Big-money James? Market for Shields is strong, unpredictable

Free-agent pitcher James Shields seems on track to get a contract worth $100 million. The question is from what team.

Christopher Hanewinckel/Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Think the Max Scherzer market is a mystery? Try figuring out which team is getting James Shields.

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. But others say that if Shields actually has such an offer, he should take it.

Shields’ agent, Page Odle, has consistently declined comment throughout the free-agent process and did not respond to an email on Sunday.

The talk of Shields and $100 million does not mean that he indeed will land such a deal. Third baseman Chase Headley reportedly received a four-year, $65 million offer from an unidentified club early in free agency but wound up re-signing with the Yankees for four years, $52 million.

Some executives, in fact, say they would be surprised if Shields topped $100 million, considering he is 33 and perhaps due for regression coming off eight straight 200-inning seasons. 

The bottom line: Certain clubs have backed off Shields due to the expected price, according to major-league sources. The Marlins and Diamondbacks are among those teams, sources say. 

Free agency is fluid, and teams often mask their intentions or shift course. At the moment, however, sources say:


*The Giants, after re-signing free-agent right-hander Jake Peavy, are “not focused” on Shields or any other pitcher to be their sixth starter.

*The Red Sox, projected to be an early favorite for Shields, are maintaining contact with his camp but are “highly unlikely” to sign him.

*The Padres, seemingly content with their rotation, are not seeking to add Shields.

The Royals, Shields’ previous team, also would appear to be out, particularly if the righty’s price is high. The team already has committed $68.3 million to six free agents — pitchers Edinson Volquez, Kris Medlen, Luke Hochevar and Jason Frasor, plus designated hitter Kendrys Morales and outfielder Alex Rios.

The Yankees, Tigers and Angels are among the teams with questions in their rotation, but none has been linked to Shields, who received a qualifying offer from the Royals and would cost any new team a draft pick in addition to salary.

Shields went 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA last season but struggled to a 6.12 ERA in 25 postseason innings. He has worked 1,910-1/3 innings in his career, compared to 1,596 for Jon Lester and 1,239-1/3 for Scherzer. 

Lester signed a six-year $155 million free-agent contract with the Cubs. Scherzer rejected a six-year, $144 million offer from the Tigers in spring training, and remains on the open market.