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James Shields is a major free agent, but one the market does not quite seem to understand how to value. He's 33, so he's older than most free agents who are still playing as well as he is, and he's never been injured at the major-league level, which is a positive but also a frightening thought since no one wants to be the team who's paying him if (or when) he finally does get hurt. That's how we end up with Shields being jobless on January 27. What's relevant about that date? Prince Fielder was the last major free agent to take this long in his offseason negotiations, back in 2012, and he officially agreed to a deal with the Tigers on January 26.
That doesn't mean Shields is out of time or anything. In 2004, Ivan Rodriguez didn't sign his four-year, $40 million deal with the Tigers until February 4 -- $40 million might not sound like it's in Shields' territory, but this was 11 years ago. Kyle Lohse isn't the pitcher that Shields is, but he was still a valuable arm in that same awkward, middish-30s age space of free agency in 2013. He had to wait until March, but he still got three years and $33 million from the Brewers. Shields isn't going to be waiting until May to sign like Stephen Drew or Kendrys Morales did thanks to the draft pick compensation attached to them, and he probably won't even have to wait as long as Lohse. He is likely running out of time to get the kind of deal he wants, though, as soon he's going to need a job more than a team might need him.
Offseason of Speculation
Offseason of Speculation
This is becoming a real concern, even with his talent. The Royals are keeping an eye on him, but are set to have a record payroll and already have a full rotation and then some on hand. The Diamondbacks have said they can't afford him, the Giants decided to bring back Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong instead, and unless the Blue Jays work something out, Shields would put them way over budget for 2015. The Red Sox don't think he's a $20 million a year pitcher in their park, the Yankees aren't spending this kind of money on anyone, the Dodgers have a full rotation, the Padres seem more interested in Cole Hamels... the list goes on.
Shields will get paid, and while it will likely be closer to $80 million than the $100 million plus he envisioned, it'll still be something of a coup for a pitcher his age. The market hasn't seen much of his like in the past, and it's now so late in the offseason that desperation has subsided for many teams, but something is still going to get worked out before the season begins. Where that will be, though, is a question no one is equipped to answer today.
- Rob Manfred likely has some good ideas to implement during his time as MLB commissioner. His plans for limiting defensive shifts are not included on that list, given the reactions.
- It's late-January, so besides wishing for Shields to show up, fans should be dreaming about their team's prospects. Say, the top 20 for each team?
- The Yankees and Alex Rodriguez are set to butt heads on yet another issue, because it had been a few weeks since the last one. They supposedly don't want to pay him the performance bonuses in his contract because people won't view his move through the homer ranks as legitimate, anyway.
- Rob Manfred's signature is now on all of the baseballs. It looks weird, but we'll all be used to it in short order.
- The Red Sox should turn Joe Kelly into Alfredo Aceves. But uh, not the version with Satan in his eyes. We wouldn't want to frighten Larry Walker.
- The Reds and catcher Devin Mesoraco agreed to a four-year extension for $28 million even though they might not have anyone to pitch to him a year from now.
- Hector Olivera is one of the major Cuban players working out for teams, including the Giants and the Padres. More than 200 scouts gathered to watch his workout, with the Padres considered the most likely landing spot for the second baseman.