If there was one player that deserved to get paid, that was worth spending the money to keep him, it was James Shields. He may not have had the win total that Justin Verlander had for the Tigers, but for the Rays he was every bit as valuable and maybe even more. No pitcher went deep into games like Shields and he wasn’t just an innings eater, he was a frontline starter. With the depth and young talent the Rays have on their staff, it was a question, maybe not much of one, as to whether or not Tampa was going to exercise the option on Shields’ contract. Monday they answered that question and Shields will return to lead the Rays young staff for another season.
Shields was a workhorse for the Rays in 2011, going into or past the seventh inning in 28 of his 33 starts. He led the majors with eleven complete games, which is a stat that doesn’t even really seem possible these days. Of those eleven complete games, he recorded four shutouts tying him for the league lead with Derek Holland. Shields led the Rays in basically every pitching category last year. He was first in wins, innings pitched, strikeouts and ERA. Still, even with all of those stats and the fact that Shields wanted to return to the Rays, it was no guarantee the Rays would bring him back.
By picking up the option, Shields will make at least 7.5 million next season and that total could grow to 8 million if Shields is in the top five of the Cy Young Award voting. With the numbers Shields had that is certainly possible if not likely. That would be over two million dollars more than the highest paid Rays player last year.
Re-signing Shields does not mean the Rays are breaking open the bank by any means, but it at least means they’re not turning into the Kansas City Royals or the Pittsburgh Pirates. After an offseason where they lost a plethora of key contributors and nearly cut their payroll in half, it at least makes the statement the Rays plan to stay competitive and keep talent when they can. At a time when the team is looking for a new stadium and animosity has been brewing between the ownership and the mayor of St. Petersburg, it has to be encouraging for fans to see a familiar face like Shields returning, at least for one more year.