Extending James Shields


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

The Royals trade of Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi for James Shields was not a deal that would be able to be truly graded after one season. For Kansas City, the logic of the trade was that, for the Royals to compete, they needed to acquire a true top of the rotation starter. However, it was certainly painful to give up not just the top prospect in the system, but one of the top prospects in baseball for a pitcher with two years left on his contract, Wade Davis and Elliot Johnson. Johnson has already been released, and Davis may have proven that he will never actually pan out as a starter.

Even before Davis disappointed and Johnson departed, it was felt by most of the so-called baseball experts that, for the Royals to even break even in the trade, they would need to reach the postseason. Although the Royals contended last season, they ultimately fell short of the playoffs, seemingly giving them one more season to make that trade worthwhile. However, there is the potential that the trade for Shields could end up working out for the Royals in another way as well. Should the Royals extend Shields, then the trade would need to be looked at differently.

There appears to be interest in such an agreement, at least on Shields’ side. Shields has mentioned in the past that he is happy in Kansas City, and is open to signing an extension with the Royals.

"“I think it’s a great city,” Shields said. “I’ve known a lot of players who have come to Kansas City and then wound up making Kansas City their home. And it’s a good family environment around here and they really love their baseball. It’s a good wholesome town.”"

Another deciding factor for Shields may be the direction that the Royals appear to be heading in. No longer the perennial doormats that they have been over the past two decades, the future appears bright in Kansas City. With players such as Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer heading up the offense, an excellent bullpen and pitching prospects like Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura on the horizon, the Royals may be built to contend for the long term. Signing Shields to an extension would only help that process.

Even though nothing appears to be eminent in terms of an extension, that does not mean that one could be coming down the pipeline eventually. The Royals have holes to worry about in free agency, but may turn their sights to resigning a pitcher who was able to step in and fill the role of being a true staff ace, vacated when Zack Greinke was traded after the 2010 season.

James Shields could also provide more than being an innings eating ace on the mound. He has been through the battles of the playoffs, and knows how to perform when the pressure is on. Shields could be a solid mentor to a young pitching staff in need of a veteran presence to guide them through the highs and lows of the season. He could set an example of what it is like to be a true professional, and fulfill a vital leadership role on the team going forward.

At age 32 heading into next season, Shields is still in the midst of his prime. Even though any extension would likely provide diminishing returns the older Shields gets, an extension would do more than to just lock up a top starter. it would help to send a message that the Royals are serious about competing.

The final chapter on the James Shields – Wil Myers trade has yet to be written. In fact, that chapter may still be a long way off.