The Royals will make an effort to bring back top starter James Shields through free agency, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Shields, 32, has given Kansas City 455 2/3 innings of 3.18 ERA ball over the last two regular seasons, and is still pitching for the team in October.
While the club’s run to the ALCS has made that a return a more plausible scenario, Heyman says that the starting point for the decision came around the trade deadline. At that point in the middle of the summer, the club informed Shields’s agent, Page Odle, that it would be in touch after the season — a sign which seemingly indicated that a run at Shields was at least a possibility.
As I wrote back in March, landing Shields figures to be quite an expensive proposition, but perhaps will not be prohibitive even for the small-budget Royals. If past comps are any indication, even adjusted for inflation, Shields may not be able to exceed nine figures (if he gets five years at all) unless a true bidding war emerges. That could bode well for Kansas City’s chances.
Also helping the Royals’ cause is the qualifying offer that the team will make and Shields will surely decline. While he is an expensive enough player that the impact may not be too substantial, other clubs will need to weigh the cost of giving up a draft choice to sign him. (Of course, as a practical matter, so will Kansas City.)
As Heyman notes, the substantial revenue boost that the club should see from its postseason run will certainly play a role in determining whether the payroll space can be found for Shields. Not only will the team benefit from a playoff gate, merchandise sales, and the like, but should see increases in future streams through mechanisms such as season ticket sales.
All that being said, Shields will have plenty of suitors to choose from. After all, he is attractive to plenty of other clubs for largely the same reason he is to the Royals: in theory, he could represent a more achievable, less-risky investment on a shorter/smaller deal than other top free agent starters Max Scherzer and Jon Lester. Of course, if that kind of reasoning attracts enough bidders, it could drive Shields’s price tag up significantly.