by Jack Cobra, Cobra Brigade
Even though it would seem like common sense to you and I, it seems that small market MLB teams are FINALLY figuring out how to field a competitive roster and prepare for the future. Instead of signing overpriced free agents to outrageous deals, like they used to (Greg Vaughn, Jose Canseco, etc.), the Rays are signing their younger players to long term deals in an effort to bet 'more bang for the buck'. I call this the Cleveland Indians model for fielding a competitive team, and it's worked well for them so it should work well for others.
Tampa Bay took another step in the right direction on Wednesday by signing pitcher James Shields to a $11.25 million, four-year contract.
The Tampa Bay Rays are counting on James Shields to blossom into one of the top pitchers in the American League. The 26-year-old right-hander, who has less than two full seasons of experience in the majors, agreed Wednesday to a $11.25 million, four-year contract. Shields' deal includes three team options that could make it worth about $38 million over seven years. Performance bonuses could boost the value to approximately $44 million. "This signing further signifies our commitment to building and sustaining a championship level team," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "We feel like Jamie is the kind of player and person who can help lead us to that goal."This is a smart move by a small market team as it tries to compete in the luxurious AL East. With the Red Sox, Yankees and even the Blue Jays willing to shell out big bucks, teams like Tampa need to find another way to compete over the long haul. The signing of Shields should preclude an extension for ace Scott Kazmir in the next year or so, as well.