Shields deal set; announcement Wednesday
UPDATE (11:40 p.m.)
The new deal could pay Shields more than $38-million over the full seven years, the Times has learned. Plus there are incentive clauses that could push the total value to more than $40-million. The guaranteed portion of the deal - the first four seasons and a buyout of the options - is believed to be worth about $12-million.
UPDATE (10:21 p.m.)
The Rays have completed the long-term contract with James Shields and will announce it Wednesday at a 2 p.m. media conference. "It's a done deal,'' agent Page Odle said after leaving a meeting. The contract could keep Shields with the Rays for seven seasons, through 2014, with the first four years guaranteed and the Rays holding options for the next three.
Rays pitcher James Shields' agent is meeting with the Rays tonight to finalize a long-term contract that, with options, could keep the righthander with the team for the next seven seasons.
"My goal is to have this done tonight,'' agent Page Odle said.
The deal is expected to be completed and announced on Wednesday. The Rays have scheduled what they describe as a "major announcement regarding a player signing" at 2 p.m. Shields was in St. Petersburg on Tuesday for physical exams.
"We have a couple of issues to still resolve,'' Odle said. "The years and terms are still being talked about. There's a couple different scenarios.''
The deal, which likely will include up to three options years, would be somewhat unusual in terms of length (especially for a starting pitcher, given the usual injury risks) and because Shields, with 1 year and 125 days of major-league service, won't be eligible for arbitration until 2010 and free agency in 2013.
The deal would go into effect for the upcoming season and is likely to be similar in structure to the contract the Rays gave OF Rocco Baldelli in November 2005, in which three years were guaranteed (for $5-million, plus a $4-million buyout) and the Rays held options for three more seasons (that could be worth another $23-million).
By extending the deal to all seven years, the Rays would have the opportunity to "buy out" Shields' first two seasons of free agency. He is under team control for the 2008-09 seasons (with projected salaries in the $425,000-$475,000 range) and would be eligible for arbitration the next three seasons. (There is a slim chance he could be eligible for arbitration in 2009 as a "Super Two" player based on how many other players have between two and three years' of service time.)
In essence, the Rays would get cost certainty over the length of the deal and the potential for a bargain while Shields would get the security of guaranteed millions.
Shields, 26, was 12-8 with a 3.85 ERA last year in his first full major-league season, throwing 215 innings (10th most in the AL) despite skipping his last two starts under team orders. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of 184-36 was second-best in the majors, and among the best in major-league history for a pitcher 25 or younger.
Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said last week the team was "optimistic" of completing the deal shortly.