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Shields, Rays Talking Contract

Posted: January 22, 2008 2:55 a.m.
Updated: March 24, 2008 2:02 a.m.
Various reports have the Tampa Bay Rays negotiating a long-term contract with Hart High graduate and veteran pitcher James Shields.

The reports were confirmed by Shields' brother Jeremy, who also works for the pitcher's agent.
"We're in the midst of talking right now," the agent said. "Something might get done. Something might not get done. If it fits, it fits."
It's an interesting move from the Rays' perspective because the 26-year-old isn't eligible for salary arbitration until 2010 and free agency until 2013.
Jeremy pointed to other clubs' recent pre-arbitration deals that it's not a rarity to sign early.
Baseball stars such as Grady Sizemore, Jose Reyes and David Wright all recently were locked up by their organizations before being eligible for arbitration.
The 2000 Hart graduate enjoyed a breakout season in 2007.
He went 12-8 with a 3.85 ERA, striking out 184 batters, while walking just 36 in 215 innings pitched.
It was his first full big-league season after spending part of the 2006 year in the minor leagues.
The Rays have shown a commitment of late to locking up their young stars.
On Friday, Tampa Bay signed slugging first baseman Carlos Peña to a three-year deal worth $24.125 million and left-handed pitcher Scott Kazmir to a one-year, $3.785 million contract.
Jeremy didn't disclose numbers being discussed, but reports from the St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune say that the Rays may be seeking a deal as long as seven years with his brother.
There's no telling what Shields is worth.
His situation is different than a lot of pre-arbitration negotiations.
His major bargaining chips are youth, potential and the ability he has already shown.
Going against him is the fact that the Rays don't have to re-do his deal. He is receiving the league minimum of $390,000 per year. Pitchers are also considered higher-risk signings because of durability issues.
Shields had injury problems at the beginning of his professional career, but has had two consecutive injury-free campaigns.
Shields was married in November.
His brother said he has expressed a desire to move to Florida permanently.
He currently lives in the Las Vegas area.
"I think he's totally open to it," Jeremy said of staying with the organization for the long term. "He loves the organization, the front office, his teammates. He loves the state of Florida."


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