James Shields Rumors

Red Sox Unlikely To Make Significant Rotation Upgrade

While many fans are waiting to see the Red Sox add a front-line starter to “complete” their offseason rebuild, so to speak, general manager Ben Cherington implied on Thursday that such a move is unlikely. As WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes, Cherington explained that the Sox are more focused on the five arms they currently have in house — Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Wade Miley, Rick Porcello and Justin Masterson — and adding depth than they are on making a big splash to add to the rotation.

“We’re pursuing some stuff but I think it’€™s more what you would classify as depth related,” Cherington said. “…We like where we’€™re at. We like the collection of pitchers we have. We think there’€™s untapped potential in the group and the collection we have now can give us a strong pitching staff this year.”

Regarding James Shields, specifically, Cherington said that the Sox met with his agent at the Winter Meetings in San Diego last month, but he was quick to add that they met with a number of agents and didn’t single out Shields’ agent, Page Odle, in any way. “We’€™re pursuing some opportunities maybe on some depth in certain areas, but there’€™s nothing on the front burner that would grab headlines,” Cherington added.

Boston has been commonly linked to Shields as well as trade rumors/speculation regarding Cole Hamels and, over the past few days, Jordan Zimmermann. However, the Sox are also set to cross the luxury tax threshold as it is, and therefore, adding a significant salary to the rotation would be even more costly for Boston than it would appear on the surface. In addition, the team has already sacrificed a pair of draft picks to add Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, and while some would say that makes it easier for them to part with a third pick to bring in someone of Shields’ ilk (he’d cost them “only” a third-round pick after forfeiting a second-rounder and a Comp Balance Round B pick), the Sox may not wish to deplete their draft pool any further.


Brewers Exploring Pitching Upgrades

1:45pm: GM Doug Melvin tells Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio that his club hasn’t made a play for Shields and has not made a phone call to his camp. The team’s priority, according to Melvin, is upgrading the bullpen, where they’d like to add one or two pieces. Should the Brewers add a starter, it won’t be someone of Shields’ caliber, Melvin added (All Twitter links).

1:31pm: Following their trade of Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers are casting a wide net as they consider pitching upgrades, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Although all indications since the deal have pointed to the young Jimmy Nelson stepping into the rotation to fill Gallardo’s slot, Heyman lists James Shields as a potential candidate for Milwaukee. He also notes that Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano are considerations for the Brewers, and trades are possible as well.

Looking at next year’s payroll (via Cot’s Contracts), the Brewers project to come in around $97MM (when factoring in league-minimum players needed to round out the roster). That’s lower than their 2014 Opening Day mark of ~$103.7MM, but it seems like they’d be hard-pressed to fit Shields without going well over that mark. Of course, a back-loaded deal could make sense, as about $45MM is coming off the books next winter with Aramis Ramirez, Kyle Lohse, Jonathan Broxton, Gerardo Parra and possibly Adam Lind all due for free agency (and they’ll be free of Gallardo’s commitment — of which they’re still paying $4MM — as well).

Among the club’s guaranteed contracts, only Ryan Braun is due for a substantial ($7MM) raise. And, as far as their arbitration eligible players are concerned, Jean Segura and Wily Peralta represent the only significant cases. Each will be arb-eligible for only the first time. It should also be noted that the Brewers have plenty of precedent for waiting out the starting pitching market, as they agreed to terms with Matt Garza one year ago tomorrow and also added Lohse in Spring Training of 2013.

Still, a Shields addition would likely require a record-setting payroll in Milwaukee, which does make it somewhat of a stretch to envision. Adding an arm like Rodriguez or Soriano to shore up the bullpen, however, would seem to be a much more plausible plan of attack for GM Doug Melvin. While Milwaukee did add a power arm in the Gallardo trade (Corey Knebel), there’s little experience and stability at the back of the relief corps.


West Notes: Rockies, Astros, Gallardo, White

Wilin Rosario‘s name has come up quite frequently in trade talks this winter, but Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes that it now appears likely that the Rockies will hold onto Rosario heading into the 2015 season. GM Jeff Bridich explained to Saunders that he feels Rosario possesses the athleticism and work ethic to add first base and corner outfield to his repertoire, and he’ll still likely see some time behind the dish.

Here’s more from Saunders’ piece and more regarding other clubs in baseball’s Western divisions…

  • Charlie Blackmon has also been a popular name on the rumor mill of late, but Saunders hears that the Rockies haven’t initiated any trade talks regarding Blackmon. While they’ve talked to several teams over the past few months, they’ve been on the receiving end of those calls rather than openly shopping Blackmon.
  • Saunders also notes that a trusted Major League source informed him that the Rockies “unequivocally did not make [James] Shields an offer,” thereby squashing some speculation that it was Colorado who extended the previously reported five-year, $110MM offer.
  • The Astros‘ deal with Ryan Vogelsong looks to have fallen through, with the Giants reportedly making a serious run at re-signing the righty, but Houston GM Jeff Luhnow indicated earlier today that the team could still add another starting pitcher but is likely set from an offensive standpoint, per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com (All Twitter links). Luhnow also did not rule out trading away more of his own players. It seems like the Astros may not be quite done shaping the 2015 roster.
  • Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle spoke with Luhnow about the Astros‘ abundance of strikeout-prone hitters, and Luhnow explained that the team is OK with the trade-off of strikeouts for power. “We probably will have a few strikeouts because of the types of players that we have,” said Luhnow, “but the flipside of that equation is we’re going to produce a lot of runs with those types of players. It’s up to our hitting coach to work on them to figure out when’s the right time to go for it and when to put the ball in play, and (manager A.J. Hinch) to figure out the lineup, so we don’t kill rallies by stacking up more than two or three of these guys at a time.”
  • More from Drellich, who adds some additional Astros notes in a late-night roundup, noting that Luhnow doesn’t expect to resolve the team’s only outstanding arbitration case (that of Marwin Gonzalez) in the near future. He also adds that the Astros’ acquisition of so many strikeout-prone hitters wasn’t due to a philosophy or belief that Houston knows something about strikeouts that other clubs do not; it just happened that the power bats they targeted came with strikeout issues.
  • In a piece for FOX Sports, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs examines the changes in Yovani Gallardo‘s arsenal of pitches over the past few seasons and wonders if the Rangers can receive better results from the 28-year-old by trying to revert him to his previous ways. Gallardo has switched from pitching primarily off a four-seam fastball to throwing  significant amount of two-seamers. The results, Cameron notes, has been an increase in grounders and a decrease in strikeouts. However, Cameron theorizes that part of the thinking behind the conscious shift from Gallardo was that Milwaukee catchers excel at expanding the bottom half of the strike zone. Meanwhile the Rangers ranked 29th in team ground-ball percentage in 2014 and typically emphasize four-seamers over two-seamers. Cameron wonders if the change in scenery could cause Gallardo’s strikeout rate to rise, which could pay significant dividends for Texas.
  • Logan White is invigorated by his transition from Dodgers vice president of amateur scouting to Padres senior adviser/professional scouting director, writes MLB.com’s Corey Brock. White spoke at length about the differences between working on the amateur side of the game and working the pro side and the aggressive approach that the Padres will be taking to scouting: “We’re going to see anyone and everyone in pro baseball. We’re going to get after it on the back fields, make sure we know the makeup of these guys, talk to coaches, watch BP and early work. …  Some of the best decisions you make is because you work a little harder, not because you’re smarter than everyone else.”


Pitching Notes: Santana, Shields, Haren, Lynn

Johan Santana‘s comeback bid has hit a snag, as the southpaw was scratched from a planned Venezuelan Winter League start with shoulder soreness (via the league’s Spanish language website). Though he will surely find another opportunity to showcase for MLB clubs, shoulder health was already an obvious concern for the two-time Cy Young winner.

Here are some more notes involving starting pitching:

  • It has been a challenge to find obvious fits for free agent righty James Shields, but ESPN.com’s Dan Szymborski (Insider link) makes the attempt by focusing on which clubs would stand to receive the greatest boost in projected wins. Three NL West teams (DodgersGiantsPadres) and a trio from the AL Central (TigersRoyalsWhite Sox) join the Marlins as the clubs that the ZiPS projection system thinks would benefit most by signing Shields.
  • The Marlins have not yet received any trade offers for righty Dan Haren, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. Miami is in an interesting spot with regard to the veteran, as Jackson explains.
  • Before reaching agreement on a three-year deal that bought out all of his arb-eligible seasons, the Cardinals and righty Lance Lynn considered longer extension scenarios, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. That did not come to fruition because the team was interested in delaying Lynn’s free agency by one or two years whereas the pitcher was only interested in foregoing the open market for a larger, longer pact. Lynn explained that he would be open to revisiting talks later: “It’s not something that we could get situated, but there’s always going to be a process later. If everything goes well and I pitch the way I’m capable of, I’m sure that will be revisited down the line.”

Latest On The Market For James Shields

With Max Scherzer off the market following a historic seven-year agreement with the Nationals, all eyes will be on top remaining free agent James Shields and agent Page Odle leading up to Spring Training. ESPN’s Jayson Stark has spoken to a number of industry sources for his most recent look at Shields’ market, and he lists various reasons that the industry doesn’t expect Shields to end up with the Marlins, D-Backs, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Royals, Tigers, Rangers, Astros, Cardinals and Brewers (the Padres, at least, are listed as “possible, but not likely”).

Of particular note from Stark is that the D-Backs are actively trying to trim their payroll, rather than add salary; the Cubs are likely to look for another big-name starter, but not until next offseason; and the chances of the Marlins signing Shields are precisely “zero,” the latter of which meshes with a recent report from Grantland’s Jonah Keri.

Nonetheless, one executive to whom Stark spoke said he sees jumping back into the mix for Shields. However, one of the reasons, per that exec, is that teams believe Shields will have to settle for less than the $110MM that he reportedly was offered earlier this month and are revisiting the situation with the assumption that the price has dropped. Said Stark’s source, “But the problem is, now everyone is bottom-feeding. And when you’re someone like him, that’s the last thing you want, is a lot of teams bottom-feeding on you in late January.”

Regardless of the imperfect fits that litter the market for Shields, most executives tell Stark they can’t see Shields signing for anything less than $80MM over a four-year term, and nearly everyone to whom he spoke thinks that Shields could sign at virtually any time.

One club that won’t be signing Shields is the Giants, it seems, based on comments made by GM Brian Sabean earlier today on KNBR radio. As KNBR scribe Dieter Kurtenbach writes, Sabean plainly stated that while his club has wiggle room to add another piece, “it’s not going to be a high ticket item.” Sabean explained that while the team made a run at a pair of “high ticket” items in the form of Pablo Sandoval and Jon Lester, the team made the decision to spread the money throughout the roster. As such, the club acquired Casey McGehee and Nori Aoki to fill respective holes at third base and in left field, and Jake Peavy was re-signed to add some stability to the rotation. (Of interest to Astros fans may be Sabean’s statement of the fact that he believes Ryan Vogelsong is “going elsewhere as we speak,” as Vogelsong is said to be nearing a deal with Houston.)


Pitching Notes: Hamels, Shields, Scherzer, Strasburg

The Rangers and Phillies had “in-depth trade talks” regarding lefty Cole Hamels before Texas pulled the trigger to add Yovani Gallardo, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. The sticking point in those discussions was money, tweets Morosi’s colleague Ken Rosenthal.

Here are some more notes on some of the game’s best starters:

  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski discussed the signing of Max Scherzer with reporters today, and MLive.com’s James Schmehl has the report. Though agent Scott Boras reached out to the club to indicate Scherzer’s interest in exploring a reunion, Dombrowski said that no negotiations occurred. “We never 100 percent closed the door,” he said, “but we’re very happy with the rotation we have.”
  • Perhaps most importantly, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch never fully re-engaged with the idea of keeping Scherzer for the long-haul after the righty famously turned down a $144MM extension offer, Morosi reports. As Morosi rightly notes, neither side can be faulted for pursuing its interests. In the end, Detroit did not go beyond its comfort zone and Scherzer was able to secure a better contract elsewhere.
  • As for the notion that the Tigers could be in the market for James Shields, easily the best arm left on the open market, Dombrowski again emphasized that he was happy with the in-house options and was not looking to add. When asked specifically whether he wanted to comment on or debunk the Shields rumors, Dombrowski said: “I just did, didn’t I?”
  • Of course, the big question now is whether Scherzer’s move to the Nationals will lead his new club to deal from its impressive rotation. While pending free agents Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister have long been talked about as at least hypothetical candidates to move, the Scherzer signing has led to some suggestions that Stephen Strasburg could be dangled. Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs discusses what kind of price tag might accompany the star righty, noting that it would likely be high given not only his immense talent but also his reasonable expected salary over the next two years.
  • We have already covered a good bit of Scherzer analysis (see here and here), but ESPN.com’s Buster Olney also weighed in (Insider subscription required). He argues not only that Scherzer does not represent a significant upgrade over the already-deep group of Nats starters, but also notes that dealing away set-up man Tyler Clippard — and, if it occurs, trading other starters or shortstop Ian Desmond — could create significant issues elsewhere on the roster. All said, the long-term obligations in the Scherzer deal are something of an unnecessary risk, Olney suggests.

NL Notes: Giants, Dodgers, Mets

The Giants are still looking for another starting pitcher, but probably not one in the Jordan Zimmermann / James Shields class. Instead, they could bring back Ryan Vogelsong, who remains on the free agent market, Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle writes (Twitter links). The defending champs have had a quiet offseason overall, and in a long article, as Schulman explains. They tried to sign Jon Lester, but haven’t made similar pushes to sign Shields or Max Scherzer, since they felt Lester was the best gamble of the three (although Schulman leaves open the possibility that they could bid for Shields). They’ve pursued trades for Justin Upton and other players to help make up for the loss of Pablo Sandoval, but do not want to give up one or more of their better young players for a rental. That means the Giants might not make any big moves, perhaps waiting to add talent via trade during Spring Training or the regular season. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • The Dodgers are trying to acquire a late-inning relief option, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. Casey Janssen, Rafael Soriano and Francisco Rodriguez are among the top names remaining on the free agent market. The Dodgers have been active in trades this offseason, however, and one might think they could easily pursue an upgrade there rather than paying for an established late-inning type in free agency.
  • The Mets‘ shortstop situation might not be as bad as it appears, Mike Petriello of Fangraphs writes. Assuming Wilmer Flores gets most of the playing time, the Mets only project to be a bit below the middle of the pack at that position, and many of the shortstops available one way or another this offseason (Stephen Drew, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, Yunel Escobar, and so on) came with significant offensive or defensive question marks. There are bigger-ticket options like Troy Tulowitzki and Ian Desmond, but they would only be available to the Mets at steep prices. At least at the shortstop position, the Mets aren’t victims of complacency so much as they’re victims of a lack of options.

Cafardo On Scherzer, Shields, Kimbrel, Chapman

Teams are aware that Max Scherzer and James Shields are excellent pitchers, but many teams don’t have enough money remaining in their budgets to sign them, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. The Red Sox like both pitchers and don’t have an obvious ace, but they’ve already spent heavily this offseason and have plenty of good starters, one of whom could emerge to lead them. A number of teams, meanwhile, are waiting for Shields’ price to come down. Where Scherzer and Shields land could depend on owners who are willing to step up and sign them, regardless of their teams’ budgets. (The Nationals and another team are reportedly currently involved in the bidding for Scherzer.) In other nuggets from Cafardo’s Sunday Notes column:

  • The Red Sox are committed to Christian Vazquez being their starting catcher; but, with the development of Blake Swihart, it may not be for long. The Phillies covet Swihart in a potential Cole Hamels trade, but one NL executive wonders whether they would take Vazquez instead.
  • Baseball executives tell Cafardo the Braves may be willing to deal closer Craig Kimbrel at the trade deadline, if the club is struggling. The same goes for the Reds and Aroldis Chapman. Cafardo lists the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Tigers as the teams who would most benefit from adding either reliever.
  • The Orioles will not be able to obtain an MLB player as compensation if Dan Duquette joins the Blue Jays, but owner Peter Angelos will seek one or two very good prospects.
  • The Giants scored another quality signing when they came to terms with outfielder Nori Aoki. The Giants had inquired with the Red Sox about their surplus of outfielders, including Shane Victorino, Allen Craig, and Daniel Nava.

Starting Pitcher Notes: Rangers, Scherzer, Shields, Cardinals

The Rangers hope to add another starting pitcher, reports T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. However, the club is out on “big-name free agents” and unlikely to trade for Phillies starter Cole Hamels. The rotation remains unsettled, with Nick Tepesch, Nick Martinez, and Lisalverto Bonilla currently expected to compete for the fifth starter’s role. Presently, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Ross Detwiler, and Colby Lewis are penciled in for jobs with Matt Harrison an unknown. Here’s more from the pitching marketplace.

  • Max Scherzer and James Shields are in uncharted territory, writes Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times. Of the nine free agent pitchers who have signed nine-figure contracts, only Masahiro Tanaka agreed to terms after January 1st. Teams like to have a working idea of their roster and payroll at this point in the offseason, which is why these big deals are usually reached before the new year. Earlier tonight, we learned the Blue Jays are interested in Shields, and his price may have dropped below $100MM. Meanwhile, Scherzer and agent Scott Boras are trying to beat the $144MM extension offer Scherzer reportedly declined prior to last season.
  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak is talking up the club’s pitching depth, reports Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. That could mean the club will pass on Scherzer and Shields. The club has been loosely connected to Scherzer, but it seems as though Mozeliak is content to stand pat unless ownership intervenes. It may be worth noting that the Cardinals became Matt Holliday‘s eventual home after a similarly quiet spin through free agency.
  • Needless to say, the Cardinals are loathe to trade from their hoard of minor leaguers for Hamels. In my opinion, it makes sense for the club to gauge what they have in Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia, and Marco Gonzales before executing a blockbuster trade.

Blue Jays Interested In James Shields

The Blue Jays have begun to internally discuss free agent starter James Shieldsreports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. As Shields’ expected price tag declines, it is anticipated that more clubs will get involved in the bidding. It was rumored over the last few weeks that he had a five-year, $110MM offer in hand. Either the deal never materialized or he did not want to sign with that team. Per Rosenthal, some executives now anticipate a four-year deal worth $70MM to $80MM.

Toronto’s interest is in the nascent stages. Their internal dialogue has focused on finding a comfortable price point. The club is “digging” for additional information regarding Shields. They have yet to engage in negotiations with agent Page Odle.

The Blue Jays currently have about $130MM committed to the roster with perhaps as much as $7MM remaining to address the bullpen. If the club does pursue Shields, it will probably require ownership intervention and a backloaded contract similar to that of Russell Martin. However, if Shields were to headline the rotation, it could free prospect Aaron Sanchez for a high leverage bullpen role.

In my own opinion, an eight figure price point should put a lot of teams back in play. The Diamondbacks and Tigers are two franchises who have recently been tied to Shields. In addition to the Blue Jays, the Yankees and Red Sox strike me as obvious fits at the revised price.