The cap on James Shields‘ pen to make his contract with the San Diego Padres official hasn’t even come off and the rest of baseball is already looking around wondering how the signing will impact them.
The Philadelphia Phillies lost a trading partner in the Padres for starting pitcher Cole Hamels. With Shields, the Padres are very unlikely to add another top-tier arm. Instead, the Phillies will have to hope the Boston Red Sox realize they are without a true ace for the 2015 season and Hamels is the guy they need.
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Shields signing with the Padres also means any team interested in him can disappointingly hang their heads low and refer to him as “the one that got away.” During the early winter months, Shields was linked to several teams. He was the cheaper alternative to Jon Lester and Max Scherzer and the redheaded step-child among the three. Whether the 29 other teams entered the Shields Sweepstakes or just browsed momentarily, they are now left to wonder if maybe they should have pushed harder. For the lower than expected price tag Shields agreed to, it may have been unwise to give up so quickly.
Even more directly impacted are the teams Shields will compete against most in the National League West. Suddenly, winning the pennant got a lot tougher for the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. Although their respective aces, Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw, are in a different class than Shields, he remains a formidable foe for them to deal with. Pushing the Padres around is a lot harder because now they push back.
Finally, there’s the impact the signing will have on the free agency market of the future based on the money Shields is getting. The reasonable deal for Shields may cause pitchers eligible for free agency next year to lose out on a little bit of money. If a pitcher of Shields’ caliber and reputation to pitch as good, often, and as much as he always has can earn under $20 million a season, what reason does a team have to give a guy more?
Although most probably valued Shields a little too much, he’s only set to make about a million more per season than Homer Bailey. This has more to do with the Cincinnati Reds overpaying Bailey than anything else, but worth noting for the sake of comparing him to other pitchers. Shields’ new contract also averages less per season than fellow 2014-2015 free agents Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. This too could help set a trend where position players are valued more when it comes to a team’s wallet.
At the same time, Shields’ contract sets a new for the biggest in Padres’ history. Previously, the biggest contract the team ever handed out was a three-year, $52 million deal to Jake Peavy. The impact of this shows us that traditionally “cheap” teams are now willing to spend. In 2016, will someone like the Pittsburgh Pirates break the bank?
Before he’s even thrown his first pitch with the Padres, Shields has changed a few things around the MLB. His ultimate impact, though, has yet to be seen and won’t for some time. A lot depends on how he does and whether this is ends up as a good move or one the Padres regret.