When James Shields left the Kansas City Royals, it was supposed to be the end of that chapter of Royals history. Shields and Wade Davis were traded to the Royals, helped change the culture of the ballclub, and helped bring the team to Game Seven of the 2014 World Series. He instilled veteran leadership and helped show the young Royals how to win. Then, having departed for the San Diego Padres, Shields was going to just be another fond memory.
Instead, as strange as it may seem, that chapter may need to be rewritten. The Padres may be looking to trade Shields, and the Royals do need help in the starting rotation. Even if Shields is not that ace starter like Johnny Cueto or Cole Hamels, and his ‘Big Game’ nickname may be overstated, he has proven to be a solid presence atop a team’s rotation.
Obviously, there are hurdles to the idea of Shields returning to the Royals. His contract lasts through 2018, and will pay Shields another $63 Million after this season, even if the team option for 2019 at $16 Million is not picked up. While the Royals could theoretically get the Padres to take on some of the financial burden of Shields’ contract, they may still have to pay far more for a 36 or 37 year old pitcher than they would be interested in doing. Likewise, if the Padres are to pick up a monetary amount to make that contract palatable for the Royals, the prospect cost is likely to be quite high.
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Even though that contact would likely be an albatross for the Kansas City Royals financially at the end of the term, there could be other benefits to bringing Shields back aside from his reputation as a top of the rotation starter. With Shields in place, it may ease some of the pressure on Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura. Duffy himself credited Shields for his breakout season last year, while Ventura has been demoted to Omaha to work through his struggles. Could having that veteran presence, someone that can help take the pressure off the young arms, be the key in turning both pitchers around?
Maybe it is not Shields specifically that Duffy and Ventura need, but rather someone that can fit a similar profile. Perhaps, if the Royals can acquire another top of the rotation starter, someone that can relieve that pressure on the young starters, that same effect that Shields had last year can be replicated. However, as John mentioned in his article, it would be quite serendipitous to bring Shields back to the Royals, allowing him to take care of some unfinished business in Kansas City while helping to get Ventura and Duffy back on track.
James Shields legacy as a member of the Kansas City Royals was that he helped instill a winning culture in the clubhouse. Now, if he returns, he could potentially add to that legacy, especially if his return gets Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy back to being the pitchers they were last year.