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James Shields expected to sign by the end of the week
For weeks the market for James Shields appeared to have cooled off, with few reports indicating progress in negotiations for the free agent after he reportedly rejected a five-year, $110 million deal in early January. If you search MLB Trade Rumors for updates on Shields, you would find that the majority of posts from the past few weeks are about how Shields has lost his leverage in the market or that Team “X” was out on a potential deal. However, dialogue between Shields and potential suitors have finally gained steam, according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, whose sources tell him that Shields has “multiple offers in hand and is expected to make a decision by the end of this week.”

Morosi doesn’t provide specifics regarding which teams have made offers to Shields or what type of offers are on the table, but his report prompted several other reporters to follow up and see which teams have made a pitch to Shields. Joe Frisaro of MLB.com writes that the Marlins and Shields continue to have ongoing conversations, and according to CSNChicago’s David Kaplan the Cubs are “kicking the tires” on the right-hander. But there were also several reports by various national and beat writers ruling teams out of the running. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted that the Giants, Angels, Athletics and Yankees are all out on Shields. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweeted that the Red Sox haven’t made an offer to Shields. The same goes for the Royals, Cardinals, Rangers and White Sox, according to their local beat writers.

While there have been no reports confirming whether or not the Padres have made an offer to Shields, there’s reason to believe that they could be a potential player. Morosi mentioned in his report that rival executives believe San Diego has been in recent contact with Shields’ agent, Page Odle, and Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweeted that the club is “still working hard to get a frontline SP.” There’s also this:

More rumors regarding Shields’ eventual destination will surely emerge in the coming days, but it will be interesting to see what type of deal he is able to command this close to the start of camp. Numerous executives told Ken Rosenthal in early January that they expected Shields to come away with a nine-figure deal, and then there’s the aforementioned five-year, $110 million contract that Rosenthal reported was turned down.

But given the way the market has stalled, perhaps teams are hesitant to commit to a 33-year-old whose strikeout rate has dropped precipitously the past two seasons. A large chunk of that can be attributed to the shift that Shields has made away from his changeup and curveball and toward his fastball and cutter, but it’s also concerning that the whiff rate on his signature cambio dipped to a career-low last season. That didn’t stop Shields from having another excellent season, as his elite walk rate helped him post a 124 ERA+ and log over 200 innings for the eighth straight season. But any time a team is in position to potentially lock a pitcher up into his late 30s there is reason to pause.

Still, it is somewhat surprising to see Shields go this deep into the offseason without being signed. Recently, we’ve seen the qualifying offer slow down the market for the likes of Nelson Cruz, Kyle Lohse, Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew, all of whom were unsigned at this point in the offseason. Shields is in a different class and is still ultimately going to command a multi-year deal. In fact, he might end up standing out as one of the most notable late free agent signs since the stare-down between Scott Boras and the Dodgers over Manny Ramirez during the 2008-2009 offseason. Using MLB.com’s free agent tracker, I was able to go back to 2007 to find all the multi-year deals that have been signed this late in an offseason.

Player

Date

Team

Years

Total

Pedro Feliz

2/7/08

PHI

2

$8.5 M

Oliver Perez

2/4/09

NYN

3

$36 M

Ty Wigginton

2/10/09

BAL

2

$6 M

Adam Dunn

2/12/09

WSH

2

$20 M

Juan Cruz

2/28/09

KCA

2

$5.5 M

Dennys Reyes

3/5/09

SLN

2

$3 M

Manny Ramirez

3/6/09

LAN

2

$45 M

Yoenis Cespedes

3/4/12

OAK

4

$36 M

Michael Bourn

2/15/13

CLE

4

$48 M

Jeff Baker

2/7/14

MIA

2

$3.7 M

Bronson Arroyo

2/12/14

ARI

2

$23.5 M

Fernando Rodney

2/13/14

SEA

2

$14 M

Ubaldo Jimenez

2/19/14

BAL

4

$50 M

Oliver Perez

3/10/14

ARI

2

$4.25 M

Cespedes obviously doesn’t fit the theme of this list, given that he hadn’t even declared as a free agent until that January. Regardless, it stands likely that Shields will end up topping this list in total salary, and by this time next week we should know by exactly how much.

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EddSherwood
2/05
Looking at that list of generally underwhelming performers who got late season multi year deals, seems to demonstrate that if someone is unsigned this late, then there is probably a good reason not to touch them with a barge pole. Caveat emptor
jfranco77
2/05
If his price comes down to the range where Shields + losing a 1st round pick is more attractive than paying prospects + 4/96 or 5/110 for Hamels, then I'd expect the Padres to start getting interested.
AlexHoefer
2/05
The Padres should get interested because it is unlikely they have the ammo to get the Phillies to bite on a Hamels deal anyway.
draysbay
2/05
Hamels carries such little actual value that it seems hard to believe they couldn't put together a package. Of course the guy calling the shots has no idea that perceived value and actual value are two different things.
Mokajige
2/05
I can see it being possibly, perhaps even likely, that the Phillies are asking for more than Cliff Lee is worth. However his actual value is still very high. He's an excellent pitcher.
Mokajige
2/05
By Cliff Lee of course I mean Cole Hamels. ;)
jfranco77
2/05
When the choices appeared to be Hamels at 5/110 or Shields at 5/110, there was an argument to be made for trading prospects for Hamels instead of overpaying for Shields.

At 3/60 or whatever Shields ends up getting, that argument is less convincing.
jsdspud
2/05
Amazing that Oliver Perez appears on this list twice. Scott Boras is the best.