Well, something very obvious has happened.
White Sox RHP James Shields will officially opt in to the final two years of his deal, source confirms to @SBNation. Was a formality.
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) October 27, 2016
The White Sox now owe James Shields $10 million per season for 2017 and 2018, and $2 million for a buyout of his 2019 option that–judging purely off the data we currently have on hand–they will likely decline.
Not paying for previous production and not paying for years beyond when a player can still effective are both age old adages about how to approach free agency, but that adage ignores that those two avenues are also how players get paid the bulk of their money.
After six seasons of having their pay cost-controlled, free agency is the opportunity for players to leverage their resume on the market, and they use everyone’s immediate need for help to negotiate for long-term security. In other words, the Sox are now holding part of the tab on Shields now that he’s at the end of his long, and fine career, but it’s well-earned for Shields, who never got the chance to take bids on his worth back when he was a finely-tuned innings machine in the late-00’s.
Which isn’t really White Sox fans concern, since even if they manage to separate Shields’ current results from the money he has earned with his larger body of work, he still represents an expensive blunder undertaken by the front office that is both producing extremely poor results for the team and handcuffing them from fixing the problem.
Shields deserves his money, but fans can also be righteously ticked about how much is committed to him and how it will almost undoubtedly block the Sox from rounding out their rotation with a reliable starter. It’s a real “have your cake and and complain about it too,” situation.
Since–and this really cannot be reiterated enough, as the gravity needs to be appreciated–Shields was the worst regular starter in baseball in 2016 (181.2 innings of 69 ERA+), he is completely unmovable beyond the Sox paying all of his salary for another team to try to rehab him. The Sox should at least put themselves in position to benefit if does make an adjustment that renders him playable again. Paying someone to get out of your sight can be cathartic, but rarely comes off as very tactical.
There is no added cost to bringing Shields to Spring Training in 2017, working on his game, and trying to see if he can be merely below average. Spring Training results are not worth much, but if he’s really still 2016-levels of being broken, it’s something the professionals should be able to identify.
Even if they failed to do it last June.
181.2 innings of 69 ERA+, 6.03 DRA and a 123 cFIP is a large sample of absolute awfulness, and he failed the eye test as miserably as possible. But what if he hadn’t? What if I hadn’t seen him? What if I just saw him and his statline from afar as a pitcher with one awful–possibly aberrational–year, who suffered no major injuries? I think I would be more open minded, and think while he’s probably done, it’s always worth it to give him one last check to be sure.
Lead Image Credit: Rick Osentoski // USA Today Sports Images