Peter Gammons wrote last night about next year’s huge crop of free agent pitchers, which currently includes David Price, Jon Lester, Homer Bailey, Max Scherzer, Justin Masterson, and Shields. Gammons has only one line dedicated to Shields, but it says all we need to know.
James Shields has made it clear to the Royals that he’s thinking about a Zack Greinke deal.
Greinke signed a $147 million contract with the Dodgers last off season, a number clearly out of the Royals range. If this is going to be what Shields demands then the Royals are not going to be even close in the bidding for his services.
And the Royals should not consider signing him to such a deal either. Shields will be 33-years-old before the start of the 2015 season, and, should he remain healthy and effective this year, will have over 1,800 innings on his arm. That’s a huge workload for a guy who is on the wrong side of 30 and asking for a nine-figure contract.
Some good news here is that if (really “when” at this point) Shields leaves for free agency, Kansas City will get a first round compensation pick once Shields signs with a new team. There is also the chance the Royals could trade Shields at the deadline if KC is out of the race by then. But given the way last year went, the Royals are going to have to be a .350-winning percentage team for Dayton Moore to pull that trigger.
What Kansas City needs now is for all three of Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, and Kyle Zimmer to make the next step. One of those three has to turn into a Shields if the Royals window is going to remain open beyond 2014. Otherwise either the window closes or Moore is going to have to make another Shield-Myers type of deal to bring in a top of the rotation starting pitcher.
The potential of Duffy, Ventura, or Zimmer turning into Shields isn’t too far-fetched. Shields is a career 3.79 ERA pitcher, who averages a 228 innings, 1.225 WHIP, and 7.7 strikeouts-per-nine innings. These aren’t Clayton Kershaw numbers, these are Ben Sheets numbers. Given the talent of the three pitching prospects, it isn’t out of the question that one of them could equal Shields production starting in 2015. And given the upside of their arms, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if one of them ended up being better than Shields.
However, we’ve heard this story before. Remember Mike Montgomery? John Lamb? Chris Dwyer? Tim Melville? We’ve been down this road before, and it didn’t end well. Here’s hoping the road takes an unexpected and pleasant turn.