James Shields Rumors

NL Central Notes: Martin, Peavy, Shields

In today’s Insider-only blog post (subscription required), ESPN’s Buster Olney discusses the looming free agency of Russell Martin, calling him the “Lamborghini of the catching market” and noting that he is positioned better than perhaps any free agent this offseason. Olney spoke with a number of executives from around the league, with some believing the tipping point for Martin could be whether a team is willing to increase its offer from three years to four, and others believing the tipping point will be whether or not any team offers a fifth guaranteed year. I’m on board with the latter of the two opinions, personally, as I do feel Martin has an exceptionally strong case for a four-year deal. As Olney notes, even if Martin is physically unable to catch a full workload of games by the end of his contract, he’s an exceptional athlete with MLB experience at other positions, so he could be moved around to provide further value as his heavy career workload begins to take its toll.

A few other NL Central items for your afternoon…

  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington recently explained to Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the way in which we the aging curve for players needs to be reevaluated, as many of those models were developed during the PED era, which inflated production into players’ mid-30s. Sawchik provides a graph showing WAR for catchers in their 30s based on three eras: 1980-89, 1990-2004 and 2005-14, in an attempt to isolate the steroid era data. Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron looked at Sawchik’s excellent work and noted that catcher production from ages 32 to 35 in the post-steroid era has remained relatively consistent from a WAR standpoint, adding that framing skills are largely undeterred by age (as noted by Max Marchi of Baseball Prospectus in this 2013 piece).
  • Jake Peavy told reporters, including Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago-Sun Times, that he will be interested to see where his close friend Jon Lester signs this offseason. Peavy had no qualms in stating that he’d like to once again be teammates with his friend: “I’ve certainly talked to Jon Lester because we’re buddies,” said Peavy. “So I have a feel for what he does. And I certainly know that Chicago would interest him and interest me.” Peavy clarified that he’s not suggesting a package deal for the Cubs, but rather, “There’s a package deal out there for any team.” Wittenmyer spoke to a few people close to Peavy who believe the Cubs would be high on his offseason wishlist, however, having spent several years there with the White Sox.
  • In a second piece from Wittenmyer, he writes that sources have told him that James Shields would be the chief fallback option for the Cubs if they don’t land Lester. As Wittenmyer points out, the case for Shields to come to Chicago could be greater if the Cubs land former Rays skipper Joe Maddon. Shields tells Wittenmyer that he enjoyed playing for Maddon very much, though he adds that he hasn’t had any time yet to think about free agency.

Cafardo On Shields, Buehrle, Zobrist, Danks

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe details the challenges faced by the Braves and Dodgers this offseason.  John Hart and Andrew Friedman differ in age, style, and substance, but they face similar roadblocks.  Here’s more from Cafardo..

  • Scouts who have seen pending free agent James Shields over his career feel he’s changed from a fastball/changeup pitcher to a fastball/cutter pitcher.  At one time his changeup was unhittable and the cutter, which has now taken over, is hittable at times.  Shields is still effective but there is some bewilderment over his repertoire.
  • Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle will be made available in a trade, though his $19MM contract will be a deterrent unless the Jays are willing to assume part of it.  Still, he seems more tradable than knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
  • Cafardo expects Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist to draw a lot of trade interest this offseason.  In fact, new Dodgers boss Andrew Friedman might want to reunite with him in Los Angeles.
  • The White Sox would love to move John Danks, but the $28.5MM owed to him over the next two years will be a deterrent to teams.  Meanwhile, pitching coach Don Cooper still believes Danks, who has lost some of his heat, could become the second coming of Buehrle and pitch effectively in the mid-to-high 80s.
  • The Twins haven’t asked Torey Lovullo for a second interview yet, but he also hasn’t been told he’s out of the hunt.

AL Notes: Provas, Beimel, Correa, Shields, Royals

Sad news today out of Chicago, as longtime White Sox scout Paul Provas passed away from brain cancer at age 63. As Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports, Provas had been scouting for the South Siders since 1993 after doing the same for the cross-town rival Cubs dating back to 1983. MLBTR extends its condolences to his family and friends.

Here are the day’s news and rumors out of the American League:

  • Left-hander Joe Beimel would love to return to the Mariners, and the team has expressed interest in re-signing him as a lefty specialist, reports Greg Johns of MLB.com in his latest Mariners Inbox. The veteran southpaw made the club after signing a minor league deal and posted a 2.20 ERA in 45 innings. Beimel’s 5.0 K/9 leaves something to be desired, but he was a legitimate weapon against lefties. Beimel held same-handed hitters to a .188/.217/.288 batting line. Sabermetric stats such as FIP (3.18) and xFIP (2.96) both approved of his work against left-handers, though he was well north of 5.00 in each stat when facing righties.
  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow tells Marius Payton of CSN Houston that top prospect Carlos Correa‘s rehab is considered complete at this point (h/t: Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle on Twitter). Baseball America’s No. 3 midseason prospect saw his season come to an end prematurely due to a broken leg, but he was impressive when on the field, hitting .326/.415/.510 with six homers and 20 steals in 62 games at Class-A Advanced.
  • Even as the Royals are gunning for a World Series title in 2014, thoughts inevitably must drift at times to the future. Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders whether starter James Shields may present a double-edged sword with his history of huge innings totals: on the one hand, those innings show his durability; on the other, they act as an arm odometer. Then, of course, there is the matter of his increasingly poor postseason track record.
  • Kansas City faces tough decisions as it ponders its amazing late-inning arms, Sherman adds. Wade Davis and Greg Holland might combine for a $15MM tab next year, with further increases for 2016. GM Dayton Moore said the team can fit those salaries, but also indicated that he already is thinking about how things will play out in the long run. “Yes, in the immediate, it works,” he said. “We can make that fit. But we do have to analyze our roster from an economic standpoint every year.”
  • Meanwhile, former Royals GM — and current Red Sox VP of player personnel — Allard Baird tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he looks back fondly on his time in Kansas City and is pleased with the club’s run of success. As Cafardo notes, Baird’s time resonates in the current roster, as he drafted players like Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Zack Greinke (who was later flipped for several current key roster pieces) during his time at the helm.


AL Notes: Shields, Magadan, Yankees

Prior to last night’s three inning, five run meltdown, Mike Petriello of FanGraphs examined why Royals ace James Shields has failed to live up to his “Big Game” moniker. In a detailed analysis, Petriello discovered Shields’ pitch selection has changed in the postseason and his cutter has been less effective. However, and as Petriello notes repeatedly, it’s hard to draw conclusions from such a small sample of innings.

  • Shields is a popular subject today. WEEI.com’s Alex Speier wonders if Shields’ postseason non-performance will result in a lower free agent price tag. His reputation for October excellence is undeserved – he has the third highest ERA among 65 starters with 10 or more postseason starts. Speier does note that Barry Zito and Edwin Jackson signed rich free agent contracts following lousy postseason performances. The limited market for starters should keep Shields in demand, even if teams are wary of his late season contributions. If anything, this improves the positions of Max Scherzer and Jon Lester.
  • The status of Rangers hitting instructor Dave Magadan and pitching coach Mike Maddux should be determined within the week, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Per comments from GM Jon Daniels, the future of Magadan and Maddux depends on comfort. New manager Jeff Banister will need to be “confident in how they see the game, in how they communicate with players and who he feels he can lean on.” Magadan is expected to meet with Banister today.
  • After viewing MLBTR’s arbitration estimates for the Yankees, NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty takes a look at who might be tendered. Francisco Cervelli ($2.5MM projected salary), Ivan Nova ($3.3MM), Shawn Kelley ($2.5MM), David Phelps ($1.3MM), and Michael Pineda ($2.1MM) are the five he believes will return. Kuty believes David Huff ($700K) and Esmil Rogers ($1.9MM) may be non-tendered. My own opinion: while the Yankees may seek to replace Huff, there isn’t an urgent need to cut his near-league minimum salary. However, Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues notes that Huff could be the odd man out if New York needs a 40 man roster spot. Rogers does seem to be an easy non-tender choice.

AL East Notes: Shields, Melky, Jays, MacPhail

Several executives around baseball are starting to think James Shields will receive some five-year offers in free agency this winter, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports.  This would be a sizable commitment in a pitcher who will be 33 years old on Opening Day, and since the Red Sox don’t like guaranteeing that many years to pitchers in their 30’s, the team could offer Shields a four-year deal with a higher ($20MM) average annual value.  If this isn’t enough to land Shields, however, Lauber feels by that point the Sox should just increase their offer to Jon Lester.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • In a radio interview on The Jeff Blair Show (Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith has the audio link and partial transcript) Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said the team had had “some conversations” with Melky Cabrera about a new contract though seemingly little progress has been made.  “Clearly both sides right now can’t seem to get together for various reasons,” Anthopoulos said.  “I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to assume that there hasn’t been dialogue.  I wouldn’t assume that there haven’t been proposals exchanged.”
  • Beyond just on-the-field upgrades, the Blue Jays also need to re-establish trust between the clubhouse and upper management, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi opines.  Some Jays players were openly upset with the front office’s lack of major spending or acquisitions over the last year, and while Davidi doesn’t cite this lack of trust as the key reason why the Jays missed the playoffs, it obviously helps to have everyone in the organization on the same page.
  • The Orioles‘ success over the last three seasons wouldn’t have been possible without former president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune writes.  While MacPhail’s departure following the 2011 season coincided with Baltimore’s return to contention, manager Buck Showalter and several of the O’s best players joined the organization on MacPhail’s watch.
  • J.J. Hardy‘s extension with the Orioles only enhances Xander Bogaerts‘ value to the Red Sox, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes.  A young, controllable star at shortstop who can contribute both offensive and defensively is a major commodity, though Bogaerts obviously still work to do to establish himself on that level. “How much of a step forward Bogaerts can take at shortstop will have quite a bit to do with how much of a step forward the Red Sox can take in the American League East,” MacPherson writes.
  • In other AL East news from earlier today on MLBTR, I collected a set of Yankees Notes and Jeff Todd featured Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus in a Free Agent Profile.

Royals Will Attempt To Re-Sign James Shields

The Royals will make an effort to bring back top starter James Shields through free agency, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Shields, 32, has given Kansas City 455 2/3 innings of 3.18 ERA ball over the last two regular seasons, and is still pitching for the team in October.

While the club’s run to the ALCS has made that a return a more plausible scenario, Heyman says that the starting point for the decision came around the trade deadline. At that point in the middle of the summer, the club informed Shields’s agent, Page Odle, that it would be in touch after the season — a sign which seemingly indicated that a run at Shields was at least a possibility.

As I wrote back in March, landing Shields figures to be quite an expensive proposition, but perhaps will not be prohibitive even for the small-budget Royals. If past comps are any indication, even adjusted for inflation, Shields may not be able to exceed nine figures (if he gets five years at all) unless a true bidding war emerges. That could bode well for Kansas City’s chances.

Also helping the Royals’ cause is the qualifying offer that the team will make and Shields will surely decline. While he is an expensive enough player that the impact may not be too substantial, other clubs will need to weigh the cost of giving up a draft choice to sign him. (Of course, as a practical matter, so will Kansas City.)

As Heyman notes, the substantial revenue boost that the club should see from its postseason run will certainly play a role in determining whether the payroll space can be found for Shields. Not only will the team benefit from a playoff gate, merchandise sales, and the like, but should see increases in future streams through mechanisms such as season ticket sales.

All that being said, Shields will have plenty of suitors to choose from. After all, he is attractive to plenty of other clubs for largely the same reason he is to the Royals: in theory, he could represent a more achievable, less-risky investment on a shorter/smaller deal than other top free agent starters Max Scherzer and Jon Lester. Of course, if that kind of reasoning attracts enough bidders, it could drive Shields’s price tag up significantly.


East Notes: Sandoval, Burnett, Shields, Mets

The AL East champion Orioles are looking for their first playoff sweep since they eliminated the A’s in the 1971 ALCS as they face the Tigers in Game Three of their ALDS. The NL East champion Nationals, meanwhile, will look to avoid being swept by the Giants tomorrow in their NLDS.

Here’s the latest from baseball’s East divisions:

  • Pablo Sandoval, with his personality and left-handed bat, would be a good fit for the Red Sox, opines the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Despite Sandoval’s weight issues and a declining OPS over the past four seasons, Cafardo hears the third baseman will command a five-year, $100MM pact with the Yankees and Dodgers joining Boston in the bidding.
  • A.J. Burnett‘s decision whether to exercise his $12.75MM player option will dictate how the Phillies‘ offseason unfolds, according to CSNPhilly.com’s Corey Seidman. If Burnett declines the option, the Phillies will have the financial flexibility required to make impactful free agent signings and begin the necessary roster overhaul, Seidman writes.
  • The James Shields-Wil Myers trade between the Rays and Royals is still under evaluation, notes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. At this point, who “won” the trade depends on whom you ask.
  • The Mets don’t need a spending spree to improve for 2015, posits Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Of course, it would be nice if they could spend the necessary money to sign free agent catcher Russell Martin, but there are cheaper ways they can upgrade their offense. One idea Sherman has is calling the Red Sox to inquire on a Bartolo Colon for Shane Victorino deal.

D’Backs Notes: Roster, Gardenhire, Payroll, Coaches

The Diamondbacks more or less kicked off their offseason last week when they announced the hiring of Dave Stewart as general manager and De Jon Watson as vice president of baseball operations. That duo, along with chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, will be tasked with righting the ship for a team that lost an MLB-worst 98 games in 2014. Both Nick Piecoro and Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic have authored highly informative columns about how things will shake out this offseason after talking with that group. Here are some highlights from the Republic’s scribes, but each piece is full of lengthier quotes and is well worth reading in its entirety…

  • It’s tough to get a read on Stewart at this point, Piecoro writes, as the new GM expressed a desire to add a front-of-the-rotation arm but expressed hesitancy toward the free agent market and toward the trade market. Stewart appears to be more conservative than predecessor Kevin Towers on the trade front, according to Piecoro, and as for free agency, both Stewart and Watson doubted the team would have the resources to pursue Jon Lester, Max Scherzer or James Shields.
  • A trade of minor league talent to acquire an established pitcher doesn’t seem likely either, Piecoro writes. He quotes Stewart: “We’re going to try to maintain our minor-league system. We’ve got to start putting players back in our system. So the trade market, we’ll look at it if it makes sense, but it’s not likely.”
  • La Russa tells Piecoro that when it comes to a manager, the team is looking for a candidate that can “lead and inspire.” Previous managerial experience sounded important to La Russa, who stated, “…when you start managing the game, the more that you’ve pulled the trigger as a manager somewhere, there is an art to that.” Asked specifically about recently dismissed Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, La Russa said he is “sure” that Gardenhire’s name will come up during their search.
  • La Russa also touched on payroll, though his answer when asked for a specific figure was nebulous; payroll could fall anywhere between $80-110MM, he stated, depending on whether or not there is value to be found, per Piecoro.
  • Shifting to Buchanan’s piece, La Russa said that there may not be many changes to the team’s coaching staff beyond the firings of Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell. La Russa offered particularly high praise for first base coach Dave McKay, pitching coach Mike Harkey and bullpen coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. — the latter two of whom he feels handled Arizona’s slew of injuries well. Roving pitching instructor Dave Duncan, La Russa’s former pitching coach, will take on a bigger role in the organization but will not return to a coaching position.
  • Buchanan spoke with Stewart on the team’s outfield situation. While Towers had expressed the desire to add an outfield bat, Stewart sounds much less inclined to do so. “I think that A.J. (Pollock) in center, (David) Peralta played well, (Mark) Trumbo will probably be in the outfield mix with (Paul) Goldschmidt being at first base and being healthy again,” the GM explained to Buchanan. “It’s a pretty solid outfield, in my opinion.” La Russa spoke on the outfield as well, adding praise for Ender Inciarte.
  • The D’Backs have yet to address their desire to incorporate analytics into their front office, but Stewart again repeated that it is a priority for the team. “…We’ve got to go through the process of trying to get the right person in to take over that department for us,” he said.

AL Central Notes: Konerko, Hahn, Giambi, Moore

Paul Konerko‘s 18-year career officially ended yesterday, as he left the field for a defensive replacement before the sixth inning and received a lengthy ovation from the fans at U.S. Cellular Field (video link).  Konerko retires with a career .279/.354/.486 slash line, 439 homers, a 2005 World Series ring and an ALCS MVP Award from that same championship season.  ESPN’s Jayson Stark notes that Konerko’s career path is unique in baseball history, as he spent his first two seasons in brief stints with the Dodgers and Reds before spending his final 16 years with the White Sox.  We at MLBTR congratulate Konerko on his excellent career and wish him all the best in retirement.

Here’s some more from around the AL Central…

  • Rick Hahn thinks the White Sox can contend in 2015, the general manager told reporters (including CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes).  The central goal is to keep adding to the team’s core, Hahn said, though extra payroll space will make an expensive short-term contract possible if the team feels such a deal will help put them over the top.  “I think we are pleased with a lot of the progress we’ve made in the last 15 months, but we’re by no means, first satisfied, nor operating under the belief that we’re by any means finished, in terms of assembling a core and a unit that can contend on annual basis,” Hahn said.
  • Indians slugger Jason Giambi isn’t thinking about whether or not he’ll play in 2015, for now just focusing on spending time with his family in the offseason, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian writes.  Giambi will turn 44 in January and has played an even 20 seasons in the majors.  If he does hang up his cleats, it seems likely that a coaching job awaits Giambi, quite possibly with the Tribe; the slugger said in April 2013 that he’d already turned down several coaching offers in order to keep playing for as long as he could.
  • The blockbuster trade that bought James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals in exchange for a prospect package headlined by Wil Myers is “everything that we hoped it would be,” Royals GM Dayton Moore told MLB.com’s Dick Kaegel.  “When you make deals, you hope and expect them to work for both organizations. I think it’s turned out that way. It strengthened our pitching to a point where we were able to play competitive baseball from the first day to the last.”  Shields is a free agent this winter and is unlikely to be re-signed by Kansas City, though Davis (who just completed one of the great relief seasons in baseball history) is controllable via team options through 2017.

Red Sox Notes: Shields, Rodriguez, Ortiz

The Red Sox are scouting Royals ace James Shields today, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets, noting that in September, teams typically keep eyes on impending free agents in whom they have interest. The Red Sox have spent much of the season pursuing hitting, signing Rusney Castillo and acquiring Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig, and they’re expected to address their rotation this offseason. Shields is one possible top-tier option, with a return of Jon Lester being another. Previous rumors have connected the Red Sox to Shields. Here are more notes on the Red Sox.

  • Prospect Eduardo Rodriguez has been so dominant since being acquired for Andrew Miller in July that there might be a chance he could be the Red Sox’ next ace, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier writes. “He has stuff that can possibly dominate a lineup a few times through,” says Triple-A Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles. “Plus arm speed, feel for three pitches. His velocity and the life out of his hand with his fastball, it’s explosive. He’s got swing-and-miss capability. … He looks like he’s one of our best guys.” Speier notes that getting a prospect of Rodriguez’s quality for a rental of a reliever is very rare. After arriving from the Orioles, Rodriguez was terrific in six starts for Double-A Portland before moving up to pitch for Pawtucket in the playoffs.
  • One problem with projecting the Red Sox’ future is figuring out how long David Ortiz will continue to hit, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. At age 38, Ortiz has hit .264/.357/.517, with a number of high-impact home runs. As a big slugger in his late 30s who’s still relatively healthy and consistently productive, Ortiz is already a somewhat unusual player, and it’s unclear how long the Red Sox will be able to count on him.