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James Shields Rumors
James Shields rejected a four-year, $80MM offer from the Giants before signing with the Padres for $5MM less, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. The Giants rescinded the offer once they re-signed Jake Peavy, however, so by the time Shields actually signed, the Cubs and Marlins were probably the Padres’ top rivals for Shields. Shields’ agent, Page Odle, says his client received more than one offer with a higher average annual value than the one he ultimately accepted from the Padres, confirming that Shields’ desires to play near his home outside San Diego and to for a revamped Padres team were quite strong. Odle implies, though, that another factor might have been that the Giants’ offer simply came too early in the offseason, and that he and Shields wanted more time to make a decision. Odle also says he and Shields did not reject a $110MM offer, as had been reported last month. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- The Rangers have three pitchers in Yu Darvish, Yovani Gallardo and Neftali Feliz who look like they could be extension candidates, but the team has no plans to extend any of them during Spring Training, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan writes. “There is nothing in the works right now,” says GM Jon Daniels. Darvish is signed through 2017, but can become a free agent a year earlier if he wins a Cy Young award in one of the next two seasons or finishes between second and fourth in both of them. “Counterintuitively, I’m rooting for him to be able to void that last year,” says Daniels, suggesting that the year lost will be positive if Darvish performs well enough to finish at or near the top in Cy Young balloting in one or both of the next two seasons.
- Manager Lloyd McClendon says the Mariners will use newly signed lefty Joe Saunders purely as a reliever, MLB.com’s Greg Johns tweets. The 33-year-old Saunders has pitched almost his entire career as a starter, but he made six relief appearances for the Orioles last season.
Huston Street told reporters yesterday that he’s seeking a four-year extension (beginning with the 2015 season, meaning it would override his current deal) worth something between the contracts signed by Andrew Miller ($36MM) and David Robertson ($46MM) this offseason. Street, interestingly, is acting as his own agent, and Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times has some quotes from the closer explaining the reasoning behind that decision. “I think agents are beneficial to a lot of guys who are fringe players or superstars,” Street told reporters. “How do you say no to $130 million and end up getting $180 million? It takes an agent. I’m not one of those guys. I’m pretty slotted within a range of what I believe is fair, of guys I’m comparable to. I don’t have anything negative toward agents. I just felt like I could handle my own business.”
Today, Angels owner Arte Moreno met with the media and offered up several more items that should be of interest to Halo fans. MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez has the highlights…
- The Angels have gotten “nowhere” with the city of Anaheim in regards to talks for a new lease for Angel Stadium. The team is able to opt out of the lease beginning in 2016 and as late as 2019, Gonzalez writes. If they stay beyond that point, the lease then runs through 2029. Moreno said there are no intention to restart talks at this time. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register adds that while Moreno wouldn’t comment on the viability of other locations, he did say “we’re still looking at opportunities.”
- Moreno isn’t completely opposed to running into the luxury tax threshold of $189MM as long as the team would only exceed that payroll level for one year. Moreno feels the team has about $10-15MM to spend on in-season additions if necessary.
- The Angels “took a peek” at James Shields this offseason but never made a formal offer. Moreno says the team had interest in Shields on a three-year deal but wasn’t interested in going beyond that length of contract. Shields, of course, signed a four-year, $75MM contract with the Padres earlier this month.
James Shields‘ four-year, $75MM contract with the Padres allows him to opt out of the deal after the 2016 season, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The backloaded nature of his deal, however, means that doing so would amount to forfeiting a guaranteed $44MM over the final two years of the contract. (Shields will earn $21MM in 2017 and again in 2018, and his 2019 option comes with a $2MM buyout.)
Clearly, given the fact that Shields will be entering his age-35 season at that stage, the opt-out isn’t necessarily as powerful as those held by younger arms such as CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke. However, it’s not impossible to think that two years from now, if Shields has put together a pair of strong seasons, that he could top a $44MM guarantee on a three-year deal. The amount by which he would have to top that sum would be the question. Clearly, a three-year, $45MM pact wouldn’t be an upgrade, but if Shields were able to secure something in the vein of three years and $54MM (an $18MM annual salary), perhaps it would be worth considering.
That scenario is hardly a likely outcome, but the increased leverage provided by the contract is nevertheless an additional element of value that had yet to come to the surface. Shields and agent Page Odle have been panned by some for reaching too far in free agency, though Odle spoke to Rosenthal yesterday and explained that there was never a specific target in terms of years or dollars; rather, he discussed three-, four- and five-year deals for Shields from the onset of free agency.
Even if Shields and Odle did seek a five-year contract and stick to that goal for much of the offseason, as some have speculated, a four-year, $75MM contract with an opt-out clause hardly seems like a terrible fallback option. As Jeff Todd and I discussed on yesterday’s MLBTR Podcast, Shields didn’t end up on a one-year deal, and it’s hard to call a contract that handily tops the deals inked by similarly aged peers such as Ervin Santana and Mark Buehrle a failure or a misstep. Last year, we at MLBTR posited that a four-year pact for Shields may be the ceiling in free agency, given his age. I’ll admit to being swept up in the narrative of the “Big Three” free agents this offseason and altering my own expectations to a five-year deal (despite a belief last spring that four would be the cap).
That said, it’s puzzling to see the criticism for Shields when both he and Odle have adamantly refuted the notion that he ever received/rejected a five-year, $110MM offer. Rather, the largest reported figure that has come to light, courtesy of ESPN’s Buster Olney, was the four-year, $80MM pact said to be discussed with the Giants prior to their signing of Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong. If the end result of Shields’ waiting game was a contract that came in $5MM below the top of his range while affording him a two-year opt-out and the chance to play some 200 miles closer to home, it would seem that some of the criticism he’s received may be harsh. Not only that, but if this type of contract was believed to be a fallback all along — and walking away from similar parameters with the Giants in December suggests that may be the case — then it’s hard to blame Shields’ camp for any attempts at a five-year pact.
- Page Odle, Shields’ agent, discussed his client’s free agent experience with FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, saying that Shields’ market only really started to come into focus over the last three weeks. “I don’t know why it took so long for his market to develop. We had some early conversations with teams. We had one offer early. It didn’t come together. That team moved on,” Odle said. “Then there were teams we were talking to that ended up making trades. And I’m sure that probably changed a few of the scenarios. His market really didn’t start to develop again until after the first of the year, where we started getting calls and started having more sincere discussions with teams.”
- As you might expect, Odle disagreed with some executives’ claims that he “overreached” with his demands for Shields. “There was no set dollar amount that James had to have. Do we think he is one of the better pitchers in the game? Absolutely. If statistics and what you do in your career matter, then James has that on his side,” Odle said.
- Shields was rumored to have received a five-year, $110MM offer from a team earlier this winter, yet Odle said those reports were “completely inaccurate and a fabrication.” The right-hander never insisted on a five-year contract, as “we had scenarios talking to teams in the three-year, four-year and five-year range from the start….We were having all kinds of talks, talks with vesting options, talks about club options. This thing settled into a four-year deal with an option. There was never a demand that it had to be five years.“
- Odle never expected to discuss a six-year contract, and no such deal was proposed in any negotiations.
- The Cubs were the other finalists for Shields’ services, the righty confirmed himself in an interview with on 1080AM radio (hat tip to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune). Shields noted his choice came down to “two great managers” — his new skipper Bud Black and Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who Shields enjoyed playing under when the two were in Tampa Bay.
- While living in nearby Rancho Santa Fe played a part in his decision to sign with the Padres, Shields said he was ultimately impressed by the club’s busy offseason and their desire to get back into contention. “They had that win-now mentality. They want not only to win now but win the next four, five years,” Shields said.
James Shields‘s new deal with the Padres is less valuable to him than it might have been had he signed it elsewhere, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes, citing CPA Robert Raiola. Taxes (and agent fees) would have put the Cubs’ reported three-year, $60MM offer in the ballpark (~$4.5MM shy) of the total guarantee Shields actually received — assuming, at least, that Shields would have resided in the home state of either club. Of course, state taxes impact every deal, though it is only on occasion that we stop to consider it. To take but a few examples, the large Mike Trout, Buster Posey, and Clayton Kershaw extensions were signed with clubs playing in high-tax California, while Giancarlo Stanton is locked up for the foreseeable future in Florida, which does not charge income tax.
We’ll save the rest of that expansive topic for another day. Here are a few more free agent notes:
- As Steve Adams and I discuss on today’s podcast (to be released early this afternoon), Cuban infielder Hector Olivera actually seems a somewhat under-hyped story this spring. Ben Badler of Baseball America writes that Olivera has scouts “excited about [his] potential to make an immediate impact on a major league team in 2015.” While still not technically a free agent, Olivera is expected to be declared one shortly. When he does, his market will get very interesting. Badler writes that teams expect Olivera to seek money in the ballpark of that given by the Red Sox to Rusney Castillo ($12MM annually over six years), in AAV if not also years. That is no guarantee he will be paid that way, of course, and Olivera has some health questions. But if those concerns are resolved, Badler says he prefers the veteran to both Castillo and Yasmany Tomas, noting that some teams view him as an above-average big leaguer from the get-go.
- If you want to have a look at Olivera, check out this video of his work yesterday from Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs. McDaniel also has motion footage of live-armed 18-year-old righty Yadier Alvarez, who he labels the “hottest name in baseball.” Alvarez is still rather early in the process of seeking free agency, but should be available to sign before too long.
- Free agent righty Francisco Rodriguez is still looking for a two-year deal Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports in a piece full of several interesting bits of information. Rodriguez is the top-ranked free agent left unsigned, slotting in just ahead of fellow late-inning reliever Rafael Soriano. The Brewers remain interested in a reunion with K-Rod, per the report.
7:10pm: Corey Brock of MLB.com reports that the $63MM Shields will earn over the final three seasons of the deal will be spread out in equal $21MM increments (Twitter link). That would make the overall structure $10MM in 2015, $21MM each year from 2016-18 and a $2MM buyout on the 2019 option.
3:39pm: The Padres have officially signed free agent starter James Shields to a four-year contract that includes a club option for 2019. Shields, a client of PSI Sports Management, will reportedly receive a $75MM guarantee, with the option valued at $16MM.
Shields will earn just $10MM in 2015 before taking home $63MM over the following three seasons, a front-loaded structure that accounts for the team’s rising payroll this year. The final $2MM guarantee comes in the form of a buyout on the option. The deal does not include a no-trade clause.
This weekend, it emerged that the Padres had offered Shields a deal similar to what he’ll evidently receive, with other reporting indicating that Shields, a California native, was interested in pitching in San Diego. The Cubs, Marlins and Blue Jays had also recently been connected to Shields.
The deal continues an enormous offseason makeover for the Padres, who have added Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks to boost their offense. Shields will head a rotation that was already fairly productive in 2014, when the Padres enjoyed good seasons from Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy and Odrisamer Despaigne. Shields also improves their pitching for the future, as Kennedy will be eligible for free agency following next season and Cashner can become eligible after 2016.
Shields has excelled at or near the top of the rotations of the Royals and Rays for the better part of the past four seasons, working to a 3.17 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 46.3 percent ground-ball rate. Though Shields has seen his K/9 rate dip from 8.8 to 7.1 over the past few seasons, he also showed some of the best control of his career in 2014 (1.7 BB/9) and maintained his fastball velocity (92.4 mph average). Shields has been the epitome of a workhorse in Kansas City and St. Pete, topping 200 innings in eight straight seasons, including a four-year average of 233 frames.
Much has been made of Shields failing to live up the moniker by which he is perhaps better known — “Big Game James” — in the postseason. While Shields does indeed sport an unsightly 5.46 ERA over 59 career playoff innings, a sample of that size would likely be written off in a regular-season setting and isn’t large enough to use as a significant basis for judgment.
Rather, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes suggested in his free agent profile of Shields, the better question is likely whether or not Shields is truly deserving of the “ace” label that many have placed upon his shoulders. Earlier in his career, particularly in 2011, Shields looked to be just that, but his recent work — and really, his overall body of work in the Majors — is perhaps more indicative of a durable, but not-quite-elite arm that can be slotted into the “No. 2″ or “No. 3″ slot in a rotation. Looking at ERA estimators such as FIP, xFIP and SIERA, Shields typically falls into the mid-3.00 range that one would expect of a very quality but not front-line arm.
Of course, because he will be moving to the National League for the first time in his career and benefiting from the spacious Petco Park, it’s certainly possible that Shields will see an uptick in his strikeout rate and again produce the ace-caliber bottom-line results of which he has proven capable in the past. However, he’ll also be losing the aid of arguably baseball’s best defense and shifting to a team that has a deteriorated Kemp and an out-of-position Myers in his outfield, which could be problematic, even if he tends to induce a slightly above-average number of grounders.
Regardless of whether or not one considers Shields an ace or merely an upper-echelon starter, a pitcher of his quality was a lock to receive and reject a qualifying offer, which is precisely what happened. As such, the Padres will pay the steep price of surrendering their first-round pick — the 13th overall selection and one of the best non-protected picks in the draft. Unlike previous iterations of draft-pick compensation, the newest form, established in the 2012 collective bargaining agreement, calls for the Royals to receive a compensation pick at the end of the first round.
In the grand scheme, however, the Padres have added an impact player at a reasonable price. MLBTR ranked Shields the third-best free agent available this offseason, and yet his total price will be a bit more than a third of Max Scherzer‘s and about half of Jon Lester‘s. That’s partly a function of their respective ages and the structures of their contracts, but regardless, the Padres’ financial commitment to Shields should be relatively bearable even if Shields is a disappointment. The addition of a club option with a marginal buyout is also a nice feature for San Diego.
And yet, while Shields’ price tag is reasonable, it’s also a noteworthy accomplishment for agent Page Odle and PSI Sports Management at this stage of the offseason. No free agent has ever signed a deal of this magnitude after Feb. 1. As MLBTR’s Jeff Todd recently noted, J.D. Drew held the previous record for a post-Feb. 1 contract at five years and $70MM, though that contract was reportedly agreed to months prior and slowed by medical concerns. Ubaldo Jimenez inked a four-year $50MM pact around this time last year, but Shields’ overall guarantee trumps that figure by a significant margin.
SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reported the deal and option value (Twitter links). Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported the guaranteed value of the deal on Twitter and lack of a no-trade clause (Twitter link). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the annual breakdown on Twitter.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Yankees starters Masahiro Tanaka and C.C. Sabathia are generating positive reports, team pitching coach Larry Rothschild tells Mark Didtler of the Associated Press (via the LoHud Yankees Blog). Tanaka has “felt good” while going through a normal winter progression, says Rothschild. The pair’s progress this spring will be critical for the Yankees. If Tanaka’s partially torn UCL or Sabathia’s balky knee are problematic, the club would seem a prime candidate to add pitching.
- In the final analysis, the Royals‘ run with James Shields was an example of the team “beating the system,” according to Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star. By selling high on Wil Myers to add Shields, Kansas City added the arm it needed before cashing him in for a new first-round pick through the qualifying offer system.
- The Red Sox and Orioles have at least begun looking into the idea of playing a spring game in Cuba this year, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports. While it appears unlikely that will happen in such short order, it certainly hints at how quickly things could move in that arena.
- Signing players to big extensions is obviously risky, and rarely works out in the way that many expect when a deal is struck. But that does not mean that they fail to deliver good value, or that teams are irrational in reaching them, Russell Carleton of Baseball Prospectus writes.
- The Shields camp made a strategic error by shooting too high, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports writes. After initially asking for a contract in the realm of five to six years at $120MM to $125MM, his team did not move down off that ask soon enough in the wake of Jon Lester‘s signing, says Passan. I do think it worth adding that four years and $75MM at a preferred geographical spot is far from a terrible downside scenario — even in the context of the modern free agent world — and that ultimate price could well have justified an aggressive strategy, depending upon Shields’s own particular preferences and risk tolerance.
- Quality, durable arms of the relatively recent past provide at least some insight into how Shields might produce over the term of his deal, as Ben Lindbergh of Grantland writes. Among pitchers with age 29-32 seasons similar to those Shields just put up, the outcomes over the next four years ranged from 900+ innings of Greg Maddux to less than 300 frames of Frank Viola. On the whole, the (rather small) group lost one-third of its total innings while putting up less than half the total wins above replacement as against the previous four-year run. Though there is obviously plenty of risk, Lindbergh concludes that, in Shields’s case at least, it seems a reasonable-enough outlook to warrant the commitment.
- San Diego has a legitimate abundance of starting pitching and could use it to make a trade, now or over the summer, opines ESPN.com’s Keith Law (Insider post). That flexibility is as important as the upgrade that Shields represents, in Law’s view. Of course, bolstering the MLB roster through trade is not the only hypothetical outcome, and Padres GM A.J. Preller may face an even sterner challenge if the team he has compiled fails to compete, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes.
- That the Cubs made a legitimate, late run at Shields is revealing, ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers writes. It shows that the team has cash to spend, that Shields likely would have been pursued harder if Chicago hadn’t landed Lester, and that the front office is prepared to act boldly when opportunity arises.
- The Dodgers considered a run at Shields but were never going to approach the price range that Shields ultimately commanded, Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. Los Angeles “was looking for something more cost effective,” says Olney.
The James Shields saga has finally drawn to a close, with the right-hander agreeing to a four-year deal to pitch near his southern California home as a member of the vastly reshaped Padres. Shields will reportedly take home $75MM, and his contract also contains a club option. Shields rumors have dominated the past week, with multiple teams rumored to be involved. Here are some reactions from around the baseball world as well as some details on other offers that Shields had available…
- Shields did not take the best offer that was presented to him, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney (Twitter link). One team made the right-hander a four-year, $80MM contract offer. Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune backs that up (also on Twitter) by noting that the Padres’ offer was “one of the highest,” adding that he had heard Shields was willing to take a small discount to pitch in San Diego.
- That team wasn’t the Cubs, who topped out at three years and a vesting option, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). Chicago wasn’t willing to guarantee Shields a contract in the mid-$70MM range after spending $175MM on Jon Lester and Jason Hammel already this offseason.
- The Marlins also offered Shields a three-year pact and a vesting option, Heyman tweets.
- The Marlins realized they had to bow out on Saturday afternoon once the bidding exceeded $70MM, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro (Twitter links). Miami was concerned not only with blowing up its future payroll but also with forfeiting the No. 12 pick in the draft — the top unprotected pick this year. The Padres, of course surrendered the very next pick in the draft, as they’d been slotted 13th overall. Frisaro adds that Shields monitored the Marlins all winter and was impressed by their direction, but the Padres simply made a stronger offer.
- Olney gets a different sense of the Marlins’ level of involvement, as he tweets that some are of the belief that the Marlins actually made the highest offer to Shields.
- The Cubs‘ guarantee was around $60MM, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. Sherman adds that Shields’ camp pursued the Dodgers far more than the team pursued him, and the Blue Jays hadn’t spoken to Shields in about two weeks when he agreed to terms.
- Also from Sherman’s piece, he opines that while Shields is unquestionably a financial risk — the Friars will be paying him and Kemp roughly $36MM per year beginning in 2016 (the $18MM received from the Dodgers offsets much of the 2015 cost) — he was too good of a deal to pass up. Shields was still cheaper, financially speaking, than Cole Hamels, and he also didn’t cost the prospects Hamels would have required. He also provides leadership and protects them somewhat when Ian Kennedy and Andrew Cashner hit the open market. And, with Kennedy, Carlos Quentin, Justin Upton, Will Venable, Joaquin Benoit, Cory Luebke, Shawn Kelley, Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson all potentially off the books next winter, the team has some financial flexibility.
- Fangraphs’ Mike Petriello writes that while the addition of Shields is an unequivocal boost to the Padres’ postseason hopes, their downfall very well could be a patchwork group of infielders. The Padres’ infield projects at just 5.6 WAR, based on the Steamer projection system, and Petriello looks at the past five seasons’ worth of data to see the correlation between infield WAR and overall wins by a team. Unsurprisingly, the outlook is bleak, with only the 2012 Orioles and A’s receiving a lower WAR contribution and still reaching the playoffs. Of course, as Petriello notes, there’s reason to be optimistic for a rebound from Jedd Gyorko, and there’s still some upside in Yonder Alonso and Will Middlebrooks. The shortstop tandem of Alexi Amarista and Clint Barmes is likely to be a black hole offensively, however.
- Peter Gammons is a bit skeptical of the Padres’ win-now tactics (Twitter links). As Gammons points out, while the team has created some buzz and bolstered its 2015 hopes, by 2017 they’ll have a 32-year-old Matt Kemp and 36-year-old Shields earning significant salaries, and they’ve either traded away their recent first-round picks or watched them flame out. The Padres have just two of their first rounders from 2009-14 still in the system in Hunter Renfroe and Cory Spangenberg, and they now don’t have a first-rounder in 2015. Trea Turner and Joe Ross were in the Wil Myers trade, Max Fried was used in the Justin Upton trade, Karsten Whitson didn’t sign (Spangenberg was selected as compensation the following year) and Donavan Tate was out of baseball last season. The team does still have some supplemental first-rounders in the system, while seventh-rounder Matt Wisler and second-rounder Austin Hedges have become Top 100 prospects.
- Shields provides the Padres with some surprisingly much-needed innings, write Mark Simon and Justin Havens of ESPN. Though the Friars are typically thought of as having a strong pitching staff, their rotation has ranked 22nd or 23rd in innings in each of the past three seasons.
The A’s hosted their annual FanFest today with a sellout crowd of over 15,000. Here are the highlights:
- The A’s experienced plenty of turnover this offseason (nine trades involving 27 players) and the holdovers are starting to see the method in GM Billy Beane’s madness. “Initially when the trades are going on, you’re going, ‘Come on, seriously? Another All-Star caliber player is leaving us?’” said Coco Crisp (as quoted by Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle). “But as things progressed, I started to see things come together, and I understand it from a business standpoint and for the future. Some of the players we got have the potential to be great players and we have another team out to prove ourselves. I think it’s going to work out good.“
- Also from Slusser, Beane has a plan if his offseason maneuvers don’t work. “If one of these (trades) doesn’t work, we’ll make another one because that’s what we do. We’re not going to wait around.“
- Beane apparently isn’t waiting around for James Shields. Slusser has heard rumblings the A’s might be one of the teams still in play for Shields, but she has been assured they are not.
- MLB.com’s Jane Lee updated the status of a trio of injured pitchers in a pair of reports. Sean Doolittle received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection to alleviate inflammation and irritation in his left shoulder. “Everything so far has gone really smoothly,” Doolittle said. “We’re optimistic, but we haven’t set a timetable because, based on what the doctors and trainers have said, every issue is kind of different. With PRP, it’s all about how your body reacts to it.” Doolittle has entered the beginning stages of a strengthening program, but manager Bob Melvin admits there is a good chance his closer will miss the early part of the season.
- A’s Assistant GM David Forst and Melvin both reiterated the probable timetable for starters Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin to return is June, barring any setbacks from their Tommy John surgeries.
- Slusser reports the A’s continue to monitor Cuban infielders Yoan Moncada and Hector Olivera, but doubts the team has the payroll for Moncada having never spent more than $66MM on a player and does not see Olivera receiving an offer greater than the four-year, $36MM deal signed by Yoenis Cespedes.