Here we are just over two weeks from several teams reporting to camp and, still, free agent right-hander James Shields still doesn’t have a team for 2015.
And now, according to multiple executives (per Buster Olney of ESPN), the former Kansas City Royals ace could have to settle for a three-year deal as the market for his services has waned with time – due to an array of concerns that have been brought up by potential suitors.
"In Shields’ case, the loudest concerns are about his age (33), his heavy workloads (eight straight seasons of 203 or more innings pitched), his need for a ballpark that forgives his tendency to surrender fly balls to left-center field; his home games have been in the pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field and Kauffmann Stadium, and he has a career ERA of 5.42 in Fenway Park."
The aforementioned struggles at Fenway, the home of the Boston Red Sox, could be a factor in Ben Cherington choosing to not pursue Shields, instead going with a rotation featuring Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson and Joe Kelly – a drastic departure from years’ past when the staff was anchored by left-hander Jon Lester, who has since joined the Cubs.
So where does Shields wind up if he’s only warranting a three-year deal somewhere in the $15 to $20 million range? Simply put, over half the teams in Major League Baseball could be in play, including the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Kansas City Royals – and, of course, the Cubs – among others.
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Initially, the right-hander was seeking a four-to-five year deal with an annual average value in the $20 million range – which eliminated a great many potential suitors, including Chicago after the front office added Lester on a six-year, $155 million deal – the largest free agent contract in franchise history.
However, with his reported asking price falling like a rock, it stands to reason that the Cubs would at least kick the tires on Shields. If you’re asking me, though, there’s no reason to believe Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would put between $45 and $60 million in an aging pitcher whose postseason resume (5.46 earned run average across 11 starts) leaves plenty to be desired.
With a free agent crop loaded with talent waiting at the end of the 2015 campaign and a rotation that already features Lester, as well as Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel, among several other back-end options, the Cubs’ rotation is set for the time being.
Some team will sign James Shields. But it shouldn’t be the Cubs.