Shields is entering the final year of his contract and will be eligible for free agency after the upcoming season. The Royals picked up the right-hander's $13.5 million club option earlier this offseason, but haven't yet engaged Shields in any talks about a long-term extension, and according to Bowden, have no plans to negotiate with him before the season starts.
With Shields adamant that he does not want to negotiate with the Royals during the season, the 32-year-old pitcher looks likely to be headed for free agency next winter unless Kansas City has a change of heart. Considering the strong package the Royals traded to get Shields, their lack of interest in extending the eight-year veteran is a bit puzzling.
The former Rays starter had a strong year for the Royals during his first season in Kansas City in 2013. The eight-year veteran finished with a 3.15 ERA in 228.2 innings pitched, with nearly three times as many strikeouts as walks. Shields also reached the 200-inning plateau for the seventh straight season.
Indeed, Shields' consistency and durability is a big reason why the Royals traded their top prospect Wil Myers, along with other minor leaguers, to the Rays for the right-hander. Shields has started at least 30 games in every year since 2006, and over the last three seasons, has posted a 3.15 ERA.
While Shields hasn't ruled out re-signing with the Royals next offseason, letting him go would be a risky proposition for Kansas City. The club had one of the better rotations in the AL last season, but the Royals look unlikely to re-sign Ervin Santana after his stellar 2013 campaign.
Behind Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas and Bruce Chen will hold down the rotation this season, while youngsters Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy will compete for the fifth spot. Losing Shields after 2014, then, would leave a pretty big hole at the top of the Royals rotation.
That Shields doesn't want negotiate during the season doesn't mean the Royals won't re-sign him, of course. But the right-hander might just find a sweeter offer if he does head to free agency next offseason.