The duo arrived as a package, but they were never marketed as such. James Shields was an agent of change. Wade Davis was an extra piece in a franchise-altering trade, a failed starter in 2013 and a relief revelation in 2014. Both played critical roles in last month’s run to the World Series; both could play for other clubs in 2015.
The Royals completed a pair of procedural maneuvers with both players on Monday. They extended a one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer to Shields, who is expected to decline and enter free agency. The team also picked up Davis’ $7 million option for 2015, but questions remain about whether the organization will retain both Davis and two-time All Star closer Greg Holland.
With Holland due perhaps more than $8 million in arbitration, the Royals must decide whether to pay $15 million for a pair of one-inning relievers. The issue is one of dozens being discussed by the front office during organizational meetings this week. The meetings were delayed by the team’s playoff push. With the game seven loss to San Francisco nearly a week old, the offseason can begin in earnest.
Neither move on Monday was much of a surprise. General manager Dayton Moore indicated over the weekend he considered his top offseason priority to be maintaining his team’s pitching strength. The club has been planning for Shields’ departure almost since the day he arrived, along with Davis, before the 2013 season.
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Shields has until 4 p.m. local time on Nov. 10 to accept or decline the offer. He is expected to opt for free agency, and rival executives speculate he could land a contract worth more than $80 million. The Royals are expected to keep tabs on Shields, but are not considered the favorites to sign him, not with big-market clubs such as the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and Cubs all trawling for pitching.
A message left for Shields’ agent, Page Odle, was not immediately returned.
If Shields signs elsewhere, the Royals would receive a compensatory draft pick. It is a repeat of last winter’s dalliance with Ervin Santana, who spurned the team’s qualifying offer after excelling as a Royal in 2013, and waited until March to sign a one-year deal with Atlanta for a little more than $14 million.
A more robust market is expected to await Shields. He went 27-17 with a 3.18 ERA as a Royal. A subpar October may have dented his value, but his resume is still strong. He has thrown more than 200 innings in each season since 2007. Teammates, coaches and executives credited him with altering the culture of the Kansas City clubhouse and introducing his younger teammates to the concept of a meaningful summer of games.
In short, Shields lived up to every expectation set for him. Davis took longer to show his worth. He became a nightmare for opposing hitters as a set-up man this season. He set a franchise record for strikeouts in a season by a reliever with 109. He allowed zero home runs. His ERA was 1.00.
The Royals could have declined Davis’ option and gone to arbitration with him. But after earning $4.8 million this past season, Davis was likely to receive a raise higher than the guaranteed $7 million option.
Only Yankees rookie Dellin Betances could challenge Davis for relief supremacy in the American League in 2014. Now the team must decide how to proceed. Kelvin Herrera also resurfaced as a force in second half, and pitched well enough to merit an opportunity as a closer with most teams. On the Royals, Herrera handled the seventh inning.
Like Holland, Herrera will receive a raise through arbitration. The escalating prices on the trio could force the front office to explore the trade market. Some rival evaluators harbor doubts about the long-term health of Holland, who missed a good chunk of September with a triceps injury.
Holland can become a free agent after 2016. Davis is under team control for three more seasons, with a team option for $8 million next year and a $10 million option for 2017.
Orlando added to roster
The Royals selected the contract of 29-year-old outfielder Paulo Orlando and added him to the 40-man roster. Orlando hit .301 with a .770 on-base plus slugging percentage for Class AAA Omaha. Team officials rave about his defense.