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Padres’ Shields places reasoned bet

February 11, 2015

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James Shields was the last big-name free agent to decide on a new team for 2015.

This week, he picked the San Diego Padres, which offered him a four-year, $75 million deal, with a $16 million option for a fifth year, according to SB Nation.

The $91 million contract, with option, is the richest in the history of the Padres, surpassing a $52 million deal signed by Jake Peavy in 2007. But it’s notable for another reason: its length.

Unlike other blue-chip pitchers, such as the Detroit Tigers’ Justin Verlander, who has signed contracts allowing him to spend his entire career with the team, and Max Scherzer, the former Tiger who nabbed a complex pact with the Washington Nationals a few weeks ago, Shields’ deal is straight forward, and relatively short.

At 33, and with a record as a workhorse, Shields should be expected to play for all four years of the contract, and barring any injuries, probably make it through the optional fifth year. Then, his paycheck stops.

There’s no long payroll, like the kind Verlander and Scherzer, who got a seven-year deal, are receiving. There also isn’t an elaborate back end to the deal that would result in Shields being paid for years after he stops pitching. Instead, Shields is placing a reasoned bet on his career.

It’s likely Shields had a choice of that kind of a contract from at least one team, given the competition for his services. SB Nation notes,

Shields also drew strong interest from the Cubs and Marlins in recent days this winter, with multiple other teams jumping into the mix within the last week. He received multiple offers and was recruited heavily by many ex-teammates and ex-coaches with different clubs throughout the last few weeks.

There are reports, though, that the Cubs wanted to sign him for three years for $60 million, even shorter than the Padres’ offer.

Without hearing from him, it isn’t possible to know why Shields wanted a simpler deal. But perhaps, by the time this contract is over, he’ll simply be through with baseball.

He has already played nine major-league seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays (2006-2012) and Kansas City Royals (2013-2014). He has a 114-90 record and 3.72 ERA in 286 games (all but one of them starts). He has logged more than 200 innings in every season since 2007, and posted a 3.21 ERA in 34 starts with Kansas City last season.

With Shields’ contract in hand, the focus can turn from money to spring training and new beginnings. Scott Miller at Bleacher Report says the Shields signing makes the Padres a contender, which no one would have considered them to be at the end of 2014.

The clubs begin welcoming players next week.


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  • Micheline Maynard

    Micheline is a contributing columnist at the Washington Post concentrating on business and culture. She has written about flooding in Detroit, tainted water in Benton Harbor, nationwide shortages of restaurant staff, and vaccine hesitancy.

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