Max Scherzer is the biggest pitching prize still on the free-agent market, but there is another starter still without a team who is due for a big payday soon.  Former Kansas City Royal James Shields is a little old at 33, but he has had an impressive career and should have plenty of suitors.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported earlier this week that he was told by two executives that Shields has a five-year, $110 million offer on the table.

But in Shields’ case, the question is not whether or not he is a good pitcher, but whether he is worth such a huge contract.

Considering that he is going into his age-33 season, he would be 37 years old while still under contract.  That is very old for a pitcher, especially one with as much mileage on his arm as Shields.  Only four other pitchers accumulated more innings than Shields from 2007 to 2012, according to, and it is questionable if he can sustain that durability throughout the duration of his contract.

One positive statistic for Shields going forward is that he hasn’t lost velocity on his fastball as he has gotten older.  In fact, his velocity has increased every year since 2011, according to Fangraphs.  This indicates that he might have what it takes to be a workhorse deep into his 30s.

Another thing that needs to be taken into account is the other big-time arms on the market this offseason.  Max Scherzer is reportedly looking for at least $200 million, and Jon Lester signed a six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs in early December.  Shields is not quite as good as either of those guys, but his stats show that he is at least in the conversation.  With that in mind, $110 million for Shields might be a bargain considering what other aces on the market have signed for.

It also needs to be noted that the team that eventually signs Shields is getting not only a quality pitcher but one who can transform an entire pitching staff.  When he was traded to the Royals before the 2013 season, they were a hopeless franchise.  Only two years later, they were playing in the World Series.

Shields changed the culture of the rotation, infusing the mindset of taking the ball every fifth day and competing as much as possible.  The Royals‘ pitching is what led them deep into October, and Shields was a big reason why.

So the intangibles have to be considered in addition to his statistics.  Not only is he likely to give his new team 30 to 35 starts and over 200 innings per season, but he also helps improve the people around him.

In conclusion, the $110 million rumor is not overly outrageous.  Realistically, it is way too much for any player, but in an age when baseball teams are making more and more money, Shields’ body of work should net him at least $100 million.

If Lester is worth $155 million and Scherzer is hoping for $200 million, then it doesn’t seem too far-fetched that Shields will sign at least a $100 million contract.

He has proven in his career to be one of the most durable workhorses in the league, and whoever signs him will drastically improve their pitching staff.

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