James Shields Decision Imminent? Padres Still Likely? How Much Does He Improve Cubs? (UPDATES)

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James Shields Decision Imminent? Padres Still Likely? How Much Does He Improve Cubs? (UPDATES)

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs Rumors

james shields royalsI’m going to warn you up front that The Little Girl’s 4th birthday party is today (My Little Pony-themed, because things don’t change). That means my availability for updates here, at least this afternoon, is going to be spotty. I’ll do the best I can to keep things fresh, but you’ll have to forgive me if, for a while, I prefer to watch my daughter bounding about with her friends.

  • I offer that warning to you today because it really does look like a James Shields decision is coming down the pipe, probably today. Bob Nightengale reported late yesterday that a decision should come “soon,” and Dennis Lin reported that a decision was expected within 24 hours of last evening. The guess here is that every involved team has made its best and final offer, and, other than some long distance sales pitch presentations, it’s now just a matter of Shields deciding where he wants to be.
  • Yesterday, Scott Miller reported initially that talks between the Padres and Shields’ camp were heating up, only to reach an impasse. Jim Bowden then indicated that it wasn’t so much an impasse as the Padres making their best and final offer, which would be an impasse only if Shields was unequivocally not going to accept it. It doesn’t seem like that’s the case, so, as I said yesterday, it’s really all just negotiations.
  • Once again, don’t sleep on other teams possibly being involved (besides the Cubs and Padres); Nightengale again says that several teams are involved. That said, no one has really backed off the pervasive belief that the Padres are still the favorite here. Shields winding up with another team is conceivable, but would be a surprise.
  • Carrie Muskat writes about the possibility of the Cubs signing Shields, noting that the Cubs generally are now willing to sign guys who cost them a draft pick because of where they are organizationally.
  • Nightengale says that Shields has told his friends that he never received and rejected a five-year, $110 million offer, which was the hot rumor for a very long time last month. It seemed crazy from day one that Shields would receive that level of an offer and not immediately take it, which led folks to suspect it was a BS rumor floated by his camp to drive up another offer … but now I wonder if it was a BS rumor floated by an interested team, trying to scare off other teams by making it look like Shields’ demands were unreasonably high. If so, it worked, and it would suck for Shields. Remember that during the next rumor season: so many rumors are bogus, and their origin and intent can have a really wide range.
  • A lot of folks have asked me how much Shields would add to the Cubs’ win projections. Jeff Sullivan calculated that back in January, and concluded it was somewhere around 2.8 wins. ZiPS isn’t out yet on Shields, but Steamer pegs him for 3.0 WAR, and PECOTA has him at 1.6 WARP (always seems super conservative on pitchers). If we figure Shields is replacing Travis Wood, and if we further assume that the Cubs would not keep Wood as depth, then by Steamer the Cubs add 2.8 wins in the Shields-Wood swap (same as Sullivan concluded). By PECOTA, it’s 1.1 wins. Split the baby, and it’s about 2 more wins to the Cubs’ projection. That may not sound like much, but with the Cubs currently projected around 84 wins or so, the difference between 84 and 86 wins could easily be a playoff spot. The Cubs are presently projected to be in the band where marginal wins are the most valuable. It’s not difficult to see why they’re interested in Shields, even if it complicates the budget picture a little.
  • My considered speculation at this point: all things equal, it’s possible Shields prefers to go to the Padres, where he makes his offseason home. The tricky part, perhaps, is making things “equal,” given (1) the Padres stand to lose the 13th overall pick to sign Shields, which is a steeper price than for other teams presumably involved; and (2) the much higher state income tax rate in California. I suspect the Cubs – among other teams – are legitimately involved, but they are probably not coming in with an offer that is quite as high, nominally, as the Padres’ best and final offer (which, itself, is obviously not as high as Shield wants). Instead, those teams are trying to sell Shields on everything else associated with coming to their team (for the Cubs, it would be something like Maddon + awesome young core + great additions this offseason + history). The reality is, that’s an approach that almost never actually gets the deal done if there’s more money on the table somewhere else, but I can’t blame any team that’s doing it, especially if Shields really does have his heart in San Diego. Bidding against them to try and go over the top in that situation would seem a mistake. That’s even more true if Shields is a luxury for that team, not a necessity.
  • So, we’ll see what happens today. Feels like the Cubs really want Shields, but they also have a strict price in mind at which he’s a clear value, and doesn’t significantly diminish their ability to make an impact addition at the deadline if necessary, or next offseason. That’s a recipe for not getting a guy, which, frankly, is fine with me. I want the Cubs to land Shields if they’re getting a steal, but, given the financial realities of the next couple years, I don’t want to see them going nuts.

UPDATE: Jon Heyman and Dennis Lin write up the situation, with each saying a decision could come today or tomorrow. Heyman says the Padres are the favorite, with the Cubs a possibility. Lin says the Padres are “expected” sign Shields – the strongest language we’ve yet heard – with the Cubs and Marlins possibly having made a late push. So, for now, status quo: although another team is possible (and the Cubs might be the most likely of those other possible teams), it would be a surprise if Shields doesn’t wind up signing with the Padres.

UPDATE 2: The Little Girl had a lovely birthday party. Oh, you wanted a Shields update? Well, here you go:

If that’s the case, and Shields winds up accepting, it’s an offer that I’m comfortable with the Cubs not topping. It would be a great get for the Padres at 4/$72M, but if the Cubs had to go to 4/$80M to get it done, I’m not convinced that wouldn’t have a negative effect on their ability to do what they want at the deadline and next offseason.


Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.