Jun 28, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher James Shields (33) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

James Shields Has a Lot Riding on 2014


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.

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Tags: James Shields Kansas City Royals

  • jimfetterolf

    All a matter of the business model. Royals don’t have the local TV contract to compete for top FAs, so sign little ones to fill holes, develop from within, or trade prospects for veterans. Shields will be gone, only question is whether it’s a deadline trade or as a QO FA. At his age, a five year contract is not interesting and with the need to extend internally, $20m would do a lot more good for our young pitchers and Hosmer than for an aging veteran on the wrong side of the curve.

    • Dave Hill

      I actually wonder if we might start seeing a couple of these qualifying offers being accepted next year. Five or six players that received qualifying offers are still unsigned.

      • jimfetterolf

        Santana and Ubaldo might be regretting not signing. For a Shields it probably won’t matter, being elite, but for the second tier with consistency issues it could be seen as a nicely paid pillow contract to prove consistency and enhance value. Erv and Ubaldo would be in much better shape now had they had two consecutive good years to sell.

        On a related matter, Atlanta’s closer was extended for 4/42, might give an idea of a Holland extension, maybe a 4/36 or so back loaded like Atlanta’s, use him for two reasonable years then trade with two years left.

        • Dave Hill

          That would be a solid idea. I wonder if the Royals would figure on using that as a baseline, or might try to get Holland for a slight bit less than 4/36. Also a good idea for an article tomorrow.

          • jimfetterolf

            Kimbrell is probably the top, so Holland at some fraction of Kimbrell looks likely. I’m not sure of the ages or service time, which would factor in, but even 90%, depending on structure, should work, the important thing being the backloading to keep it reasonable for a couple of years. Maybe options or give Holland an opt-out after two or three years, keep him motivated.