There is a chance that James Shields won’t pitch another game for the Rays, but it won’t be because the Rays decided to just let him walk. According to Marc Topkin, the Rays have informed Shields that they will pick up his $10.25 million option for next season. That is indeed a hefty sum (~17% of the projected payroll). But if the Rays do decide they don’t like the price, they will trade him for chips.
Of course, the bigger question is what the Rays will do with their other options. Jose Molina ($1.8M) seems like a lock to be back. Luke Scott ($6M), however, is a more interesting question.
Obviously the Rays would prefer to have Scott back at a cheaper price. But to do that, they will have to buyout the option ($1M) and then re-sign him for less than $5 million. At that point, you are probably getting closer to what other teams might be willing to offer. The problem is, if the Rays buy out Scott’s option and he signs with another club, you are talking about losing one of the best bats (when healthy) on a team that is already desperate for offense.
On the other hand, if the Rays thought Scott was worth $6 million in 2012 ($5M salary + $1M buyout) knowing he was coming off of an injury, why wouldn’t they think he was worth $6 million in 2013? And with the loss of BJ Upton and possibly Carlos Pena, you can make a case that the Rays need Scott more this season than they did last year.
I’m still torn on this one, as I think you can make a strong argument for either option. But it definitely isn’t as clear-cut as some seem to think it is.