James Shields and the $110 Million Contract Offer


According to reports, James Shields was offered a five year contract worth $110 Million last week. It would certainly make sense for a team desperate for pitching help to take a run at Shields, as he has proven to be a dependable innings eater during his career. Likewise, this would be the sort of offer that it would make sense for Shields to sign immediately, given that he is 33 years old and has thrown the third most innings of any pitcher in the past five years. At some point, that arm is going to start breaking down.

Yet, even if that offer is in hand, Shields is still sitting out in free agency, just like Max Scherzer and such luminaries as Ryan Vogelsong. As time continues to pass, and Spring Training slowly approaches, one would expect that Shields would be wanting to sign, if for no other reason than to know where he is headed.

So why has James Shields not yet signed that contract? One of the theories is that Shields just may not be interested in playing for whatever team made that offer. There is a lot of validity to that theory, especially if the offer was made by a team in the midst of a rebuilding process. Why would Shields, who has a history of winning and has now been to two World Series without a championship, be interested in a team with a minimal chance of making the postseason? If a team like the Astros, for example, made that offer, it would make sense that Shields would be waiting.

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It could also be that Shields is waiting to see if another team is willing to come close to that offer. An offshoot of not wanting to play for the original team to make that offer, Shields could be waiting to see if a more desirable destination is willing to give him that same five year deal. However, as most teams are reportedly leery of spending that type of money on a pitcher with that many innings on the arm, that may not happen.

Or, and this may be the most likely explanation, that James Shields just never actually received that offer. Agents like Scott Boras are infamous for creating that ‘mystery team,’ claiming that some other entity has interest in one of his clients to get a team to bid against itself. Perhaps Shields’ agents at PSI Sports Management are attempting the same sort of strategy. If so, it does not appear to be meeting with the same success that Boras typically has.

One would have to expect that Shields will sign sooner, rather than later. There are plenty of teams in need of a top of the rotation starter, and Shields still fits that category. Even if he has struggled in the latter part of the season, and his postseason track record is spotty at best, Shields could be the type of starter that can help a team like the Red Sox or Yankees, two high payroll teams with major holes in their rotation.

Perhaps the biggest mystery of the offseason involving James Shields is not who made him that contract offer, but why has he not signed it yet. It is certainly going to be interesting to see how his market shapes up, and where Shields eventually signs.