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Will Shields signing free up Hamels?

Well, the James Shields rumors can finally be put to rest.

The last man standing in the game of starting pitcher musical chairs finally inked a contract with the San Diego Padres. It's reported to be a four-year pact between $72-78 million, good money but a far cry from the $110-million deal he supposedly had on the table at one point.

While I never believed the St. Louis Cardinals were in on Shields because of his age, 33, his signing could ultimately impact the Redbirds.

The Padres were one of the most aggressive suitors for Philadelphia Phillies lefty Cole Hamels who has also been tied repeatedly to St. Louis in trade rumors. It would seem the Padres ought to be about tapped out, fiancially after a busy off-season. 

San Diego's decision to go for Shields is a result of the Phillies asking for a ridiculous haul for Hamels, a bounty the Padres eventually decided they couldn't meet. So it remains to be seen if the market for Hamels will come down now that one of the primary competitors for his services has gone away.

Philadelphia may very well decide it wants to keep Hamels and try to rebuild on the fly. But if they're serious about dishing off their ace, they're going to have to be more reasonable. If I was an opposing general manager, the amount I was willing to pay in trade would do nothing but go down as the season wore on.

I realize that Hamels has four years left on his deal. But if I am the St. Louis GM -- or the GM of another club -- I would be much less interested in trading top prospects for a shorter term rental. The value of Hamels is that, in the insane world of baseball finance, $96 million for four years is a much more reasonable contract than it would cost for a top pitcher on the open market.

If the Phillies hold Hamels this season and he has an off year, which is entirely possible playing for a lousy team, they could end up in Troy Tulowitzki situation. The Rockies tried to hold onto their star for too long and now they'll pay the price and his health and his contract situation have outweighed his potential.