Thursday, February 5, 2015

The last big free agent

Last month, when Max Scherzer settled on the Washington Nationals for his next team, I opined that none of the compensation pick free agents had gotten burned this winter by deciding against taking the qualifying offer.

A couple of weeks later, James Shields is still out there.

I have a difficult time believing that he's going to get truly burned. I still expect that he'll land a multi-year deal, and probably at an annual rate higher than the $14.6 million of the qualifying offer.

But the chatter earlier this winter -- that he'd turned down a $110 million offer -- has faded away, and the current rumors have him likely to settle for something under $100 million total, maybe less than $80 million. Which would be darn good money for thee or me, but something of a disappointment for him.

Is there an opportunity for the Twins to swoop in? Probably not. In the abstract, I'd rather have Shields than Ervin Santana, but Santana was willing to sign in December and Shields wasn't, and even at $80 million Shields would be considerably more expensive than Santana, I certainly wouldn't sign Shields unless I was dead certain I could move Ricky Nolasco's contract, and I can't see that happening.

Still, it's a curiosity that Shields remains on the market. His durability may be working against him; he's entering his age 33 season, he's topped 200 innings each of the past eight years, and teams may suspect that sooner or later some body part is going to give out. He's likely being picky about where he goes (there's chatter that he's more interested in pitching for a California team, and he's probably not interested in a building project.)

Whether it's his choice or that of the individual teams, he's still out there. And until he signs, we can't close the door on the compensation pick issue for this offseason,

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