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The Chicago Cubs didn’t sign James Shields; Best non-move of the winter?

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Let me preface this by saying when I was younger, I couldn’t understand why the Chicago Cubs wouldn’t just go get every good free agent available. I mean, most were better than the players we had, so why not just make that happen? In my accrued time on this earth, and what I hope is an attainment of some baseball wisdom, you just don’t go out and do that.

Would James Shields be a better No. 5 starter than Travis Wood, Tsuyoshi Wada or whoever wins the spot? Of course he would. But with a career win percentage of  .558, was he worth a four-year investment of near $80 million?

Given the place the Cubs are in with their roster, it would have been a terrible signing. Outside of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, no current Cubs have had any significant string of success. Dexter Fowler and Miguel Montero, as well as Jon Lester add guys that have done the job elsewhere, but there is only hope they repeat it in Chicago.

The rest of the roster is filled with unbelievable talent, but none of it proven. Having great pitching with a team that can’t score runs doesn’t seem all that smart to me. And spending all that money on pitching and having none leftover to address an inept offense would only compound the problem.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer kicked the tires on Shields. They knew he had a past with Joe Maddon, so they never considered themselves “out”. But according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, they were only willing to go three-years with a vesting option in a fourth. And it’s believed they would go no higher than $60 million. 

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And while known as “Big Game” James, he’s been anything but that in the playoffs recently. He was lit up pretty good in the World Series, allowing seven runs in nine inning of work in two starts. And his career postseason numbers leave something to be desired. 3-6 with a 5.46 ERA, with eight home runs allowed in 11 games (All starts).

In nine seasons, Shields is No. 19 on innings pitched for active players. Seattle’s Felix Hernandez and Detroit’s Justin Verlander are the only younger pitchers with more innings. No, he hasn’t spent much time on the DL, but he’s logged a lot of innings on that arm. And please don’t ever tell me about good mechanics, not hard on the arm, or anything of the like. I point to Mark Prior as to why you can’t ever be sure about a pitcher’s durability.

The Cubs are going about this the right way, and come the All-Star break can make a more informed decision. Kris Bryant will have spent an adequate amount of time with the Cubs by then, and we’ll know if Javier Baez had made adjustments, or Jorge Soler is turning into the player we think he will.

Epstein and Hoyer can make a move then, or the class of free agents will be flush following the 2015 season, and the Cubs can make a true “all in” run then.

Next: The DH debate continues

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