James Shields Lost Out on More Money to Sign with Padres

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It turns out the San Diego Padres weren’t actually the highest bidder for free agent pitcher James Shields.

Jon Heyman reports that the big righty turned down a 4 year $80M deal from the division rival San Francisco several weeks before he ended up signing with the Padres for 4 years and $75M.

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This just shows how the puzzle pieces fit together – not just for the teams – but also for the players in the complicated free agent landscape.

Of the big three free agent pitchers on the market this winter: Shields, Max Scherzer, and Jon Lester, Shields was the oldest.  While “post-season hero” was once Shields claim to fame in recent seasons that tag had faded and been passed along to Jon Lester. Lester in three World Series starts is 3-0 with a 0.42 ERA. Shields in contrast fell to 1-2 with a 4.33 ERA after his most recent October where we went 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA and only managed 9 IP in 2 starts.

Heyman reported that the deal from the Giants came in December as they tried to sort out their 2015 rotation with Jake Peavy in limbo on a contract. Once he was re-signed, they pulled the offer from Shields and he was left with the Padres and Cubs pursuing him. Shields does live in San Diego and grew up in southern California so signing with the Padres does help him stay closer to home, though it’s hard to say for an extra $5M he wouldn’t be just as happy if he had ended up with the Giants.

Perhaps Shields also considered the legacy he could build for himself coming to the Padres? Think about this: As he came up with the Rays in 2006 their franchise had never been to the playoffs. In 2008 after Shields went 14-8 they advanced to the World Series for the first time in franchise history yet came up short to the Phillies.

Then, he is traded to the Royals in 2013 after they had not been to the playoffs in 30 years. His second year there he takes them to the World Series. Now he comes to the Padres, who of course have never won the World Series and only been there twice but not to the playoffs since 2006. Can he pull a three-peat with teams of bad playoff histories and be the hero again? Will the third team be a charm to bring home the ring? Also on this year’s Padres he is playing the supporting cast role more than on his previous teams.

Of course for being such a team hero in the past he certainly got the short end of the money stick. Scherzer signed for $210M and seven years and Lester settled into Chicago at six years and $155M. The fact that Shields leads the majors in innings pitched for the last eight seasons was a double-edged sword at 33, and some teams saw that as a sign that he is going to break down at any moment. Certainly that fact made the four year deal attractive to Shields, as the history of non-PED using hard-throwing 37 year-olds isn’t very strong.

The latest information is another sign of how well things worked out for AJ Preller this off-season as the Padres rookie General Manager. He saved $5M from what the Giants offered, still got his man, and rebuilt the offense around him in the process. Remember when the Padres outbid the Red Sox on Pablo Sandoval and he still went to Boston anyway? AJ Preller moved on from that the day after it happened and turned the tables along the way.

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