James Shields Finally Finds a New Home
Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
According to a report from Chris Cotillo, former Royal James Shields has agreed to terms with the San Diego Padres. The contract will likely be somewhere between $72 and $78 over four years, with a club option for 2019. Toward the end of last week, speculation around the league started to focus on the Padres as the most likely destination for Shields.
The 33-year old righty is coming off of the best two-year stretch of his career, with 455.2 innings and a 3.18 ERA. His innings total was higher than every pitcher in baseball not named Adam Wainwright, and his adjusted ERA- (81) ranked 8th in the league over that time. The Royals were more than happy to have those numbers at the top of their rotation for the past two seasons.
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Once the deal becomes official, the Royals will collect a compensatory draft pick in this year’s draft, while the Padres will surrender their first round selection. That number 13 overall pick won’t go directly to the Royals, but it will move everyone up a slot, which means the Royals will have the 33rd overall pick, along with the 21st overall they already have.
This means that the team has a great opportunity to add a couple more high-quality prospects to their farm system, and perhaps more importantly, they’ll have the extra slot money to spend on their draft picks. It may not be a ton of money, but even an extra million dollars can pay huge dividends down the road. Small market teams have to be smart with their draft strategy, and sometimes that means signing players at an over-slot price.
For example, a few years ago, the Royals signed a catcher out of high school in the third round. He had a ton of offensive potential, some doubts about his ability to stick behind the plate, and a scholarship to a big-time Division 1 school. Were it not for questions about his signability, this player would’ve been a first round pick, but because the Royals were willing to hand out a huge bonus, they were able to get him signed.
That player, of course, was Wil Myers, who was the chip used to acquire Shields in the first place. Oh, and Myers is already in San Diego, which means I think we can officially say that the A.J. Preller won The Trade. It’s the only logical conclusion.
Granted, the Myers sign was before the whole “draft pool” system was created, but the Royals have still done well recently by signing guys like Sean Manaea, Chase Vallot, and Foster Griffin to over-slot deals. This money from the Shields pick will be huge for the Royals in the coming years.
As for the Padres, they brought in one of the most consistent and durable starting pitchers in baseball, for $100 million less than the Cubs are going to pay Jon Lester. They’ll have a rotation of Shields, Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy, and Odrisamer Despaigne, with a ton of options waiting behind them. Preller has been making moves like a mad man this winter, and this transaction is an enormous cherry on top.
Shields will miss the outfield defense he had behind him the last two years, but a move to an even bigger park, in the National League West, should help keep him from regressing too much. He’s signed through his age-36 season, and while aging eventually catches up to everyone, it’s tough to say how quickly that process will happen for Shields.
His fastball velocity has remained constant in the last few years, and even though his once-elite changeup has lost some of its effectiveness, he’s already starting to adapt his game. Shields has started throwing his cutter more frequently, and he’s slightly altered his release point, perhaps to play up his advantage to right-handed hitters.
Shields is still able to miss a few bats, and he still throws a ton of strikes, so if he is going to regress, it’s not clear where it’s going to come from. I just absolutely love this deal for Shields, and for the Padres.
Oh, right. This is a Royals blog, so let’s get back to them.
There is no question that Shields would have presented an improvement to the current version of the 2015 Royals. In fact, he would have improved every single team in baseball, which makes his delayed signing even more confusing, but I digress. The Royals could have used Shields, and at the price he agreed to, it wouldn’t have been a crippling hit to the payroll. I’m not going to suggest the team made a huge blunder in not bringing him back – we don’t know what their final offer was, anyway – but it would have been great to see Shields back on the mound at the K this year.
Still, Shields had a tremendous impact on the Royals in the past two seasons, and they are defending American League Champions due in large part to his work on the field and in the clubhouse. The organization was changed immediately upon his arrival, and the effect he had will be felt for several years to come.