James Shields will reportedly not use his opt-out clause this offseason
Shields has two years and $44 million left on his contract
Following what was inarguably the worst season of his career, Chicago White Sox right-hander James Shields will not use the opt-out clause in his contract this offseason, according to an SB Nation report.
White Sox RHP James Shields will officially opt in to the final two years of his deal, source confirms to @SBNation. Was a formality.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) October 27, 2016
Shields, 35 in December, has two years and $44 million left on his contract. He pitched to a 5.85 ERA (69 ERA+) in 33 starts and 181 2/3 innings this season, including a 6.77 ERA (59 ERA+) in 22 starts and 114 1/3 innings after being traded to Chicago. Shields failed to throw 200-plus innings for the first time since 2006, his rookie season.
Here are five things to know about Shields and his decision not to use his opt-out clause.
1. This is not surprising
Much like the news Yoenis Cespedes will opt out of his contract with the New York Mets , the news of Shields staying with the White Sox is not surprise. This was widely expected. He had a the worst season of his career in 2016 and has been trending downward for a few years now. Shields has had a tremendous career, but clubs usually don't rush to pay soon-to-be 35-year-old pitchers in decline big bucks. Not anymore, anyway.
2. The Padres are still paying Shields
The trade that sent Shields to the White Sox was basically a salary dump. The San Diego Padres were able to unload $27 million of the $58 million left on his contract at the time, which is a significant chunk of change for a small payroll team. They didn't receive a ton in return ( Erik Johnson and Fernando Tatis Jr.), but that's how salary dumps go. San Diego's goal was to shed salary, not get quality players.
Here is the breakdown of the remaining money left on Shields' contract:
- 2017: $21 million salary ($11 million paid by Padres)
- 2018: $21 million salary ($11 million paid by Padres)
- 2019: $16 million club option with $2 million buyout (Padres owe $0 either way)
As far as the White Sox are concerned, Shields is a $10 million pitcher in both 2017 and 2018. You could do worse for $10 million annually in this market. The $2 million buyout of his 2019 option is pocket change to an MLB team as well. The Padres, meanwhile, will pay Shields $22 million not play for them from 2017-18.
Had Shields opted out of his contract, both the White Sox and Padres would have been completely off the hook. They would have owed him nothing going forward.
3. Shields does not have another opt-out
This offseason is the only chance Shields has to opt-out of his contract. He doesn't have another opt-out clause in his contract next offseason and it doesn't roll over from year to year. Shields is essentially exercising a two-year player option that locks him in with the White Sox through 2017.
4. The free agent pitching class gets even worse
The collection of starting pitchers scheduled to hit the open market this offseason is so thin that even this version of Shields would have been one of the best available starters. Even in his decline phase. The free agent pitching class is that bad.
Right now, with Shields not opting out and Stephen Strasburg signing his extension earlier this year, the best available free agent starters this winter will be Rich Hill , Ivan Nova , Bartolo Colon , Doug Fister , and Jeremy Hellickson . Hill is the best bet for potential ace-caliber performance, but he's no lock for even 150 innings in 2017.
5. There is one more opt-out decision pending
The Cespedes and Shields opt-out decisions aren't actually official yet. They won't be until three days after the end of the World Series, when option decisions are due. That's just a formality though. The players have made their decisions.
One player opt-out clause is still pending. Scott Kazmir can opt out of the remaining two years and $32 million left on his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers . He had a 4.56 ERA (85 ERA+) in 26 starts and 136 1/3 innings this season and finished the year on the disabled list with neck and intercostal problems.
Even with this weak free agent pitching class, my guess is Kazmir will remain with the Dodgers and play out the final two years on his contract. He'll be 33 in January and he has a pretty ugly injury history. I'm not sure he'll be able to find more than $32 million in free agency.
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