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James Shields Rumors
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:
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
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.
Though not available to MLB clubs at present, righty Chihiro Kaneko could become a virtual free agent (in the same manner as Masahiro Tanaka last year) if he is posted by the Orix Buffaloes. The 31-year-old has signed on with agent Arn Tellem of Wasserman, according to a tweet from Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal.
- While we wait to see whether Kaneko shakes up the market, let’s look at the latest of one top arm who is already free to sign with any club. The Marlins still have ongoing interest in James Shields, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Meanwhile, Rosenthal writes that the Diamondbacks at least like Shields, though it remains from clear that the club will be able to clear the salary it needs to make a legitimate run at him. As these reports would indicate, and Rosenthal notes, the market is quiet right now for the veteran righty.
- The Cubs are among five teams to have shown legitimate interest in outfielder Jonny Gomes, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (Twitter links). The right-handed-hitting Gomes, 33, will surely market himself as a bench or platoon bat in the corner outfield. Though he had a rather rough go of things in 2014, he still managed a .743 OPS against lefties.
- Fellow lefty-masher Josh Willingham has yet to decide whether he’ll play, agent Matt Sosnick tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Willingham, 35, will surely be intrigued by the possibility of entering a market that just paid Michael Cuddyer $21MM over two years (along with the sacrifice of draft compensation).
- As we continue ticking through the veteran outfielders, the Royals and Twins are the clubs most aggressively courting outfielder Torii Hunter, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. That comes as little surprise, as those AL Central rivals have long been said to be competitors for Hunter, whose market is now wide open with the Tigers saying they do not expect to bring him back.
One of the questions facing all teams in free agency is whether to pay for top talent or delve into the second tier for a bargain. Ben Lindbergh of Grantland lists five instances where the generic option could provide more financial value than the name brand asset. In the case of players like Pablo Sandoval, James Shields, and David Robertson, cheaper options probably won’t outperform them, but they could come close at less than half the guaranteed cost. Here’s more from the realm of free agency.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post picked destinations for 10 “hot MLB free agents.” Sherman thinks the Mets could be the surprise winners of the Yasmany Tomas sweepstakes, since the move would energize a depressed fan base. In my opinion, his oddest pick is Max Scherzer to the Brewers. Sherman reasons that Milwaukee has been aggressive under owner Mark Attanasio, but I’m not sure they can support a massive investment in a starting pitcher. Meanwhile, the Tigers could grab two trendy free agents with Sandoval to man third base and Andrew Miller to play the role of relief ace.
- For those who aren’t satisfied with MLBTR’s list of MLB free agents, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy has all the minor league free agents for your perusal. As we learned earlier this week via FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, MiLB free agents represent a potentially under-exploited opportunity to buy value. To a stats analyst, not many names jump of the page. One I’ll be tracking, if only because he’s an interesting story, is Jason Lane.
In December 2012, the Rays traded James Shields, Wade Davis, and Elliot Johnson to the Royals for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard. Myers was regarded as one of the best prospects in the game at the time, so the Royals paid a huge price to add Shields atop their rotation. Big Game James anchored the Royals’ rotation for two years, living up to his reputation as a workhorse and posting a 3.18 ERA for his new club. Now, Shields enters free agency for the first time in his career.
Shields has never been on the disabled list in his nine-year career and has served as the ultimate rotation workhorse. Since 2007, Shields has averaged 231 innings and more than 34 starts per season, including the postseason. This year for the Royals, Shields tallied 252 innings across 39 starts. He tied for sixth in baseball with 227 regular season innings, and led the American League in 2013 with a similar total. From 2013-14, Shields’ 455 2/3 regular season innings ranks second in all of baseball.
Shields’ ability to go deep into games is a bullpen-saver, a trait that the pitcher finds very important. This year in the regular season, he averaged 6.68 innings per start, which ranked 13th in baseball. He was even better in the three years prior, averaging 7.06 innings per start. Shields tied for the MLB lead with 27 quality starts in 2013, and tied for 10th with 24 this year.
It’s not just about the innings with Shields, of course. He’s also a very good pitcher. He has a 3.18 regular season ERA over the past two seasons, which ranked 23rd in baseball and 10th in the AL. He was worth 8.2 wins above replacement in that time, 14th in MLB. If we calculate WAR using Shields’ actual runs allowed, he jumps up to 9.9, basically a tie for the seventh-best figure in baseball. Whether or not Shields fits your definition of an ace, he’d be the best starting pitcher on a lot of different teams.
How does he do it? One key attribute is Shields’ stellar control. He allowed only 1.7 walks per nine innings this year, 14th among qualified starters. 2013 aside, Shields has generally hovered around 2.3 walks per nine. These days, he relies primarily on a four-seam fastball, a cutter, and a changeup. Shields has generally been known for possessing one of the game’s best changeups, and the numbers bear that out at least for 2011-13.
For someone like Jon Lester, his fastball velocity is trending downward, as you’d expect as a pitcher enters his 30s. Shields, on the other hand, started his career working around 90 miles per hour and steadily increased to the point where he averaged a career-best 92.4 miles per hour in 2014.
Shields has been one of the better pitchers in baseball over the last four seasons. But where will he slot in over the next four or five? The average American League starting pitcher this year posted a 7.35 K/9, 2.71 BB/9, 0.92 HR/9, 43.2% groundball rate, 3.92 ERA, and 3.89 SIERA. Shields posted a 7.14 K/9, 1.74 BB/9, 0.91 HR/9, 45.2% groundball rate, 3.21 ERA, and 3.59 SIERA. He was undoubtedly above average, owing to his control and innings total. But he had a below average strikeout rate, and he wasn’t anything special at preventing home runs. His vaunted changeup seemed to go missing for the first two-thirds of the season, and he didn’t look good in the playoffs, posting a 6.12 ERA and allowing 36 hits in 25 innings.
American League starters have stranded about 72.5% of baserunners over the past two seasons, while Shields has stranded 77.1%. From 2006-12, Shields’ LOB% was 72.6%. If we assume his true talent is close to that of the league and the first seven years of his career, we might say he’s been lucky to have left so many runners on base while pitching for the Royals. That may account for much of the difference between his 3.68 SIERA and 3.18 ERA. Shields’ 3.68 SIERA from 2013-14 ranked 34th among qualified starters and is comparable to fellow free agent Ervin Santana (3.70, 37th).
Shields’ strikeout rate bounced around in the 8.1-8.8 per nine range from 2010-12, but he’s at 7.43 per nine over the past two seasons. He’s not missing a lot of bats relative to league average these days, and he allowed nearly a hit per inning in 2014 despite no anomalies with his batting average on balls in play. The Royals were baseball’s best defensive team for each of Shields’ years with them, and leaving that defense could hurt him on balls in play.
Shields has been mostly a flyball pitcher outside of 2012, and in the first seven years of his career with the Rays he allowed 1.14 home runs per nine innings. That came down to 0.85 per nine with the Royals, who play in a ballpark known for suppressing home runs. Shields might be a bad fit for a place like Yankee Stadium or Minute Maid Park.
Shields turns 33 years old in December. Max Scherzer will play most of next season at age 30, and Lester will pitch at age 31. Aside from Jake Peavy and Hiroki Kuroda, all the second-tier starting pitchers are also younger.
Shields was one of four starting pitchers to receive a qualifying offer, and all of them figure to decline on Monday. Potential suitors such as the Marlins, Yankees, or Giants would have to forfeit their first-round draft pick in 2015 to sign him.
Shields was born in Newhall, California and resides in Rancho Santa Fe, CA with his wife and two daughters. He was offered a full scholarship to Louisiana State University out of high school, but chose to sign with the Rays instead.
You might be familiar with Shields’ cousin, former White Sox, Phillies, and Giants outfielder Aaron Rowand. Rowand gave cousin Jamie a wake-up call of sorts when the pitcher was in the minors. “I was being kind of lazy and just trying to let my talent take over,” Shields told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune in 2008. The pitcher moved to Las Vegas for early morning training with Rowand and remembered his cousin telling him, “I’m going to show you how big leaguers really work and how to stay healthy every season and do what it takes to succeed in this game.” Shields owes a lot to his family, crediting older brother Jeremy for teaching him the changeup that set his career back on track following surgery for a benign cyst in his shoulder in ’02.
James and his wife started the Big Game James Club in 2010, an initiative inviting foster children to Tropicana Field.
Starting pitching is plentiful this winter, but Shields is the third-best starter and shouldn’t require the six or seven-year commitments Jon Lester and Max Scherzer will. He’s a durable, veteran leader who soaks up innings and has ample postseason experience, if not a strong record in that arena. The Royals will attempt to re-sign Shields, but otherwise the Red Sox, Cubs, Yankees, Twins, Astros, Angels, Giants, Mariners, Rangers, Braves, Marlins, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Dodgers, White Sox, and Tigers may be looking for starting pitching in some capacity. However, it’s not likely all of those teams will be willing to make the kind of commitment it will take to sign Shields.
It’s been suggested Shields is off the Yankees’ radar, and likewise outside of Arizona’s comfort zone, financially speaking. Shields has been rumored as a potential fallback option for the Cubs, should they fail to sign Lester. The Red Sox are an oft-cited suitor, though Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote in September that Shields would be “off the list” if he requires a five-year deal. Boston reportedly topped out at an insulting four-year, $70MM offer to Lester in Spring Training, which would make a five-year offer exceeding $90MM to Shields seem inconsistent.
Shields was drafted by the Devil Rays out of high school in the 16th round in 2000, and he never ranked among Baseball America’s top 100 prospects. He broke into the Majors at age 24. After impressing in his first full season in ’07, he signed a four-year, $11.25MM deal with the Rays that contained three club options. He ended up earning about $40.5MM for seven seasons, the last two of which would have been free agent years. Shields can hardly be blamed for locking in his first fortune at age 26, but now he finally has freedom to choose where he signs and to sign for his full market value.
Shields should not have a problem securing multiple four-year offers. It is that fifth year, covering his age-37 season, that will be a sticking point for some clubs. To find a free agent starting pitching contract of four of more years that included someone’s age-37 season, you have to go back six years to Derek Lowe‘s deal with the Braves. That remarkable four-year contract covered Lowe’s age 36-39 seasons and was almost immediately regrettable. That was the offseason the Yankees signed C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, leaving Scott Boras clients Lowe and Oliver Perez as the most desirable starters. This free agent market is not set up that way, but I think Shields’ reputation as a workhorse will net him that fifth year. For a deeper look at where Shields fits in with historical free agent comparables like C.J. Wilson, John Lackey, and A.J. Burnett, check out Jeff Todd’s excellent piece from March.
In some offseasons, Shields would have been the best available starter, but this winter he must contend with Scherzer and Lester. Shields’ average annual value depends on how he is viewed. Some teams might see him as Scherzer/Lester lite, justifying a $20-22MM salary. Others could view him as Ervin Santana plus, suggesting $18-19MM. That’s a fairly wide spread, but I’m going with a five-year, $95MM deal for Shields.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
While many have been quick to connect the Yankees to the top names on the market, as is the case in most offseasons, Mark Feinsand and Bill Madden of the New York Daily News hear that the team has no intention to pursue any of the “Big Three” starting pitchers — Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields — or top third baseman Pablo Sandoval.
Instead, the Daily News duo continues, the Yankees are more focused on bringing back a pair of their own free agents: Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy. The team loves Headley’s glove at third base and views the returning Alex Rodriguez as more of a DH candidate at his age, per Feinsand and Madden. The team could act quickly and aggressively to retain the two. (MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes pegged Headley for a four-year, $48MM contract while I predicted a three-year, $36MM deal for McCarthy.) The Yankees, per the report, don’t want to add any more $100MM+ contracts to their books, although the name of Hanley Ramirez, who figures to top the century mark, is curiously absent from the list of players they won’t be pursuing.
Also of note for Yankees fans is the update within this piece on David Robertson, whom Feinsand and Madden hear is already receiving interest from at least six clubs. Robertson is expected to turn down the Yankees’ qualifying offer and could land a three- or four-year deal on the open market.
Of course, it’s worth looking back to last season when multiple reports indicated that the Yankees would spend judiciously in an attempt to eventually get the team’s payroll below the $189MM luxury tax threshold. That clearly didn’t happen, as the Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran to huge multi-year deals while also adding veterans Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Brendan Ryan on smaller deals. All told, they spent roughly half a billion dollars last winter.
None of that is meant to discredit the information provided by Feinsand and Madden, but rather to serve as a reminder that priorities can change. Still, for the time being, the Yankees’ early modus operandi appears to be pursuing mid-level free agents in an attempt to return the team to the playoffs after a two-year absence while also maintaining some long-term flexibility.
Today marked the deadline for players to receive one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers, and after nine players receiving a QO in 2012 and 13 players receiving the offer last offseason, 12 players have been extended a qualifying offer by their teams in 2014. They are:
- Max Scherzer (Tigers)
- Victor Martinez (Tigers)
- David Robertson (Yankees)
- Melky Cabrera (Blue Jays)
- James Shields (Royals)
- Hanley Ramirez (Dodgers)
- Pablo Sandoval (Giants)
- Nelson Cruz (Orioles)
- Russell Martin (Pirates)
- Francisco Liriano (Pirates)
- Michael Cuddyer (Rockies)
- Ervin Santana (Braves)
Should these players reject the offer and sign with a new team, their former team will stand to receive a “sandwich” round draft pick as compensation. Those new teams, in turn, will have to forfeit their top unprotected draft pick. If a player rejects a QO but ultimately re-signs with the same team, no draft pick shuffling occurs.
There will be 11 protected picks in this year’s draft, as the picks of the teams with the 10 worst records are protected under the CBA, and Houston’s comp pick for failure to sign Brady Aiken is protected as well. The D’Backs, Astros, Rockies, Rangers, Twins, Red Sox, White Sox, Cubs, Phillies and Reds will all have their first-round selections protected. Those clubs will instead forfeit a second-round pick to sign a free agent with draft pick compensation attached. Teams can sign more than one free agent that has rejected a QO, as the Orioles did last winter in signing both Ubaldo Jimenez and Cruz. In that instance, Jimenez cost the team its first-round pick, while Cruz cost the club its second-round selection.
The players listed above will now have one week to decide whether or not to accept the QO and play on a one-year deal worth $15.3MM, or instead to or reject the offer in search of a larger guarantee on the open market.
The word “guarantee” is the key to that sentiment: while many will focus on whether or not the players can top that average annual value on the free agent market, more often than not, a player is concerned primarily with maximizing the amount of money he can earn over his prime seasons. Few players are ever sold on the idea of playing on a one-year deal when a multi-year guarantee can be had. Single-year contracts, on the free agent market, are often reserved for older players who don’t know how long they wish to continue playing (e.g. Hiroki Kuroda last winter), players coming off massive injuries (e.g. Corey Hart last winter) or players who have significantly underperformed in a contract year (e.g. Chris Young last offseason).
While upon first glance it might make sense to suggest a player with a spotty track record, such as Liriano, should accept the offer, there’s more downside for him in accepting than in rejecting. Even if Liriano is faced with a cold market, he’d likely be able to find a one-year contract at an AAV north of $10MM, if not a one-year offer commensurate with the total sum of the qualifying offer, as Santana did last offseason when signing a one-year, $14.1MM contract with the Braves. Whereas the downside in accepting is “settling” for a one-year deal a few ticks below the QO level, the upside in rejecting is finding perhaps a three-year deal that could more than double the guarantee he’d otherwise receive. This risk/benefit calculus generally points toward testing the market.
The one case for accepting in this year’s class, that I see, would be that of Cuddyer. Though a solid veteran bat coming off a strong pair of seasons in terms of his rate stats, Cuddyer has defensive limitations and injury questions that will also drag his stock down. He played in just 49 games in 2014 and will play next season at age 36. MLBTR’s Zach Links only pegged his free agent stock at $22MM over two years in his recent Free Agent Profile for Cuddyer. It does seem there’s a real chance that Cuddyer could come in significantly lower than $15.3MM on a one-year deal if he rejects, and the upside may not be much greater for him as a two-year deal may have been the realistic ceiling anyhow.
Reports on whether or not any player will accept the offer should be filtering in over the next week, but those looking for a quick resource to check the status of each can use MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker (the provided link is already filtered to show only free agents that have received the QO, and their status will change from “Received” to “Rejected” or “Accepted” upon a decision being reached).
The Royals have extended a qualifying offer to free agent righty James Shields, the team announced (Twitter link). Shields has until 4pm CT on November 10 to decide whether or not to accept the one-year, $15.3MM offer, though it is universally expected that he’ll reject the QO in favor of a larger deal in free agency.
In making the qualifying offer, the Royals stand to receive a first-round draft pick as compensation if and when Shields rejects the QO and signs with another team. It has been presumed that K.C. wouldn’t be able to re-sign Shields given the high price tag he’ll command this winter, though the team will at least attempt to bring him back, perhaps buoyed by extra revenues from their postseason games.
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.
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.
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.