The pitcher was signed to the largest free agent contract in franchise history in February of 2015 and never really justified the pay. The four-year/$75 million dollar contract was almost immediately regretted by the front office as the 2015 Padres disappointed in so many ways. Shields was not the only one at fault, but with his salary, he was an easy target to single out by the Fowler.
Within the deal he signed with the Padres comes an opt out clause after the 2016 season. He may elect to become a free agent and void his last two guaranteed years at $21 million dollars each.
That particular opt out clause is of great concern to the Padres and their future. They have agreed to pay $11 million dollars in each of the next two seasons (if he fails to opt out) on top of the $16 million they are paying this season for Shields to pitch in Chicago.
If Shields leaves the Windy City after the season the Padres will not owe him anything. If he stays, it’s going to be painful to have him on the books for the 2017 & 2018 season. Padres fans are going to have to hope for a productive 2016 season from Shields the rest of the way. At this point it does not appear the 34-year-old pitcher will opt out and walk away from $44 million dollars. It is tough to say for sure though. The free agent market on starting pitching this winter is really weak.
Even in a thin market, Shields would be foolish to risk that kind of money. It is no secret that he would like to pitch close to home and Chicago is not close to Southern California. However the future of his family and their income is not something a player would or should fool with. Shields would have to go on a dominant run in order for him to opt out and look for a multi-year deal elsewhere. He is capable of such a performance, but at age 34, it really doesn’t seem all that likely. Fans must put the past behind them and root for Shields to pitch well or his name will haunt this team financially for the next few seasons.
Some fans are complaining that the team dealt Shields too early and perhaps another team wouldn’t have made the Padres pay so much of his remaining salary. We will never know. In reality the Padres were very satisfied with Fernando Tatis Jr and Erik Johnson. They view each player as a decent prospect. Tatis in particular had been a target of the Padres before he signed with the Sox last season. A.J. Preller admires this young man and when you team him with Hudson Sanchez, the Padres have two nice high-upside players under the age of 18. The Padres are building towards the future and James Shields is nothing but a distant memory. His contract on the other hand, might live famously the next few seasons.