As you’d expect from a Cy Young-caliber pitcher with baseball’s most powerful agent, Max Scherzer has some rather large contract demands that he doesn’t seem interested in backing down from.

This ought to be just fine by fellow free-agent ace James Shields. For the longer Scherzer waits for teams to meet his price, the more likely Shields is to get teams to meet his own price.

Thanks to Ken Rosenthal of, we have an idea of what “Shields’ price” entails these days:

Though the front-runners for Shields are not known, a number of executives tell FOX Sports they expect the free-agent right-hander to land a contract of at least five years, $100 million.

Two execs say it is their understanding that Shields has a five-year, $110 million offer and is looking for an even higher guarantee…

If so, here’s the situation on the Shields market: The floor is $100 million, the price to beat is $110 million, and, as far as the 33-year-old right-hander is concerned, the price to match is even higher.

Now, Rosenthal did report Monday night that Shields doesn’t want to play for the team that’s offered $110 million. That goes against the advice of the executives Rosenthal spoke to for his initial report, as they indicated Shields would be overplaying his hand in rejecting $110 million to seek more money.

But if Shieldswho’s coming off a 3.21 ERA across 227 innings with the Kansas City Royals in 2014is indeed holding out for more money, it’s hard to blame him. His market has put him in a position to try and up the ante, and Scherzer‘s waiting game could be just what Shields needs to pull it off.

At the outset of the offseason, there was no doubt Shields was in a group with Scherzer and Jon Lester among the best starting pitchers on the market. Projections for his eventual contract, however, were relatively subdued.

Jon Heyman of predicted Shields would get $110 million over five years, but an agent and a general manager put Shields in the $100 million range. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors aimed lower at $95 million. FanGraphs‘ crowd-sourced projections aimed even lower at $90 million. Yours truly aimed even lower still, pegging Shields at $80 million over four years, with an option for a fifth.

As such, a $100 million contract for Shields looked more like the best-case scenario than the likely scenario. That Shields is now expected to fetch at least $100 million tells us the situation has changed.

And looking between the lines, it’s not hard to deduce how.

For starters, there was Lester signing a six-year, $155 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. That was the high end of what he was projected for, which always had a chance to benefit Shields.

It would seem that it has. After Lester set the market for elite pitching at around $26 million per year, it’s no surprise that Shields has gone from being a borderline $20 million-per-year starter to a more ironclad $20-22 million-per-year starter. 

It also helps, though, that Shields apparently has the right kind of market working for him.

We know from ESPN’s Jim Bowden that the Miami Marlins are interested, and another thing Rosenthal reported Monday night is that the Arizona Diamondbacks are also interested. It’s noteworthy that Rosenthal thinks that’s an indication Shields’ market isn’t actually at $100 million, but just because Arizona can’t afford that doesn’t mean other teams in the mix can’t.

And that could be quite the list. According to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, the Cubs, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, and San Francisco Giants are among the heavier hitters that have been linked to Shields. Exactly which of them, if any, have offers out to Shields is unknown, but now you have an idea about the strength of Shields’ market.

So it makes sense that Shields now seems guaranteed to get at least nine figures. Lester’s contract helped push his market in that direction, and the strength of said market has taken things from there.

Of course, Shields will need a bit more leverage if he wants to push his value over the high offer of $110 million. That’s where Scherzer can help, and all he has to do is keep demanding what he wants.

On that note, let’s refer back to what Jon Morosi of tweeted last month:

Admittedly, it’s the kind of demand that sounds nuts at first.

But then, the existence of Clayton Kershaw‘s contract means there’s precedent for a $200 million pitcher. It also happens that FanGraphs WAR says only Kershaw has been better than Scherzer since 2013.

Also, leave it to Scott Boras to tell it like it is.

“Last year he turned down a deal for seven years and $160 million,” the super-agent said at the winter meetings to a group of reporters that included’s Jerry Crasnick. “He looked at the markets. We have a new revenue structure in the game. We’re well over $9 billion [in revenues] and he really wanted to have the opportunity for choice…Going into this, we knew there really wasn’t going to be any other pitcher who would impact his free-agent pursuit.”

At the least, Scherzer should have no problem topping Lester’s $155 million. But it wouldn’t be surprising if he ended up getting his $200 million. He has a strong case for it, and Boras does tend to get what he wants for his biggest stars even if it means a lot of waiting (see Fielder, Prince and Holliday, Matt).

Of course, while the list of teams that could use Scherzer is long, the list of teams that can afford him at a Lester-like price if short. The list of teams that can afford him at $200 million is even shorter. If he refuses to budge from that demand, teams that want him could give up and consider other options.

Namely Shields, who’s an obvious plan B in a sea of plan Zs. And in the end, that could be his ticket to pushing his price well over $100 million.

If the market for Shields is already strong enough to produce a $110 million offer, it stands to reason it will only be stronger if teams that are currently prioritizing Scherzer start prioritizing Shields instead.

That would either add more serious buyers to a market that’s already strong or enhance the interest of the serious buyers who also have their eyes on Scherzer. Either way, Shields’ people will be able to take the present bidding war for his services to the next level.

To boot, it’s not like Shields’ people don’t have the arguments they need to justify doing so.

Though Shields, Scherzer and Lester look similarly productive over the last two years, focusing on workload and run prevention allow Shields to stand alone on a slightly longer timeline:

Note: “ERA+” is ERA adjusted for parks and leagues on a scale where anything over 100 is above average.

Working against Shields is his age and mileage. Being 33 years old is not ideal at a time when, as Jeff Todd of MLBTR noted, teams are valuing youth like never before. And though Shields’ eight straight 200-inning seasons paint him as a workhorse, it’s natural to wonder if they’ve taken a toll on his arm.

However, it is possible to downplay these red flags.

Shields’ people can use his recent velocity increase to argue he’s only getting stronger. And as Paul Casella highlighted at Sports on Earth, Greg Maddux and Mark Buehrle can be pointed to as recent examples of pitchers who followed heavy early-career workloads with success deep into their 30s.

And hey, it doesn’t hurt that there’s a case for Shields as a missing link kind of player. In the words of’s Mike Bauman:

But the thing about Shields has been that his value to a club has not been measured only through pitching statistics. With the Tampa Bay Rays, and then with Kansas City, he has played a leading role in the transformation of not only a rotation, but a team.

The above arguments could start sounding more and more appealing as spring training and Opening Day draw nearer. And even if the bidding for Shields pushes his value to $115 or even $120 million, that’s still a long, long way off from what Scherzer is asking for.

Mind you, none of this should be taken as an endorsement for meeting Shields’ demands. Despite his merits, I still like my initial projection as a fair price for Shields. Further,’s Jay Jaffe can vouch that spending even as much as $100 million on Shields would be a risky venture.

Nonetheless, it sounds like Shields could sign a contract for at least that much right now if he wanted to. And as long as Scherzer keeps insisting on a price few can pay, Shields has a shot at selling his own ambitious asking price as a discount.

Never mind “Big Game James.” By the time this offseason is over, “Make It Rain James” could be a more appropriate nickname.


Note: Stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted/linked.  

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