Right hander James Shields may not know for certain where he’ll be playing in 2013, but at least he knows how much money he’ll make while doing so.
The Tampa Bay Rays exercised a $10.5 million option year in Shields’ contract that keeps the all-star under team control through the 2013 season. Shields remains a trade candidate, however, as his salary is much more palatable for other teams than it is for the thrifty Rays. In addition, Tampa also picked up a $1.8 million option on veteran catcher Jose Molina.
Shields has been one of the American League’s top hurlers over the past two years, winning a combined 31 games and completing 14 starts in that span. Coming off a third-place finish in the Cy Youngvoting in 2011, Shields saw his ERA jump from 2.82 to a still very good 3.52 in 2012, but he actually improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio this season.
Having just finished his age-30 season, Shields has a solid history of dependability, making at least 30 starts and tossing at least 200 innings in each of the past six season. He also features one of baseball’s best change-ups. In years past, the Rays have been hesitant to deal from their glut of starting pitching depth, but Shields has now gotten to the point where it makes little sense financially to keep him around.
The free agent market will be humming with teams hot on the trail of right hander Zack Greinke, but for those who lose out, Shields figures to be the next-best available starter, or at worst just behind Anibal Sanchez. The difference being, of course, that while Greinke and Sanchez will cost only dollars, Shields will also cost a trade package that will no doubt be heavy in talent.