matter are Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, Justin Masterson, and Homer Bailey.  Some subset of those will be extended by their teams and it is hard to guess who, but that is quite a good mix off names that might help the Royals out with Shields.

Another part is how Big Game James is viewed.  I view him as a tier below ace, but others might think more highly of him.

The last thing that could change things most drastically are the performances of Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, and Kyle Zimmer.  If they struggle/succeed then the need for James Shields in KC increases/decreases and so does his value.

Overall I would hope the Royals could get a 5 year deal somewhere south of $90 million, but the Greinke comp is not outlandish on the part of Shields’ agent.  If it takes 6 years $110 million looks like about the ceiling and if you have to go that high it would hopefully be back-loaded a bit to be more team friendly.


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Tags: James Shields Kansas City Royals Zack Greinke

  • jimfetterolf

    KC’s TV contract doesn’t end ’til after 2019, so I wouldn’t expect competitive market contracts ’til 2020. Just the nature of the numbers. I could see Shields at a 3/60, maybe, even a 4/75, but would rather put the money into extensions. A contract that size makes extending Gordon and keeping Hosmer and a couple of the Young Guns nearly impossible. Take the draft pick and payroll savings and move on.

    • Brian Henry

      I would like to work up something on the TV contract issue and the new disparity, but that aside, Hosmer’s agent presents problems. Extending Gordon should be an issue for a couple years from now, but he will also be starting to be an age risk so I don’t know what sort of contract will make sense. The Young Guns have a long time before they will be a concern and should not factor into this particular contract. If Shields would take a 3 or 4 year deal that would be great, but I doubt it.

      • jimfetterolf

        In order, Phils and Dodgers are both around $340m/yr on local media. Boras has had some clients extended. If Hosmer wants it, Boras will deliver rather than lose than client. Extending Gordon now, with three years left, is possible to add a couple of years. If it doesn’t look like we can keep him, I’ld trade him next off-season when he’ll have good value. The Young Guns could be real expensive down the road and Tampa has had good luck with extensions of young pitchers, so after ST I’ld be looking at locking at least Duffy up. Agree that Shields won’t take a 3 or 4, so we either trade him at the break or take the draft pick.

        • unclejesse40

          Jim, do you think it ever crosses the Royals front office minds to draft Bradley Zimmer with the hopes that Kyle would want to sign an extension in order to play with his brother longer? Plus Bradley is suppose to be a possible center fielder with RF line drive power potential that would play very nice in Kauffman.

          • jimfetterolf

            Not familiar with Bradley, but not unusual to draft relatives. Royals currently have Emilio and Jorge Bonifacio in the system.

          • jimfetterolf

            Looked Bradley up, with his size and pedigree might be an idea to convert him to pitcher, also. Something to think about, as his freshman stick wasn’t impressive.

          • unclejesse40

            Would have to wait and see how he does in college ball this year. If he doesn’t hit all that well and slides into the 2nd round I would be more excited about a project like that one. Wouldn’t like it so much with the first or the comp pick.

  • Joel Wagler

    Nice breakdown, Brian. Good stuff.

    • Brian Henry

      Thanks Joel

  • Royals_Fan

    Shields is good, but not for more then $75M max. 33 is over the hill for pitchers. The Royals need to hold onto Shields otherwise Tampa wins the trade. Myers still has like 6 yrs. left on his contract and if we let Shields go then we deserve to miss the playoffs for a couple more years.

    • Brian Henry

      If Shields repeats last year’s performance and is offered $75 million, then he is gone. I may actually prefer that to offering him a lot of money, but that will depend on some of the other things that happen this season.

  • moretrouble

    Excellent research, Brian, and well worth reading. You have used statistics for one of their most important applications — assessing future value. One aspect you omitted is the potential for serious injury among older pitchers. I’d like to see some assessment of risk for injury to older pitchers.

    • Brian Henry

      Actually the discount rate should reflect all risks if I can come up with a good methodology for identifying a rate. Therefore you would discount the future performance of Shields at a higher rate than Greinke in this instance if you compare directly.

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