Sep 6, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals pitcher James Shields (33) delivers a pitch against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Homer Bailey is a pitcher with a 49-45 record over seven years, having put together a 4.25 ERA and a 1.319 WHiP in his career. Bailey, however, has been better over the past three seasons, putting together a 33-29 record with a 3.79 ERA and a 1.206 WHiP. Even with that improvement, Bailey has still been roughly league average over the past three years, with an ERA+ of only 105. This performance was deemed to be worthy of a six year, $105 Million extension by the Reds. Perhaps, since Bailey will still only be 27 at the start of the year, the Reds may be banking on Bailey to improve even more over his past three seasons.
Meanwhile, James Shields is on the opposite end of the spectrum. While Bailey has pitched over 200 innings only twice in his career, Shields has gone over that mark in each of the last seven seasons. He has been able to establish himself on that level just below a true ace, proving to be a solid top starter. In the past three seasons, Shields has put together a 44-31 record with a 3.15 ERA and a 1.146 WHiP. His durability and reputation as a big game pitcher would seemingly indicate that Shields would be able to receive a better contract than what Homer Bailey got from the Reds.
Yet, that durability may well work against Shields. While he has been dependable, and taken the ball every fifth day without fail since 2008, Shields also has put a lot of innings on his right arm. A free agent after this season, teams may be concerned with the potential of those innings catching up. As Shields will be 33 years old when he hits free agency, that injury risk could certainly become a factor.
It is highly unlikely that James Shields will be receiving a six year offer, but could the Bailey extension provide a framework for what Shields could receive each year? Shields is set to earn $13.5 Million this year, so a contract somewhere in the neighborhood of the $17.5 Million that Bailey will average each year could be what his agent looks to target in free agency.
While that is not exactly Zack Greinke money, it is still likely more than the Royals would feel comfortable giving Shields. Chances are, after the season, the Royals will extend a qualifying offer to Shields, and hope for draft pick compensation should he sign elsewhere. They may even be willing to spend around $15 Million per year to keep Shields in Kansas City for a few more years. But would Shields and his agent be willing to accept that, when he may be able to get more in the open market?
The Royals are going to have a major decision to make with James Shields soon. However, the extension the Reds gave Homer Bailey may give them an idea as to what the cost would be to keep Shields around.