When it comes to the top arms on the free agent market this offseason, there has been a vague sense that none of Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, or James Shields would be returning to his current team. With Lester, everyone’s been pretty open about the fact that he’s not going back to the A’s, who wanted him as a rental. With Scherzer, although there’s at least a question about whether the Tigers will step up now that they’ve been bounced from the playoffs, Scherzer has already rejected a significant extension offer from the Tigers.
And then you have the Royals and Shields, who will obviously part ways after the season. Right? I mean, Shields, who will be 33 next year, is going to get at least four years and could get as much as $20 million per year, and the Royals are already pushing the boundaries of their payroll with Shields making $13.5 million this year.
But, according to Jon Heyman, the Royals will try to keep Shields. With extra revenues from the playoff run, and with a fan base that will want to see the effort, Heyman says the Royals will make some kind of multiyear offer to Shields.
It still seems unlikely that there will be a match, but it could be one more “suitor” out there with which to compete on Shields. Speaking of which, the teams Heyman identifies as the top possible Shields pursuers: the Red Sox, the Dodgers (you’ve gotta be kidding me), and the Rangers.
As we’ve discussed, the Cubs may also be in on Shields this offseason, and, if they are, there will be a great deal of competition, whether it’s those three teams plus the Royals, or a whole other set of teams. On the expected price tag, Heyman cites an AL GM who believes it could be in the five-year, $77.5 to $80 million range (the C.J. Wilson and Anibal Sanchez deals), but that feels a bit low. Yes, those two pitchers were several years younger than Shields, but (1) they weren’t quite as established as top-of-the-rotation types, and (2) salaries seem to escalate rapidly every single year.
Tentatively, I’m expecting Shields to get closer to $20 million per year over four or five years. The desirability of a deal like that to a team like the Cubs would depend greatly on how competitive they expect to be in 2015 and 2016, when Shields is likely to generate disproportionate value.