The speculation surrounding the decision of James Shields has reached a fevered pitch, and he is expected to make said decision before the end of the day today (Per reports on the twitter). In the past few days the Cubs have entered the fray as being one of the teams that Shields is considering, along with the Padres, who seem to be the favorite. Here’s the thing about Shields, do the Cubs actually want him, and does he make them better?
Let’s break down some of the factors here.
$ MONEY $ –
James Shields wants to get paid. At the onset of free agency he saw Jon Lester get a boat load of cash from the Cubs, and Max Scherzer was weighing deals North of $200M before signing one with the Nationals. Surely, Shields is not worth near that much, but when that kind of money is being thrown at pitchers, you become more desirable, in your own mind and your agents. Then came the report from Ken Rosenthal that Shields turned down a deal for 5 years worth $110M, say what? One, I don’t think Shields would be foolish enough to turn that kind of a deal down, and two, I don’t think that deal ever existed. A report that came out yesterday confirmed just that, there was no mythical $100M+ deal on the table for Shields, well, it’s from Bob Nightengale so take that for what it’s worth. There are a myriad of reasons that Shield remains unsigned with under two weeks before camps open, money is one of the reasons why. The other one could be that he does have draft pick compensation tied to him, meaning any team that signs Shields before June 8th will have to forfeit a draft pick because Shields was given a qualifying offer by the Padres, that’s important but not something that would kill a deal.
LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION –
James Shields is from Newhall, CA which is just a scant 150 miles North of San Diego, that intrigues James. The last few days have shed light on the narrative that Shields wants to be on the West Coast close to his hometown, that would obviously favor the Padres, I mean I’m no Geography major, but I can use Google maps. The question is, how much does that matter to Shields? He has spent his whole career doing the exact opposite as he has pitched for Tampa Bay, and Kansas City. Not like he had a choice there I guess, he was drafted by the Rays and was traded to the Royals, but he does have the decision now.
THE MADDON FACTOR –
It’s real. I don’t put too much weight in things like this, but it’s clear that players around the league want to play for Joe Maddon. Shields has already played for Maddon in Tampa Bay, and has said that he would like to do it again. As late as last evening, Julie DiCaro said that her sources (SOURCES!)
have said that the Cubs are still in on Shields, and that Maddon and Lester have been on the phone with Shields. I presume that these phone calls weren’t only about playing for the Cubs, but where the best pizza and beer is at.
So, is James Shields good enough? Yes, he is a very good pitcher that has been very successful at the major league level, even earning the moniker “Big Game James.” However I’m not sold on Shields but think he does make the Cubs better immediately to the tune of maybe 3-5 wins above replacement. That kind of impact is not worth those kind of dollars, or years for that matter. To be clear, I have no issue with the Cubs spending that kind of money, they have plenty of it. My issue lies more with the fact that I do not think that Shields is worth that money, or commitment, either way it won’t handcuff Cubs moving forward. When it’s all said and done I think that Shields signs a 4 year deal worth around $65-$70 million, not with the Cubs. The situation is drawn out, but fluid, so things can change quickly.