James Shields has gone 27-17 in his two seasons with the Kansas City Royals. In each of the last two years, he’s posted his 2nd and 3rd best ERA numbers for his career and has thrown 227 innings or more each campaign. Shields is the heart of the Royals rotation and a big reason this team is preparing for the American League Championship Series. He’s mentored young pitchers like rookie Yordano Ventura and he’s helped Danny Duffy along the way. His value to the team has been beneficial on and off the field.
Many believed that after this season, the Royals would be left trying to fill the void Shields would leave behind when he bolts for free agency. However, the front office has been having conversations with Shields’ agent and they plan to aggressively pursue Shields.
According to John Heyman of CBS Sports, one GM in the American League thinks that the price tag on Shields will be around $77-$80 million dollars for five years, which is $15.4-$16 million per year. Heyman thinks that number will be closer to $20 million.
Don’t expect a decision from Shields to come soon after players file for free agency. Jon Lester of the A’s and Chesterfield, Mo. native Max Scherzer will test the market and those younger, high caliber pitchers will dictate the market for what a second-tier, top starting pitcher like Shields could earn.
The Royals are in a bit of a catch-22 situation. Had they not made a big run at the playoffs, the 32-year old Shields surely would have left the team. Now that the Royals are making a run, more of the spotlight is on Shields. Not that GM’s across baseball weren’t familiar with Shields, but if he continues to have a solid postseason run, there may be a team with a bigger payroll, who sees the value of having his veteran presence in the clubhouse validated, and may simply outbid the Royals.
What is important, is that the Royals organization is showing its fans they are committed to bringing in and attempting to keep top end talent. That will be essential for this franchise to continue to receive the support from their fan base. The worse thing that could happen is to have a magical season like this and then have Shields leave without even an attempt to re-sign him.
GM Dayton Moore is showing the club is committed to building a winner and staying relevant.