Right-handed pitcher Adam Wainwright is one of the most consistent starters in major league baseball.
At 32, the only thing that has been able to slow Wainwright is injuries. He missed the 2011 seasons after having Tommy John surgery and was not himself completely in 2012, either.
For the most part, though, Wainwright has been outstanding for the St. Louis Cardinals, as his 99-57 career record and 3.11 ERA suggests.
I mention Wainwright because he’s comparable to Kansas City Royals ace James Shields, another workhorse, top-of-the-rotation starter who is entering the final year of his contract with KC. You’ll remember, the Royals gave up a bounty to Tampa Bay, including American League Rookie of the Year in 2013, Wil Myers, to get Shields before the 2013 season, even though there wasn’t much time left on his contract.
Myers, meanwhile, is under team control in Tampa for the next five seasons.
It was reported Tuesday that the Royals probably will not discuss a contract extension with Shields before the season. And Shields has said he has no plans to talk contract once the season begins. If that’s the case, it’s likely Shields will become a free agent after the 2014 season, at which time the Royals could bid for his services. But so could the other 29 teams in baseball.
And what are we to make of this?
Wainwright signed a five-year extension with the Cardinals during spring training last season for $97.5 million. That’s a lot of money, of course, but Wainwright might have been able to do better. Consider that Zack Greinke and the Los Angeles Dodgers last season agreed on a six-year extension for $147 million. Greinke is 30 and his numbers (106-82, 3.65) aren’t as good as those of Wainwright.
It’s been reported that Shields, who has yet to cash in as a free agent, is looking for a Greinke-like contract. And that’s a stretch, considering he has never won more than 16 games in a season. Shields is a very good pitcher, but I question whether he’s the kind of No. 1 starter who can lead a team to a World Series. I guess we’ll find out.
What’s too bad is that Shields and the Royals can’t work something out before this season, the way the Cardinals did with Wainwright in 2013. True, Wainwright had more of a history with the Cardinals than Shields has with the Royals. Wainwright made no bones about his desire to return to St. Louis and he probably chopped a few dollars off his asking price to make it happen.
I don’t get the sense Shields is willing to make such a concession. Nor should he. Still, I’m a little surprised Kansas City isn’t trying to work something out with their ace pitcher now. Losing Shields after the 2014 season, coming on the heels of Ervin Santana’s departure after the 2013 season, would take KC’s top two starters out of the mix.
The Royals are high on some of their young pitching, namely Yordany Ventura and Kyle Zimmer. There are others. But Shields is an anchor of a staff. He’s pitches a ton of innings – more than 200 seven seasons in a row – and is a clubhouse leader. He’s not only a good pitcher but a nasty one, too.
Obviously, it would be expensive to keep Shields in Kansas City. But he’s only 32 and, knock on wood, should have several good years remaining.
As of right now, it appears those good years will be spent somewhere other than in a Royals uniform. Meanwhile, Myers is off to an outstanding start in his young career as a right fielder in Tampa.
Two years of Shields for at least six of Myers seems like a bad trade if the Royals aren’t going to try and lock up Shields.