Sep 27, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher James Shields (33) delivers a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the third inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
When word first came out that James Shields would be open to an extension with the Royals, there was excitement. The centerpiece of a trade that had sent Wil Myers to Tampa Bay would be willing to remain a part of what the Royals were building, and retaining Shields would make that trade not seem to be as much of a steal for the Rays. Then there were reports that Shields wanted the same type of contract that Zack Greinke received, and those thoughts vanished.
However, Shields stated that those reports were false, opening the door once again to the possibility that he could stay in Kansas City beyond this year. Yet, while he also stated that he was open to an extension, there was plenty of uncertainty as to what type of contract Shields could command on the open market.
Now, it seems as though we have an answer. While the Royals have a lot riding on this season, with a record setting payroll and legitimate playoff aspirations, James Shields may have just as much riding on this season. If Shields is able to put together a typical season, making every start and pitching over 200 innings, he could be lined up for quite the payday in free agency, possibly approaching the type of contract that Greinke received.
“I can’t give you a reason why at least one club wouldn’t (offer a $100 million contract),” one National League scout said. “As long as he stays healthy and has a season up to his standards.”
If Shields has the type of season that the Royals expect, and he leads the team to the playoffs, it could be a bittersweet experience. While the Royals would be playing meaningful games in October for the first time in almost three decades, and the postseason would return to Kansas City, that would likely mean that Shields is not returning. After all, when the Royals enter free agency, then gravitate towards players like Jason Vargas
, someone that could potentially be a solid piece to the team, but not a superstar player. That is just not the Royals philosophy.
What is likely to end up happening then will depend on how the season progresses. Should the Royals find themselves in contention for a playoff berth, then they will likely keep Shields and place a qualifying offer on him at the end of the season. If he signs the offer, then the Royals could get Shields back at a discount. Otherwise, if he declines and leaves via free agency, the Royals would receive a draft pick as compensation. If the Royals are out of contention by the trade deadline, then Shields will likely be traded to a contending team, and the Royals may once again be looking to find an ace for the staff.
Chances are, this will be the final season that James Shields is wearing a Royals uniform. Hopefully, it goes as hoped, with the Royals in the playoffs.