James Shields Rumors

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.

Olney On Qualifying Offer Candidates

In his latest Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney runs down a list of pending free agents that are candidates to receive qualifying offers. Olney spoke with several executives from around the league and is of the mind that James Shields, Max Scherzer, Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, J.J. Hardy, Victor Martinez, Ervin Santana, David Robertson and Hanley Ramirez will receive qualifying offers, which should fall between $15MM and $15.5MM.

Here are a few more notes from Olney’s piece…

  • The Giants intend to give Sandoval a QO with the assumption that he will reject the offer and test the open market. San Francisco appears willing to offer him just three years, says Olney, and even going to four years might be too much of a stretch. Such a commitment seems much too light to land Sandoval, who, at 28 years old, will be one of the youngest free agents on the market.
  • It looks like the Dodgers and Ramirez could be moving in separate directions, as rival evaluators anticipate the team will extend a qualifying offer with the expectation that Ramirez signs elsewhere.
  • The value of Martin on a one-year deal, even north of $15MM, makes a QO for the Pirates “an easy call,” one rival GM said to Olney. Some may wonder whether or not Francisco Liriano is a QO candidate, but executives polled by Olney feel that his injury history and lack of innings present too much risk for the Bucs to extend such an offer. I’m inclined to agree; while Martin is a lock to turn down the QO, Liriano would have more hesitancy, and a $15MM salary would represent nearly 21 percent of the Pirates’ Opening Day payroll from 2014.
  • Some evaluators think that Cruz will again find himself with a more limited market than he expects due to his age, 2013 PED suspension and the fact that his OBP and defense are less impressive than his power totals.
  • Many rival executives feel there’s simply no way that the Tigers will let Martinez get away. Olney’s right in noting that a QO is “an easy call” for V-Mart, who currently sports a hefty .333/.401/.567 with a career-high 31 homers.
  • Olney also feels that a QO for Robertson is an easy call. While he notes that teams don’t pay $15MM for closers anymore, one evaluator said to him: “…with any other team, we wouldn’t be talking about this. But it’s the Yankees, and they can do it.” On a somewhat related note, Olney adds that Koji Uehara‘s late-season swoon may be a blessing of sorts for the Red Sox, who can now approach him with an offer much lower than a QO would have been. I noted in yesterday’s MLBTR chat that I’d be more hesitant to give Robertson a QO, but the Yankees could certainly afford to run the risk.

Yankees & Red Sox Notes: Tanaka, Lindgren, Shields

Masahiro Tanaka threw a simulated game in Detroit earlier this week, but the Yankees have sent him back to New York with “general soreness” in his arm, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News writes. “There’s not a specific spot; it’s just throughout the arm that’s sore,” says Tanaka. “I’m glad that it’s not the elbow itself.” Right now, Yankees manager Joe Girardi describes the situation as a “little setback.” The setback further delays Tanaka’s return, however, meaning it’s increasingly unlikely he’ll be able to make it back before the season ends. Tanaka’s elbow injury has kept him out of action since July 8. Here’s more out of New York and Boston.

  • Girardi says he’s keeping his eye on 2014 second-round pick Jacob Lindgren, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com writes. After zooming through four levels in his first pro season, Lindgren could be a potential September call-up, perhaps helping the Yankees bullpen down the stretch. So far, he’s pitched 24 2/3 innings and has struck out an amazing 17.5 batters per nine innings, or almost half the batters he’s faced. He’s currently at Double-A Trenton.
  • Missing on Jose Abreu last year helped lead the Red Sox to put in the highest bid for Rusney Castillo, owner John Henry tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. “Yes, the financial aspects were impacted by coming close on Abreu. The White Sox did their homework,” says Henry. Castillo is scheduled to play his first minor league game with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox tomorrow.
  • The Red Sox could pursue Royals ace James Shields to upgrade their rotation this offseason, particularly if they’re unable to stage a reunion with Jon Lester, Bradford notes. The Red Sox spent their July acquiring hitting and are likely to address starting pitching this offseason, and ESPN’s Buster Olney had previously noted that Shields was a potential target for the Red Sox. At 32 (33 in December), Shields isn’t young, but he might be able to get a four-year deal this winter.

Marlins Not Trading Stanton, Will Pursue Top-Of-Rotation Starters In Offseason

Reports have surfaced that the Marlins plan to make legitimate run at extending Giancarlo Stanton this offseason, and MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro hears the same, shedding more light on the situation. According to his sources, the Marlins are serious about not only building around Stanton, but supplementing him by adding a top-flight starter this winter. Frisaro says the 2015 payroll could jump to $75MM, which, while modest relative to the rest of the league, would be about $30MM higher than the team’s Opening Day payroll from the current season. He suggests that the team could make a run at James Shields on the open market, who would front the rotation while Jose Fernandez rehabs from Tommy John surgery.

Suffice it to say, Frisaro gets the impression that the Marlins won’t be trading Stanton under any circumstances this offseason. In fact, he hears that even in the event that Stanton doesn’t sign an extension, the team is comfortable going year-to-year and keeping him as long as possible, then watching him leave in free agency. Miami feels that it has built a team that can be a serious postseason contender in 2015 and 2016 — Stanton’s final two years of arbitration eligibility.

As it stands right now, the Marlins could slot a free agent starter atop their rotation and fill in the remaining four spots with Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi, Jarred Cosart and Tom Koehler. Fernandez projects to return around the All-Star break next year, if not sooner, and the team also has one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball — Andrew Heaney — looming in the minor leagues. With rising young talent such as Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna on board, that would seem to be enough to give them a chance to contend in 2015.

Frisaro adds that in the hypothetical event that the Marlins ever do decide to move Stanton, it won’t be solely for a package of prospects. The Marlins would require Major League talent from another club’s roster in addition to top prospects in order to part with their elite slugger. As Frisaro writes: “You’re not going to see a repeat of the Miguel Cabrera trade. It’s not going to be Stanton for six prospects.”


Cafardo’s Latest: Bogaerts, Bradley, Phillies, Masterson, Uehara

In the latest edition of his Sunday column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the early struggles of Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. have left many around the game wondering how good each player truly is. Bogaerts’ youth makes his scuffles more understandable, but one NL adviser said that Bradley has fallen from a prospect that would be the centerpiece of a trade to a “throw-in.” The 24-year-old is a standout defender, but he’s hit just .208/.284/.303 in 470 big league plate appearances and has shown “absolutely no sign of the hitting getting better,” said the adviser. Boston will commit to Bogaerts for next year regardless of his finish, writes Cafardo, but he concludes that Bradley will have to show improvement over the final seven weeks in order to handed the center field job in 2015.

More from his column…

  • In 30 years covering baseball, Cafardo says he cannot recall an instance of a team scouting another club as much as the Phillies scouted the Red Sox without pulling the trigger on a trade. The Phillies have continued to send scouts to all three of Boston’s post-deadline series, and Cafardo wonders if the team could be preparing for offseason negotiations regarding Cole Hamels. He hears that the Sox, Rangers, Angels, Dodgers and Cubs will be the big players for Hamels this winter.
  • The Red Sox will have interest in bringing back right-hander Justin Masterson back to the organization as a free agent this winter.
  • James Shields will be one of the most sought-after free agents on this year’s market, and while his age presents risk, one AL GM tells Cafardo that being older than Jon Lester and Max Scherzer actually has some appeal: “He’s thrown a lot of innings and pitched a lot of games and there’s always the possibility of breakdown, but the fact you might be able to get him at a shorter term reduces that big risk.”
  • “The Phillies are just unreasonable in their demands,” an AL official said when discussing the trade market for Jonathan Papelbon. Still, that official feels that Papelbon will indeed be traded in August, though it may not happen until the end of the month when the Phillies will be forced to “get a bit more realistic.”
  • The Red Sox want to retain Koji Uehara, but they don’t want to go as high as the approximately $15MM qualifying offer. It appears that Uehara wants to return, though Cafardo notes that the Orioles could be a factor, as the closer’s family makes its home in the Baltimore area.
  • The MarinersChris Young just picked up his 10th win, but he tells Cafardo that the statistic doesn’t mean much to him these days. “Earlier in my career, I think it’s something I’d get excited about,” he said. “But at this point in my career, I know that wins are so far beyond a pitcher’s control. One day, the media will stop evaluating us on that.”