James Shields Rumors

AL East Notes: Yanks, Detwiler, McLouth, Melky, Sox

The Yankees came away from the Winter Meetings without completing any deals, though it wasn’t for lack of trying, GM Brian Cashman told reporters, including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch“We threw a lot of ideas a lot of different ways, but we’ve got a long way between now and Opening Day,” said Cashman as he left the meetings. We’ll keep our conversations that still are ongoing alive, and just wait and see.” Hoch writes that the Yankees never made proposals to David Robertson or Brandon McCarthy, the latter of whom “went to a level we couldn’t play on,” in Cashman’s words.

More from the AL East…

  • The Orioles had definite interest in Ross Detwiler before the Nats traded him to the Rangers, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. That he ended up in Texas may be best for the player himself, however, as Kubatko notes that Baltimore would’ve kept Detwiler in the ‘pen. The Rangers plan to use him as a starter, which is his preference.
  • Also from Kubatko, the Orioles have interest in bringing back old friend Nate McLouth, though not at his current $5MM (plus a $750K buyout of a 2016 option) price tag. The Nationals are willing to eat part of that salary to move McLouth, Kubatko adds, but the Orioles will wait to see if he is released for the time being.
  • The Orioles have some interest in Melky Cabrera, reports Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, but only on a two- or three-year deal (Twitter link). Cabrera is said to be eyeing a five-year deal, however, and the Mariners’ previously reported interest appears to be stronger than that of the Orioles, based on Encina’s tweet.
  • Though the Red Sox have five starters (or will have five, once the Wade Miley trade is completed), Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets that they’re still a match for Cole Hamels. He speculates that an arm like Joe Kelly could be a part of a trade with the Phillies, thereby opening a spot in the Boston rotation.
  • Peter Gammons looks at the reconstructed Red Sox rotation, noting a heavy emphasis on ground-ball pitchers that places some pressure on Xander Bogaerts and Pablo Sandoval. Gammons notes that the Red Sox brass is aware of its lack of a front-line starter. They’d like to add James Shields, but “exit polls” at the Winter Meetings had him going to the Giants, according to Gammons. Johnny Cueto is of interest, but the “timing and price isn’t there right now,” and Hamels negotiations with the Phillies have been difficult for all teams involved.

Winter Meetings Rumors: Giants, Santana, Marlins, Morneau, Dodgers, Angels

Needless to say, it was a frenetic end to the Winter Meetings. Over the course of the morning, several forward-looking reports emerged. We’ll round those up here:

  • The Giants are focused on free agent starter James Shields, according to Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News (via Twitter). San Francisco is alive on both Shields and Ervin Santana, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle adds on Twitter. The club met with Shields in San Diego, as Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reported yesterday (Twitter link).
  • The Twins are still trying to land Santana, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, who adds that the GiantsRoyals, and Yankees have also expressed interest in the free agent righty.
  • The Marlins are still looking hard at the free agent and trade market for a first baseman, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports on Twitter. A deal could come at any time, Spencer adds.
  • Attempts by the Marlins to deal for Justin Morneau of the Rockies have fallen apart, tweets MLB.com’s Tom Singer. He hears that Miami could rekindle talks with the Pirates regarding a Pedro Alvarez-for-Nathan Eovaldi swap.
  • Communications between the Marlins and Rockies regarding Morneau will continue, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reports on Twitter, though Harding’s source says he is not sure if the potential match “has legs.”
  • The Dodgers did not make their moves as a prelude to dealing away Zack Greinke or dealing for Cole Hamels, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Los Angeles has already done its heavy lifting with yesterday’s series of moves, says Sherman.
  • After trading away second baseman Howie Kendrick, the Angels are “open to opportunities” for additions at the position, GM Jerry Dipoto tells Mike DiGiovanna of MLB.com (Twitter link). The Halos are not interested in free agents Jed Lowrie and Stephen Drew, per Dipoto. Of course, the team just added Josh Rutledge to join in-house option Grant Green in the current mix.

NL West Notes: Shields, Stewart, Dickerson

It’s been a wild day of major moves in the NL West, and here are a few more news items from around the division…

  • The Giants don’t intend to pursue Max Scherzer, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Twitter link).
  • The Giants “will go hard on” signing James Shields, Peter Gammons tweets.
  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart told reporters (including Zach Buchanan of azcentral.com)  that Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro or Tigers catcher Alex Avila could be fits for his team in their search for help behind the plate, while the Snakes have no interest in Geovany Soto.  Stewart said his team doesn’t intend to trade relief pitching to obtain a catcher, however.
  • Also from Stewart, he said the D’Backs aren’t looking into extending any players at the present time, though he named Mark Trumbo, Addison Reed, Oliver Perez, Chris Owings, Chase Anderson and A.J. Pollock as possible extension candidates.
  • The Rockies are receiving “massive interest” in Corey Dickerson, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (via Twitter).  Despite all this interest, Colorado would have to get an overwhelming offer to deal the outfielder.
  • Also from Rosenthal, it’s been nothing but “crickets” for the Rockies on interest in Troy Tulowitzki.


Rangers Notes: Shields, Reliever, Wood, Rule 5

James Shields and his representatives met with the Rangers during the Winter Meetings, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports.  Jon Daniels confirmed the meeting with reporters (including T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com) but said that it was largely a case of due diligence and because Shields lived in San Diego.  “We wanted to be prepared if anything changes drastically. We enjoyed it, we like the guy a lot. In other circumstances we would like to have him. It was a function of him living out here so we took advantage of it,” Daniels said.  “We’re not going to be in the top level of free agents. It would take something substantial to change to get involved with those free agents.”

Here’s some more from the Rangers camp…

  • The Rangers are close to an agreement with a free agent reliever, Daniels told reporters (including Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News).  The pitcher is a “veteran, right-handed, one-inning reliever” who didn’t pitch for Texas last season, and Daniels hopes to have the signing completed by next week.
  • Starting pitching is still the Rangers’ top priority, Daniels said, and while they likely won’t make a splash for someone like Shields, the club is keeping its payroll options open for future moves.  “One of the reasons we haven’t acted on other stuff is that we want to make sure we have resources to act on pitching.  We’ve elected to not spend dollars elsewhere,” Daniels said.
  • In addition to their previously-reported interest in Wade Miley, Jeff Wilson reports that the Rangers have also considered a trade for Cubs lefty Travis Wood.
  • The Rangers are getting a lot of interest in their No. 3 overall pick in tomorrow’s Rule 5 Draft, Wilson tweets.  If Texas does decide to trade the pick, it will be for a player and not for money, Wilson said.

Dodgers Notes: Haren, Shields, Santana, Peavy

There has been much speculation about Dan Haren‘s role in the impending six-player trade between the Dodgers and Marlins, as Haren has openly said that he’d rather retire than pitch anywhere but for one of the two Los Angeles teams.  Angels GM Jerry Dipoto shot down speculation that the Marlins could flip Haren to his team, telling reporters (including Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register) that his team wasn’t trading for Haren.

As we wait for either of today’s two blockbuster Dodgers trades to be finalized, here’s some more news from Chavez Ravine…

  • There are rumors around the Winter Meetings that the Dodgers are making these big moves to position themselves to sign James Shields, ESPN Los Angeles’ Mark Saxon reports (Twitter link).
  • The rumored Andre Ethier-for-Miguel Montero swap with the Diamondbacks fell apart because of how much money the Dodgers would have had to pay, Saxon reports (via Twitter).  Arizona ended up dealing Montero to the Cubs yesterday.
  • Also from Saxon, the Dodgers haven’t made any inquiries about Ervin Santana.
  • The Dodgers have been talking to other free agent pitchers, however, including Jake Peavy, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets.
  • Rumors of a Matt Kemp deal to the Padres “has legs,” a source tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.  The two sides have made some progress but nothing is official yet.  Yasmani Grandal would be the main piece coming back from San Diego and Heyman hears the Dodgers have also asked for pitchers Joe Ross and Zach Eflin (though Heyman isn’t sure if both would be included if the deal happened.)

Starter Rumors: Red Sox Yet To Engage On Hamels, Giants May Be In

With Jon Lester off the market, we should start to see some dominoes fall.  Here are the latest pitching rumors from around baseball.

  • Talks between the Tigers and Red Sox have yet to gain any traction, tweets Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald.
  • The Red Sox have yet to engage the Phillies on Hamels, Stark reports (Twitter links). It is early, of course, though perhaps it would have been expected that Boston would immediate move to that option. The team is, however, working on several other deals including a previously-rumored swap involving Yoenis Cespedes and Rick Porcello.

Earlier Updates

  • After missing on Lester, the Giants have interest in dealing for Hamels, sources tell Jayson Stark of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Earlier rumors that San Francisco is casting a wide net appear to have been well-founded, as the team has been reported to have at least some involvement in a wide variety of possible additions.
  • The Twins have interest in Kyle Kendrick and have already had a meeting in San Diego, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.
  • Dillon Gee is the most likely Mets pitcher to go in trade, followed by Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).  The Rangers aren’t enamored with the Mets’ pitching but the Royals and Twins have been mentioned as possibilities.
  • The Red Sox aren’t currently close on acquiring Cole Hamels from the Phillies, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter).  They could now turn their attention to Diamondbacks pitcher Wade Miley instead and one of five other pitchers that they have their eyes on.  James Shields could also be a free agent option for Boston.
  • Two unnamed owners traveled to the winter meetings to meet with Max Scherzer‘s agent Scott Boras, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  Scherzer’s market should develop after Lester signed for $155MM over six years, but he’s aiming much higher this winter.  The losers in the Lester derby – the Giants, Red Sox, and Dodgers – could all be candidates for Scherzer with the Giants being the one team in the group certain to take a serious look.

D-backs Unlikely To Make More Big Moves

Here’s the latest from GM Dave Stewart and the Diamondbacks, via Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic:

  • The Diamondbacks don’t look likely to use the salary they cleared by trading Miguel Montero on significant moves for the rest of this offseason. (The team did, of course, already sign Yasmany Tomas.) “It’ll be a better market next year,” says Stewart. “I’d like to see where we’re going to end up. Let’s see where we are once we get out of spring training. I think we’re going to be a better team.”
  • Montero’s departure leaves the team without a key left-handed bat, but Stewart isn’t thrilled with his options right now for finding another. “This move didn’t dictate whether we go out and get a lefthanded bat,” he says. “There’s just not a lot out there.”
  • The Diamondbacks are not interested in Chase Headley, Stewart says. They also do not sound interested in Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, both of whom are returning from injury.
  • The D-backs like James Shields, but Stewart says he has not reached out to Shields’ camp this offseason.

Jon Lester Rumors: Sunday

Here’s the latest on free agent ace Jon Lester.

  • The Giants are “very serious” about Lester, but are considering possible alternatives in case Lester doesn’t sign with them, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes. Those alternatives include free agents Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano, Max Scherzer and James Shields, along with potential trade target Cole Hamels.
  • It looks like at least two teams have bid more than $130MM for Lester, Heyman writes. The Cubs, Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers are all contenders for Lester, but the Cubs are reportedly trying to separate themselves, with an offer that could top $140MM. Lester appears likely to pick a new team by the end of this week’s Winter Meetings.

Free Agent Notes: Top Pitchers, Rios, Royals, Everth, Astros

With the Winter Meetings nearly upon us, ESPN’s Jayson Stark spoke to nine baseball executives regarding the “Big Three” starting pitchers on this year’s free agent market — Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields — and asked when and where they will sign. While answers as to when Scherzer will sign varied, there was a much tighter window on Lester, with all nine believing he will sign between Dec. 8 and Dec. 13. The execs polled by Stark feel that Shields’ market is tied so closely to Lester that he will sign within two weeks of Lester and perhaps even as soon as next week’s Winter Meetings. Many identified Shields as a fallback for teams that miss on Lester. Execs picked Lester to sign with the usual suspects at this point: the Red Sox, Cubs, Giants or Dodgers. Interestingly, Scherzer’s landing spot was predicted to be the Yankees, Nationals, Cubs or Tigers, by the five who were willing to wager a guess on that outcome.

A few more notes pertaining to free agency…

  • The MarinersRoyals, and Indians have all checked in on Alex Rios, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Rios, who joined the Boras Corporation earlier this offseason, has had a fairly quiet market to this point, though one would expect interest to pick up now that Nelson Cruz, Torii Hunter and Yasmany Tomas are off the market.
  • The Royals are looking for a right fielder and a starting pitcher but likely only have the available funds to make a “significant” investment in one of the two areas, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. The Royals may have to bargain shop for the other, he notes. Kansas City has invested a modest amount of its available funds to the bullpen in the past week, re-signing righties Jason Frasor and Luke Hochevar. However, it’s at least worth noting that Hochevar’s contract reportedly contains performance incentives tied to starting (though it also contains relief incentives).
  • Though the Mets are in need of a shortstop, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin writes that recently non-tendered Padres speedster Everth Cabrera is not a consideration. Though he’s talented and has twice led the NL in stolen bases, Cabrera has a good deal of off-field issues on his record, including a 50-game PED suspension and more recent legal issues, as he’s been charged with resisting arrest after being stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana. (Cabrera plead not guilty to those charges today, per the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Jeff Sanders.)
  • Lefty reliever Craig Breslow is drawing significant interest, but his timetable to sign is currently dependent on the rest of the relief market, tweets WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. Breslow is coming off a down season but has a strong track record. Interest in Breslow and other relievers could intensify now that Andrew Miller is off the board, I would think.
  • Though the Astros missed out on Miller even after offering him more money than the Yankees did, they’re still on the hunt for relievers, tweets Heyman. Houston remains interested in David Robertson, Sergio Romo and others.

Scherzer, Lester, Shields And Career Pitch Counts

Agent Scott Boras has the prize of free agency in Max Scherzer, and Boras has taken to touting his client’s “pitching odometer.”  Boras explained to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, “[Scherzer] really has the [arm] of a 25 or 26 year old. This is like signing a 25 or 26-year-old pitcher.”

Perhaps reflecting what is found in Scherzer’s binder, Heyman cited the following stats:

“Did you know Scherzer, 30, has thrown 20,954 pitches, to 26,321 for Jon Lester and 29,461 for James Shields, the other top two free-agent pitchers in a top-heavy market containing three aces?”

Scherzer has thrown 8,507 fewer pitches than Shields and 5,367 fewer than Jon Lester. This difference may seem relevant, but in the end it will not matter. Instead, the focus should be on the trio’s birth date.

Context For Number Of Pitches Thrown

When looking at the total number of pitches, the zeros get in the way. For each game started, an ace will throw about 100 pitches. Most aces will start 30+ times a season, so each healthy ace-level pitcher can expect to throw at least 3,000 pitches in a season. The number could grow even higher with longer starts, more regular season starts and postseason games. Just using 3,000 pitches for a season and looking at each pitcher’s age, Boras’ difference can be explained by prorating the pitches thrown back to their age-29 season (Scherzer’s age at the end of last season).

Pitches prorated back to age-29 season
Scherzer: 20,954
Lester: 23,321
Shields: 17,461

The number of pitches thrown really just comes down to age. Scherzer’s arm had less mileage on it than Lester’s arm at the same age, but more than Shields. The difference of 8,500 pitches may seem like a ton, but for pitchers four years apart in age, the number is completely reasonable.

Pitches Thrown And Likelihood Of Next-Season DL Stint

Now, is there a magic number of pitches when a pitcher’s arm just quits being healthy? Is 25,000 pitches the point? 30,000? My study finds that no magic number exists. Actually, the opposite is true.

I looked at the career pitches thrown by pitchers from 2001 to 2012, then put the pitchers into 3,000-pitch groups and to find their chances of a DL stint next season. Here are the DL percentages for pitchers as they put more mileage on their arms.  (Note: 39% of all established pitchers will go on the DL at some point the next season.  (n) refers to the number of pitcher-seasons in the sample.)

# of pitches (n): DL rate, average # of DL days per pitcher
6000-8999 (674): 36%, 24
9000-11999 (470): 39%, 26
12000-14999 (324): 40%, 29
15000-17999 (225): 45%, 33
18000-20999 (179): 37%, 29
21000-23999 (111): 42%, 26
24000-26999 (99): 39%, 24
27000-29999 (88): 39%, 27
30000-32999 (71): 45%, 38
33000-35999 (47): 34%, 27
36000-38999 (28): 50%, 21
39000-41999 (26): 38%, 27
> 42000(79): 37%, 23

There are some increases and decreases, but generally the DL rate hovers around the expected 39%.

Here are the numbers grouped into 9,000-pitch blocks.

# of pitches (n): DL rate, average # of DL days per pitcher
6000-14999 (1468): 38%, 26
15000-23999 (515): 42%, 30
24000-32999 (258): 41%, 29
33000-41999 (101): 40%, 25
>42000 (79): 37%, 23

It may not seem intuitive that pitchers will have a smaller DL chance as they throw more, but they do. At 24,000 pitches, a pitcher has been productive and healthy enough to be in the league around eight seasons.  Besides just the number of DL stints, the time spent on the disabled list is just as important. The pitchers could go on the DL and stay there because of a major injury. If high-pitch pitchers were staying on the DL longer, the average number of days would be seen going up.  Instead, they decline.

Pitches Thrown And Expected Future Innings Pitched

The three pitchers in question — Scherzer, Lester, and Shields — are each looking for a multi-year deal. How many innings can teams expect out of these pitchers in the future? Looking at the pitches a pitcher has thrown in his MLB career from 2001 to 2009, here are the innings thrown in the next five seasons.

Pitches (n): IP
6000-8999: (468): 302
9000-11999: (364): 324
12000-14999: (249): 354
15000-17999: (176): 398
18000-20999: (129): 426
21000-23999 (86): 427
24000-26999 (81): 446
27000-29999 (68): 372
30000-32999 (45): 430
33000-35999 (32): 381
36000-38999 (17): 557
39000-41999 (18): 508
> 42000 (68): 476

And now the same data grouped into a few large groups.

Pitches (n): IP
6000-14999 (1081): 322
14000-23999 (391): 414
24000-32999 (194): 416
33000-41999 (67): 460
> 42000 (68): 750

Just because a pitcher has a ton of mileage on his arm doesn’t mean he is about to break down. He could continue to throw for years to come. The more pitches a pitcher has thrown, the better the chances he continues to throw. The three pitchers in question have passed the threshold of being healthy and good.

2015 DL Chances For Scherzer, Lester, Shields

Every pitcher (including these three) will eventually break down, we just don’t know when. An injury risk can be assigned to every pitcher. I have used a DL chance formula to determine the chance a pitcher will end up on the DL with accurate results. Using the formula, here their DL chances for 2015.

Name: Scherzer, Lester, Shields
Age: 29, 30, 33
GS (’12 to ’14): 98, 98, 101
DL Stints (’12 to ’14): 0, 0, 0
DL Chance: 34%, 35%, 38%

These three pitchers each have health (no recent DL stints) and a history of being able to make about 33 starts per season on their side. The only difference among them is age, which makes Scherzer the least likely to end up on the DL.

Boras continues to mention Scherzer’s pitching odometer as an advantage over Lester and Shields. However, the number of pitches thrown is not indicative of future injury. A high number shows the pitcher can hold up to the grind of being able to successfully throw for full seasons. The main issue between the three pitchers is age. Scherzer is four years younger than Shields. Scherzer’s body may still be able to hold up a bit better than the other pair, but they are still some of the healthiest pitchers in the league. The debate about the trio’s durability should begin and end with age.