A little over two weeks ago now, Max Scherzer signed a mammoth sized contract to become a member of the Washington Nationals. Immediately, the Nationals became owners of the best starting rotation in all of baseball. In that moment, we looked at how Scherzer helped the Twins by hurting the Tigers, but what if he hurt James Shields too?
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With Scherzer moving out of the AL Central, and away from teams that the Twins general have to face, Minnesota got an immediate boost. The bigger benefit comes in the form of the Tigers taking such a big hit. Now without Scherzer, and Rick Porcello, the Tigers must rely on Justin Verlander bouncing back along with Anibal Sanchez staying healthy. In other words, Dave Dombrowski not bringing back his staff ace puts them in a bind.
At this point however, it’s fair to start looking at the free agency market, noticing James Shields is still sitting there, and wonder if Scherzer didn’t hurt him some too.
It was said that Shields was initially looking for a five-year deal around $100 million, but would settle for something closer to four years and $80 million. Those rumblings took place weeks ago, and with him still treading water in the market, have teams cooled to the point of not seeing Scherzer being worth more than a three-year deal around $50 or $60 million?
When Scherzer signed his seven-year $210 million deal with the Nationals, baseball looked in awe. Knowing they didn’t have the money up front, Washington decided to differ half of Scherzer’s salary and will pay him $15 million until he is 44 years old and well off of their roster. As those details came out, baseball looked upon with laughter. Is that really what it is going to cost to acquire a top-tier starter in free agency? One has to wonder; James Shields has to wonder.
Sure, Shields was never going to command the contract that Scherzer got. He’s 33 years old with just under 2,000 innings under his belt. As an innings eater, he can be relied upon to be a consistent starter, and a good one at that. While his price tag might not be as high, there is little room to argue that Scherzer’s deal didn’t send shockwaves through the market, and unfortunately that produces ripple effects.
As teams looked at the amount Scherzer signed to, they immediately had to be taken aback. Now wanting to further protect their money, the $80 or $100 million they once may have been open to handing to Shields drops by a certain percentage. As the time in which he ends up sitting on the market continues, that percent continues to drop. Obviously by no intention of his own, it would appear as though Scherzer made the market rethink the way in which it wanted to negotiate.
Now, for Shields, Spring Training is quickly approaching. Teams are working to pencil in their rotations and figure out what kind of help they need. Minor league deals and stop-gap transactions are being made, but the big fish have found a new pool, except for Shields. What once was set to be a time where the long-term extension and big pay-day could be had, now may be a short-term deal with a respectable average annual value.
You can bet that many teams are checking in on Shields trying to figure out where he perceives his value to be at, and what he warrants as an acceptable amount. At any rate, crunch time has set in, and the negotiating power was swayed when once pitcher shocked the market.
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