Oct 21, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher James Shields (33) throws a pitch against the San Francisco Giants in the first inning during game one of the 2014 World Series at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Last night, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that James Shields received an offer for $110 million for 5 years from a “mystery team.” Could it be the Houston Astros?
James Shields was the ace in Kansas City the past two seasons and helped get that team to the World Series. In 2014, he went 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA in 227 innings. For his career, Shields has posted a 114-90 record with a 3.72 ERA during the regular season, and 3-6 record with a 5.46 ERA in the postseason.
In 2015, the Astros’ rotation will contain Scott Feldman, Dallas Keuchel, and Collin McHugh, with Brett Oberholtzer and Mike Foltynewicz contending for the remaining two spots. The group did much better job than expected last year, but there is room for improvement. Only Keuchel posted a winning record (12-9 with a 2.93 ERA) and pitched 200 innings. Shields would compete with Keuchel as staff ace, and with an improved bullpen, an addition like this could put Houston near the 90-win mark this year. But is he worth the cost financially and in the long-term plan?
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There are two things to consider.
First, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reported that the Astros front office was looking to raise the team payroll by about $20 million this offseason. With the additions of Jed Lowrie, Pat Neshek, and Luke Gregerson, the Astros have already spent $19.5M. Jeff Luhnow would have to have full confidence that Shields would be a good deal and would also have to convince owner Jim Crane to spend more.
Second, Shields is 33 years old, which would make him the third oldest player on the team behind Neshek and Chad Qualls. He is not a dinosaur, but old enough that he is on the back side of career. He is the type of pitcher who would fit on a contender, but not the type of guy who an up-and-coming team like Houston would add because they are not in “World Series or bust” mode yet. Furthermore, as explained by Matthew Leach on mlb.com, the team who signs him would have to give up a compensatory draft pick because Shields is a restricted free agent. Would Luhnow be willing to part with a draft pick at this point of the rebuilding process?
While it is possible that the Astros were the “mystery team,” it seems unlikely that James Shields wears orange and blue this season. But who knows, maybe we will all be surprised.