Though it seemed almost certain that right-hander James Shields would find himself on the open market this offseason, it appears that the Kansas City Royals, aided by their current playoff run, will attempt to re-sign their ace pitcher, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.
Shields, expected to become one of the top free agent pitchers this winter, has established himself as one of the most consistent starters in baseball, having pitched seven straight seasons with 33 or more starts while keeping his ERA under four in all but two of those seasons.
As Heyman writes, the Royals needed a deep playoff run to have a chance of re-signing Shields, and their dramatic victory over the Oakland A's in the American League wild-card game followed by a convincing sweep of the Angels in the division series has put Ned Yost's squad four wins away from the World Series. Shields has made three total starts past the ALDS (two in the CS, one in the World Series), a total he'll build on over the next week.
Kansas City's recent winning might prompt Shields to stick around, but he'd almost certainly be taking a significant pay cut to play for the Royals. Teams like the Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs and others in need of starting pitching appear ready to pay top dollar for an ace like Shields.
Heyman noted that another AL general manager thinks Shields will match the deals signed by Anibal Sanchez ($80 million over five years) and C.J. Wilson ($77.5 million over five years), though Heyman himself thinks Shields will command a $20 million salary. With Jon Lester and Max Scherzer (soon-to-be free agent pitchers of similar caliber to Shields) turning down deals in that ballpark area, it's hard to disagree with Heyman here. Whether or not the Royals' playoff run will give them enough financial flexibility to bring Shields back, their history indicates that fans shouldn't get their hopes up until a deal actually happens.