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James Shields Rumors
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the Red Sox spent a lot of time with Jon Lester trying to get him over his fear of throwing to bases. It’s an issue that the Cubs will have to address if it arises again and Cafardo is surprised that more opposing teams haven’t tried to pounce on that perceived weakness. That could change, however, as he hears that one team already is looking forward to testing him this season. Here’s more from today’s column..
- Orioles GM Dan Duquette twice has tried to engage in extension talks with Matt Wieters’s agent, Scott Boras, but now it doesn’t appear that the sides will get together before Wieters becomes a free agent. After missing most of 2014, Wieters will earn $8.3MM in his final year of arbitration. The 28-year-old was hitting .308/.339/.500 in 112 plate appearances before right elbow issues forced him to undergo Tommy John surgery.
- Scouts are beginning to at least discuss what the Red Sox may need to receive in order to part with Jackie Bradley in a trade. The Sox don’t appear to be in that mode right now, but there are teams who feel Bradley will turn things around at the plate because he’s hit at every level except the majors. “I think Chili Davis is going to be good for him,” said one scout of Boston’s new hitting coach. “I think he needs someone with a tough approach and Chili isn’t afraid to give someone some tough love.” There has been a great deal of trade talk around Bradley this offseason and Joel Sherman of the New York Post recently suggested that the Braves could make sense as a landing spot.
- Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans told Cafardo that the team offered James Shields a five-year, $80MM contract not long after Jon Lester agreed to join the Cubs.Evans said that Shields wanted time to explore other offers, however, and the timing wasn’t right. A previous report indicated that the Giants made Shields a four-year, $80MM pitch, which is the same length as his deal with the Padres, but worth $5MM more. Shields’ agent Page Odle said in February that his client received more than one offer with a higher AAV than the one he ultimately accepted from the Padres.
- Before Daniel Bard signed a minor league deal with the Cubs this winter, the Red Sox considered bringing him back. Now that early reports are indicating that Bard is throwing hard and possibly cured of the yips that have troubled him the last couple of years, the Cubs must be glad that they decided to give him another chance.
- While many scouts believe that the Dodgers’ offense won’t be as productive without Matt Kemp, many also believe that he will hurt the Padres‘ defense. “Everyone raves about the Padres with Kemp, but they’re going to find some things they’re not going to like, and I’ll leave it at that,” said one scout. For his career, Kemp has a -13.9 UZR/150 rating in the outfield.
ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark recently took a look in at an interesting Braves camp. With so much roster turnover, stars Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman each split the cost of t-shirts with “Hi, my name is” labels to help the new teammates get acquainted. Both Kimbrel and Freeman also emphasized that they had no problems with the team’s offseason shuffling and still believed Atlanta would be competitive. Nevertheless, Kimbrel acknowledges the possibility that circumstances could change. “I made a commitment with the organization that I wanted to be here in Atlanta,” he said. “And them not trading me this offseason shows that they want me here as well. But you know, it is a business, so at any time, that can change. I think, as a player, anyone understands that aspect of the game. … So when moves are made, they may not always be what you like. But it may be what’s best for the team that you’re on at the time.”
Here’s more from the NL East:
- The Braves have scratched lefty Mike Minor from his first scheduled spring outing because he is experiencing tightness in his left shoulder, Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports (Twitter links). According to Bowman, this likely means that Minor will not be ready to take a rotation spot to open the year, as the club will look to avoid another season of ongoing shoulder troubles. The 27-year-old, a key component of the team’s turnaround efforts, is earning $5.6MM this year after defeating Atlanta in arbitration. He comes with two additional seasons of control through arbitration.
- Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez says that he hopes to “convince some people in the front office” to break camp with top prospect Jose Peraza on the roster, as Bowman reports. While his comment was made somewhat in jest, he did note that the coaching staff is split as to whether the speedy 21-year-old is ready for the bigs. Even if he is ready, that may not be enough to sway new president of baseball operations John Hart and top lieutenant John Coppolella. After all, Atlanta has brought in a good number of veteran options to fill out its infield and will surely be loath to sacrifice a year of control given the organization’s current priorities.
- The Marlins‘ best offer to James Shields was for three years and $50MM with a vesting option, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Miami “badly wanted Shields,” says Heyman, but the failure to land him (or fellow free agent target Francisco Rodriguez) has not dampened the enthusiasm of recently-extended superstar Giancarlo Stanton over the team’s busy offseason.
James Shields is already providing value to the Padres, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. “Having him in here is going to be super valuable for this pitching staff,” says Tyson Ross. Shields has impressed the Padres with his attitude and his preparation — he’s already showed many of his teammates his personal book of scouting charts on opposing players. Ross and Robbie Erlin add that they’re looking forward to watching Shields work to see how he stays so durable — Shields has pitched over 200 innings in eight straight seasons, and as Lin notes, Ian Kennedy is the only other Padres starter who’s reached the 200-inning threshold. Here’s more from the National League.
- Infielder Alex Guerrero is facing a crucial year in Dodgers camp, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez writes. Guerrero, who’s now in the second year of a four-year deal, cannot be optioned to the minors this season without his permission, so if the Dodgers don’t find space for him on their active roster, they’ll have to to trade or release him. “I don’t want to go down. I’m not going down,” Guerrero says. “I feel like I can get better here at this level and play every day. I think that’s what every player wants.” Guerrero, 28, hit well at Triple-A last season even given the offense-heavy environment at Albuquerque, batting .329/.364/.613 in 258 plate appearances. The Dodgers have a crowded middle infield, however, with Justin Turner and Darwin Barney also available to back up Howie Kendrick at second base, and there are questions about Guerrero’s defense.
- The Marlins still have plenty of prospect depth despite their offseason trades, president of baseball operations Michael Hill tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. The Marlins dealt Andrew Heaney, Austin Barnes, Anthony DeSclafani and others this offseason, but they still have top 2014 pick Tyler Kolek, along with Justin Nicolino, Trevor Williams, Avery Romero and other solid prospects. Catcher J.T. Realmuto and pitcher Jose Urena top their list of prospects further up the chain. “We have a lot of upper level prospect depth,” says Hill.
“You say, ‘OK, eight years with 200 innings pitched,’ and you can look at it both ways,” said Preller. “We debated it when we were talking about James, and obviously we’re betting that there are quite a few more years of that left…When you study it, there’s nothing definitive that says, ‘Once you turn 33 and have a certain amount of innings, that’s the end of the day.’ You look up and see guys — whether it’s Tim Hudson or Mark Buehrle or a lot of guys — and they’re still doing it. We think with James’ makeup and athleticism, he’s going to be a guy who’ll take the ball for us the next four years in San Diego.”
Here’s more from the NL West..
- Reliever Chris Hatcher was more than a throw-in in the trade that sent Dee Gordon, Miguel Rojas and Dan Haren to the Marlins, Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes. “He was a guy we targeted,” Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi said. “To start off the season, he may be even more important than we anticipated.” The 29-year-old converted catcher has less than 90 big league innings on his odometer, meaning that he won’t be arbitration eligible until 2017.
- Padres veteran Carlos Quentin is trying out first base and that could give rival teams an opportunity to evaluate him and possibly get the ball rolling on a trade, Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego writes. “It can increase value as a player to have versatility,” Quentin said. “It gives (the Padres) an idea of how I might fit in here, possibly. It gives other teams an idea of how I might fit in there. It can only be a good thing.” Quentin also reiterated his openness to waiving his no-trade clause to move to an AL team.
- Andre Ethier, who wants to start in 2015 whether it’s for the Dodgers or another team, doesn’t see himself as a threat to take the starting job away from Joc Pederson in center field. “I just don’t think that’s where I’m best suited to play every day,” said Ethier, according to Bill Plunkett of the OC Register. “If you’re 33 you get moved out of center field. You don’t get moved to center field. For me to say all of a sudden, I’m going to be an option in center field that’s a far reach and a far stretch.”
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.