James Shields Rumors

Central Notes: Shields, Scherzer, Kang, Cubs

Recent discussions between free agent James Shields and the Tigers make sense for both sides, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi writes. The Tigers have a good rotation for 2015 but could lose David Price and Alfredo Simon after the season, meaning Shields could be a good addition both for 2015 and beyond. Morosi adds that the Tigers have maintained contact with Scott Boras about Max Scherzer, although there are no indications that discussions have gotten very far. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.

  • Likewise, it makes sense for the Cardinals to sign Scherzer, Morosi writes. Morosi reports that Scherzer and the Cardinals have made known to one another that both sides are interested, but notes that the length and dollar amount of the sort of contract Scherzer is seeking might be an issue for the Cardinals. One way for the two sides to come to terms, Morosi suggests, would be for the Cardinals to offer fewer years (perhaps five) at a high average annual value. (Morosi suggests $156MM, which would give Scherzer the highest AAV ever for a pitcher.) Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said today, however, that the team is not shopping for expensive pitchers (via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch on Twitter).
  • The Pirates‘ signing of Jung-ho Kang has upside but comes with little risk, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. The Pirates’ financial obligations are minimal (about $16MM over four years, including Kang’s posting fee), and if Kang proves effective, he could give the Pirates valuable infield insurance in case third baseman Josh Harrison or shortstop Jordy Mercer don’t continue to work out. (Harrison would appear to be set as a starter for the next couple years after a borderline-MVP-caliber season in 2014, but anything can happen.) Also, Kang is signed through at least 2018, while second baseman Neil Walker has only two years remaining before he’s eligible for free agency. As Sawchik points out in a separate article, Kang could also make plenty of money for the Pirates by attracting advertising from Korean companies.
  • Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said at Cubs Convention today that other teams have inquired about catcher Welington Castillo, but that the Cubs haven’t yet received any compelling offers, Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune tweets. With the additions of Miguel Montero and David Ross this offseason, there’s no obvious role for Castillo in Chicago, even though he has a solid track record as an offensive catcher. Via Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald (on Twitter), Hoyer added that Ross was too good not to acquire, despite Castillo’s talent. The 37-year-old Ross has hit sparingly in the past two seasons but has a solid record as a pitch framer.

Latest On James Shields

The market for James Shields continues to move slowly, but there have been a couple of updates on him today, including the mention of a new team. Here’s the latest…

  • Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski says that the club is not in active pursuit of any starters, Jason Beck of MLB.com tweets.

Earlier Updates

  • Shields’ agent, Page Odle, recently had contact with the Tigers, according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links). It’s not clear to what extent Detroit is interested, Morosi notes. The Tigers have previously stated that they’re not in active pursuit of starting pitching upgrades, although such plans can always change as the offseason wears on.
  • Meanwhile, Jonah Keri of Grantland and ESPN hears from a source close to the situation that there’s a “zero percent chance” of the Shields/Marlins rumor coming to fruition (Twitter link).

*An earlier version of this post mistakenly stated that Odle had met with the Tigers.

NL East Notes: Shields, Howard, Mets, Nationals

The Marlins are taking a cautious approach to their interest in James Shields, writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. While the Fish undoubtedly have interest, the team simply won’t go to the $100MM range over five years. Frisaro speculates that something in the five-year, $90MM range could be their limit, and even that would be tricky. The Marlins could afford to pay Shields as much as $20MM on a front-loaded deal, but they have $33MM committed to four players in 2016 with a whopping 14 players eligible for arbitration next winter (of course, some could be non-tendered or traded). The target payroll for 2016 is $80MM, making it difficult to commit a huge salary to Shields. The Marlins, Frisaro writes, want to ensure that nothing similar to their 2012 fire sale happens again; that year, they loaded their payroll up over $100MM with the assumption that a new ball park would send revenues to record levels, but the earnings didn’t reach Miami’s projections. That, coupled with a losing season on the field, led to the dramatic restructuring of the roster.

This is purely speculative on my behalf, but I’d think the idea of trading Steve Cishek, who projects to earn $6.9MM in 2015 (to say nothing of what’s sure to be a sizable 2016 salary), would make things easier on the Fish going forward. Allocating that type of cash to one reliever restricts a club with a limited payroll in a substantial way. Then again, the Marlins have been reluctant to listen to offers for Cishek in the past, and one could argue that paying one starter upwards of $20MM is equally limiting. Previous reports have indicated that Miami could have a new TV deal by 2017, so they could soon have much greater means for an increased payroll.

Moving away from Shields, here are a few more notes from the NL East…

  • ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweeted yesterday that he’s heard from clubs in touch with the Phillies that Philadelphia is playing up what a great person Ryan Howard is when pitching him in potential trades. While Stark notes that it’s an accurate point, he adds that (unsurprisingly), it’s done little to help the Phillies’ cause. There still appear to be no takers at this point, says Stark.
  • Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com looks at the inactivity of the Mets‘ in addressing their shortstop position and concludes that there really hasn’t been an ideal fit for the club this offseason. Ian Desmond, the most recent name in the mix, would’ve cost them Noah Syndergaard and another prospect and is hitting the open market next season. The top free agent shortstop, Hanley Ramirez, signed as a left fielder, and other free agents like Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie have significant defensive question marks. Stephen Drew‘s contract was negligible, but as Castrovince notes, a year of Drew is not a clearly better option than getting a definitive answer as to whether or not Wilmer Flores can handle the position.
  • Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com ponders if the combination of Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar would be an upgrade over the Nationals‘ expected midddle-infield tandem of Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa, had the rumored three-team trade with the Mets and Rays gone through. It’s debatable, he writes, and the second year on Escobar’s contract had significant value for Washington, as Trea Turner likely won’t be ready by 2016, but the Nats could still come out ahead by retaining Desmond for 2015 and adding a second base upgrade. Zuckerman points out that the very fact that the trade was discussed indicates that GM Mike Rizzo is still actively pursuing upgrades and could find an alternative just yet.

D-Backs GM Stewart Talks Payroll, Shields, Catchers

4:02pm: In addition to discussing catchers, as noted below, Stewart also discussed the club’s payroll and his interest in James Shields with Piecoro. Stewart notes that the addition of Cuban righty Yoan Lopez could push the club to make cost-cutting moves. Lopez received an $8.25MM signing bonus that, after accounting for the penalties incurred due to exceeding their bonus pool, will cost the D-Backs about $16.3MM, Piecoro writes.

Stewart says he isn’t sure how the D-Backs will trim payroll, but they’re currently looking at about $106MM, and he’d like to be under $100MM. “I would like to be (under $100 million),” he tells Piecoro. “I’ve not been told to be, but I would like to be.” One player the club isn’t interested in dealing, according to Piecoro, is Mark Trumbo.

Despite the plainly stated desire to shed payroll, the D-Backs remain interested in Shields, Stewart says. The D-Backs have spoken with agent Page Odle to “work on groundwork,” according to Stewart, who thinks that the team’s old-school mentality will appeal to Shields. “I think James is a throwback guy by the way he goes about his business and the innings he pitches,” says Stewart. “I think the fact that Tony (La Russa) is here and that we have more baseball people — he probably sees us as a true baseball team vs. some of the other teams out here that are geared more toward analytics and those type of things.”

Stewart’s comments are interesting, particularly due to the fact that La Russa said after the departure of former GM Kevin Towers in September that he hoped to “beef up” the club’s usage of advanced metrics (via MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert on Twitter). Additionally, the club hired a new director of analytics just this past November, though they’ve done little else from a baseball operations standpoint to alter their image as a member of baseball’s old guard.

1:59m: GM Dave Stewart says that he has decided not to pursue an upgrade behind the plate, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. Instead, the club will rely on the continued development of recent trade acquisition Peter O’Brien while also utilizing some combination of Tuffy Gosewisch and Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez.

Piecoro quotes Stewart:

“I’ve decided that I’m not going to pursue another catcher. I talked with my people and my coaching staff. They believe that O’Brien is going to be around sooner than later. If that does happen, there’s no need to go out and get another guy. We would have had to trade somebody we didn’t want to trade to make it happen. We’re going to be patient and allow the progression of O’Brien to take place and stand pat on that.”

O’Brien, 24, came to Arizona in the Martin Prado deal and only had time for four games in his new organization. A bat-first catcher, the question remains whether O’Brien’s glove will be good enough to keep him behind the dish. Piecoro reports that Arizona was impressed with his work in the AFL, and notes that the team has had a chance to watch him over the last few days as well. Of course, it is far from clear that O’Brien will be ready to contribute at the big league level this season, leaving the team with quite a thin group at the position.

Pitching Notes: Shields, Cards, Ogando, Albers, Baker, Coke, Comebacks

As things stand, the Nationals have the game’s best rotation while the Royals have the top pen, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney opines (Insider links). Of course, the offseason is not yet over. Here are the latest notes on the pitching market:

  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart confirmed that the team has active interest in starter James Shields, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Stewart adds that he likes the idea of  Shields serving as a mentor while fronting the team’s rotation. Fellow free agent Max Scherzer, however, is too spendy for Arizona.
  • When the Cardinals pursued lefty Jon Lester, the team indicated it was willing to spend only to the $120MM range, Olney tweets. That could give an idea of what kind of payroll space the club feels willing to occupy, says Olney. St. Louis was recently linked to a trio of top starting pitchers, each of whom would represent quite a different investment.
  • Alexi Ogando apparently produced solid results in his recent workout, with Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com tweeting that scouts were impressed. The Red Sox and Dodgers are “aggressive” on Ogando, Gammons adds. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe had tweeted that Boston was in attendance.
  • Righty Matt Albers is throwing in preparation for a showcase early next month, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). The shoulder issues that shut him down last year did not involve any structural damage, says Morosi.
  • Agent Bobby Witt says that client Scott Baker, another free agent righty, prefers to join a team that will allow him to enter camp as a starter, Morosi reports (Twitter links). Baker has five minor league offers in hand but is hoping to receive a major league contract.
  • Interest in lefty Phil Coke is “amping up,” Chris Iott of MLive.com tweets. Nevertheless, a signing does not appear to be imminent, per the report.
  • The Twins are planning to watch lefty Johan Santana throw today after already seeing him on the mound last week, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets. Santana is not the only prominent hurler eyeing a comeback, it seems. Former closer Carlos Marmol threw in the Dominican earlier this winter and is now pitching in Venezuela, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. And one-time relief ace Daniel Bard, whose career derailed with a failed conversion back to the rotation, is also seeking a return, Cafardo reports. The 29-year-old says he is finally healthy and expects to sign a deal this week.

Diamondbacks “In Mix” For James Shields

The Diamondbacks are “in [the] mix” for free agent righty James Shields, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports report (Twitter links). Shields has received a $110MM offer, but was not interested in playing for that unnamed team, per the report.

Arizona is not interested in guaranteeing Shields nine figures, says FOX Sports, which indicates that present bidding is shy of $100MM. Notably, a report from one week back stated that the D’Backs (and Marlins) felt that they could not reach the necessary price range for Shields.

With the market for Shields still murky, it remains impossible to predict where he will end up. Per the above-linked article, interest in Shields seems to come with significant qualifications beyond that of the since-rejected high-bidding club. Neither is it entirely clear what standards the 32-year-old veteran will use to decide. A native of the West Coast, Shields has a wife and children to consider as well.

As for the D’Backs, the team has made several moves to re-shape its roster since overhauling its front office in advance of the offseason. Coming into the winter, new GM Dave Stewart said that a front-line pitcher was on the wish list, though it was never clear just how likely it was that the team would seriously pursue a higher-level talent like Shields.

As things stand, the team will roll out a rotation that could include some or all of recent additions Jeremy Hellickson, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Vidal Nuno, and even Robbie Ray. Pre-existing options such as Josh Collmenter and Trevor Cahill, along with Tommy John rehabbers Bronson Arroyo and Patrick Corbin, remain available as well, among others.

Landing Shields would obviously put a different spin on the team’s moves to date. Presumably, such a win-now act would add particular impetus to the team’s efforts to upgrade behind the plate, potentially by dealing away from the starting depth.

Cafardo On Hamels, Shields, Duquette, Maddon

It’s time to add Pete Rose’s name to Hall of Fame ballot, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.  Cafardo always agreed with the decision from commissioner Bart Giamatti to keep Rose out of baseball after he bet on games but after 25 years at the age of 73, he feels that the all-time great has paid for his crime.  He’s not sure whether he’d vote for Charlie Hustle, but he should at least have the opportunity to be elected.  More from today’s column..

  • Cafardo hears that there have been no talks this month between the Phillies and Red Sox regarding Cole Hamels.  Boston will not part with Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart but the Phillies want one of the two to make a deal.  West Coast teams, meanwhile, are in pursuit of the left-hander.
  • One National League GM speculated that James Shields hasn’t jumped on his rumored $110MM offer because he doesn’t want to play for that team.  Of course, at 33, teams are wary of giving a five-year deal.  “There isn’t a team who wouldn’t want Shields for three years. But five? That’s where it gets tough,” one GM said.
  • Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette is still in the running for the Blue Jays president’s job, according to a major league source that spoke with Cafardo.  In order that that to advance, of course, the two teams would have to agree on compensation, which is where deals such as this usually break down.
  • The tampering charge the Rays filed against the Cubs over manager Joe Maddon is still alive.  A major league source tells Cafardo that MLB investigators have been gathering information on the matter.
  • Alexi Ogando‘s shoulder medicals don’t look great, according to an American League executive.  Still, once his price lowers and he’s no longer holding out for a major league contract, teams will compete for his services.
  • Mark Mulder says he’s in the final stage of rehab for his Achilles’/ankle injury and will soon make a decision on whether to resume his pitching career.  “The ankle is great,” Mulder said.

Quick Hits: Haren, Lavarnway, A’s

The Marlins still hope that Dan Haren will report to spring training, writes Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. The righty, who was acquired from the Dodgers earlier in the offseason, has told the club he prefers to play for a west coast team. Of the available options, the Padres and Giants are considered the most likely to acquire him. However, the Marlins could use a veteran like Haren, and they’re unlikely to spend $100MM on a free agent alternative like James Shields. When MLBTR readers were polled last week, nearly 11% thought he would pitch for the Marlins next season.

NL East Notes: Werth, Zobrist, Fedde, Shields, Phillies

Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth will undergo arthroscopic surgery on right shoulder tomorrow and need two to three months to recover, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (All Twitter links). Werth will have his AC shoulder joint — the same joint that caused him to miss time in August — repaired at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. While the first reaction of some (myself included) is probably to wonder if this will increase Washington’s interest in Ben Zobrist, Rosenthal reports that that’s not the case. The Nats have considered the asking price on Zobrist to be too high in talks with the Rays, he says.

A three-month recovery could result in Werth missing time early in the season, which could lead to increased playing time for Nate McLouth or Michael Taylor. As the Nats deal with this unfortunate news, here are a few more notes pertaining to their division…

  • Erick Fedde, whom the Nationals selected in the first round of last year’s draft despite the fact that he had undergone Tommy John surgery, is progressing well in his rehab and has begun a throwing program, reports MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. Fedde has also begun weight training and says that Stephen Strasburg and Lucas Giolito, both of whom have undergone Tommy John in the past, have been vital to keeping him upbeat and optimistic about his recovery.
  • The Marlins have interest in James Shields but will likely only be able to make a serious play for him if his price tag drops below $100MM, writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Miami had “considerable” interest in Shields back in November, but they’ve since added Mat Latos and Dan Haren into the rotation mix. Haren, of course, wants to be traded back to a West Coast club, and moving him is another likely prerequisite to a theoretical Shields signing.
  • Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer examines the Phillies‘ options for left field now that Marlon Byrd is with the Reds and Domonic Brown appears to be moving back to right field. Grady Sizemore is the favorite to at least platoon with someone at that spot, but Kaplan notes that Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera is an intriguing name to keep an eye on. The second-baseman-turned-outfielder is just 23 years of age and enjoying a brilliant season in the Venezuelan Winter League, hitting a ridiculous .372/.432/.556 with six homers and eight steals in just over 200 at-bats. Kaplan also spoke with GM Ruben Amaro Jr. about Jeff Francoeur‘s chances of making the club after signing a minor league deal earlier this offseason.

Free Agent Notes: Beachy, Scherzer, Angels, Beckham, Toritani

Right-hander Brandon Beachy is mulling over six offers and hopes to make a decision by Friday of this week, reports SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter link). Beachy has thrown for seven teams over the past 10 days, according to Cotillo. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that the Twins are not one of the teams with an offer out. The 28-year-old Beachy was non-tendered by the Braves in December due to the fact that he underwent his second Tommy John surgery last spring. Any club that signs Beachy to a one-year deal would have the right to control him via arbitration, though a team certainly could offer a second year option or even two guaranteed years as a means of enticing him. In 267 2/3 innings at the Major League level, Beachy has a 3.23 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 (all with the Braves).

Here are some more notes on free agents, including the top name on the market…

  • There’s no timetable on a decision for Max Scherzer, agent Scott Boras tells MLB.com’s Jason Beck. Boras told Beck that Scherzer is an ownership-level decision, and as Beck points out, Boras has worked out deals with Tigers owner Mike Ilitch for both Prince Fielder and Johnny Damon in years past — both of which came late in the offseason. Nonetheless, Detroit appears to have a full rotation, and their long-term payroll outlook is already questionable. I personally have a hard time envisioning a reunion between the two sides.
  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto told reporters tonight, including Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times (Twitter link), that he isn’t pursuing any free agent pitchers, and that includes both Scherzer and James Shields. The Halos have speculatively been mentioned as fits for both, although as we’ve pointed out here in the past, that seems to be a stretch given their desire to stay beneath the luxury tax threshold.
  • DiGiovanna also notes (Twitter link) that a reunion with Gordon Beckham now looks unlikely for the Angels“We’ve built up quite a bit of infield depth,” Dipoto told reporters. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register was also on hand, and he tweets that Dipoto said the team is “playing it by ear” regarding Beckham. Fletcher, too, feels that Beckham will sign elsewhere.
  • Japanese shortstop Takashi Toritani was on the Mets‘ radar briefly last month, but the team no longer has any intention of pursuing him, tweets Mike Puma of the New York Post. This report only further support the widespread belief that Wilmer Flores is ticketed for the Amazins’ Opening Day shortstop gig. As for Toritani, he’s been connected to the Blue Jays and Padres as well, though neither seems to have particularly serious interest at this juncture.