James Shields Rumors

James Shields Rumors: Thursday

The market for James Shields is picking up steam, to say the least, with multiple reports indicating that he could decide upon a team before this weekend comes to a close. As of yesterday, the Marlins were still said to be in talks for Shields, with the Cubs “kicking the tires.” The Padres were indirectly connected to Shields, as reports had them seeking a top-end starter, though Shields was not mentioned by name.

Here are today’s Shields-related items…

  • “The Padres…have to be considered favorites for” Shields, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets.  The fact that Shields lives in San Diego could indeed give the Padres the edge, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes.
  • While the Padres are indeed “among the favorites” for Shields, Heyman reports that “a few other teams, including at least one surprise” are in contact with Shields’ camp.  A person connected to the Cubs tells Heyman that Chicago could get involved in Shields’ market if his price falls significantly; the Cubs’ interest in Shields was first reported yesterday.
  • The Blue Jays are “kicking the tires” on Shields, which is a surprise to Heyman given their payroll limitations.  This isn’t the first time Toronto has been linked to Shields, though it remains to be seen if the Jays can create the financial space to sign Shields even at a lowered price tag.

Earlier Updates

  • The Dodgers are currently focused on international stars Yoan Moncada and Hector Olivera and not Shields, tweets Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons. Many have speculated that the Dodgers could make a play based not only on their deep pockets but on the presence of former Rays GM Andrew Friedman atop the new L.A. baseball operations department.
  • Multiple sources have told Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald that they do not expect the Marlins to sign Shields. One source characterized the chances as “zero percent.” For what it’s worth, others have also reported the chances as “zero,” only to have rumors of talks between the two sides resurface. Ultimately, however, it seems that the Fish are long shots. Shields’ reported desire to play for a team on the West Coast and the Marlins’ limited payroll are both detrimental factors.
  • Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has been told by sources in recent weeks that the Cardinals “are not a team with interest.” As Goold outlines, the Cardinals may be wary not only of forfeiting a draft pick but of forfeiting the portion of their draft bonus pool that would go along with it. Based on last year’s slot figures, signing Shields would cost St. Louis 28.3 percent of its bonus pool.

James Shields Rumors: Wednesday

We learned last night that the market for James Shields was taking shape, with multiple offers on the table and an expectation that the righty would be signed by the end of the week. Today figures to deliver plenty more reporting on the best remaining free agent, and we’ll keep tabs on it here.

  • The Cubs have entered the fray and are “kicking the tires” on Shields, reports David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com. Kaplan, too, hears that Shields is expected to choose a team by the end of the week, and the Cubs are among those he is considering. Kaplan tweets that the Cubs have been waiting to see where the Shields market ended up before getting too involved. He adds that Shields has interest in Chicago, with his relationship with manager Joe Maddon being a factor.

Earlier Updates

  • Shields’s agent, Page Odle, has indicated to some clubs that his client is “getting close to resolution,” according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (via Twitter).
  • While it remains unclear exactly where they stand, the Marlins “remain in talks” involving Shields, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports. As he writes, the club is more interested in a three-year deal than in going to four, with its pursuit complicated by payroll projections and the undecided situation of Dan Haren.
  • If Miami is in, several other at-least-hypothetical landing spots appear to be out: The Cardinals prefer to plug Carlos Martinez in the rotation rather than signing Shields, tweets Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Rangers have not modified their intentions to avoid major free agent pitching investments, according to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan (via Twitter). And the always-unpredictable Athletics are not involved, per a tweet from Heyman.
  • Two more west coast teams, the Giants and Angels, are also not currently in the running, Heyman reports (Twitter links). San Francisco had been in conversations in the four-year, $80MM range with Shields earlier in the offseason, per an Olney tweet, but ended up pursuing (and signing) Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong when they were rebuffed.

(more…)


AL Central Notes: Tigers, Albers, Giambi, Gwynn

Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski addressed reporters yesterday and touched on a number of Hot Stove related topics. Via James Schmehl of MLive.com (All Twitter links), Dombrowski again stated that he’s happy with his current group of starters and rejected the idea of a serious pursuit of James Shields. Dombrowski did say he’s open to adding another arm, but it would come in the form of a non-roster invite, if it happens at all. As for free agents Phil Coke and Joba Chamberlain, both of whom posted sub-4.00 ERAs out of the Detroit bullpen last year, there’s been no serious discussions with either of them, and neither is likely to return to the team in 2015.

Here are a few more notes out of the much-improved AL Central as Spring Traning nears…

  • The Tigers will be among the teams in attendance to watch righty Matt Albers throw next week, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Shoulder problems limited the big righty to 10 innings of work in 2014, but he’s been quite effective dating back to 2012, posting a combined 2.63 ERA in 133 1/3 frames. Albers averaged 5.9 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in that time, registering an exceptional 59.4 percent ground-ball rate as well.
  • The Indians have a standing offer to Jason Giambi to work for the team in a non-playing capacity, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted earlier this week. It’s unclear exactly what role Giambi would fill, but he’s beloved in the Cleveland clubhouse and organization after playing there the past two seasons, so it’s likely that the players would be receptive to such an idea. Giambi, 44, has batted a combined .171/.246/.346 with 11 homers in 286 plate appearances for Cleveland since signing there prior to the 2013 campaign.
  • Tony Gwynn Jr.’s representatives at John Boggs and Associates are trying to sell the Twins on his defensive prowess in center field, but the team isn’t biting at this time, tweets 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson. Minnesota’s outfield defense does figure to be a problem in 2015, but they’ll go with a mix of Oswaldo ArciaAaron Hicks, Torii Hunter and Jordan Schafer to open the year. I’d imagine Gwynn could be stashed at Triple-A, making him a reasonable add, although Byron Buxton figures to occupy center field at Triple-A sometime in 2015 as well, so the Twins may simply prefer not to bring in an outside veteran. It’s been a quiet offseason for Gwynn, though this is the second time this month we’ve heard some rumblings about the 32-year-old defensive standout.


James Shields Expected To Sign By End Of Week

Reports this evening suggest that the wheels are now turning for free agent righty James Shields. With multiple offers in hand, says Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter), the veteran is expected to sign by the end of the week.

As I wrote yesterday, while Shields and agent Page Odle face a difficult task of maximizing value in the month of February, time remains for his market to re-develop. It appears that could now be taking place, with the list of suitors potentially growing this evening.

The Cardinals have now “shown interest” in Shields, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports on Twitter. While the St. Louis brass has insisted that the club feels good about its rotation depth, there are enough areas of concern that another arm could make good sense — particularly one of Shields’s quality.

Meanwhile, a rival general manager says that he believes the Yankees are “actively pursuing” Shields, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. New York certainly could justify buttressing its starting five: it probably has an even greater need to upgrade at the back end and protect against uncertainty in the projected rotation than do the Cards. On the other hand, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that he hears the team is not changing its decision not to pursue top-of-the-market starters.

It certainly appears that both clubs have the financial wherewithal to make such a move. St. Louis has been judicious with committing future assets and maintains good forward-looking payroll flexibility. And New York can never be counted out from dipping into its coffers when opportunity arises.

As for other possibilities, the Padres are also believed to have engaged in recent discussions with the Shields camp, Morosi tweets. Another busy club, the White Sox, are almost certainly set to enter the spring with their current array of talent, GM Rick Hahn tells Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com (via Twitter).

While both of these clubs have been mentioned as possible landing spots for Shields at various points in the past, it was never entirely clear whether that was based on analysis or real internal consideration. These latest reports appear to push the needle toward the latter. Obviously, the entry of either or both would be excellent news for Shields’s leverage.


James Shields And The Difficulty Of Finding $50MM In February

Entering February, James Shields remains far and away the most eyebrow-raising name left on the list of open-market players. Shields ranked third on the big board of MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes coming into the hot stove season, but he has yet to sign despite the fact that we are now closer to the start of camp than we are to 2014.

It is somewhat difficult to assess how Shields reached this point and where he might expect to go. We here at MLBTR argued nearly one year ago that he was not likely to reach nine figures given his age, yet not more than a month ago he was reportedly in position to do just that. But momentum has never really seemed to gather towards a signing.

Regardless of the reasons why, surely, having entered the winter with an expectation that he would take home an average annual value approaching $20MM over four or five seasons, Shields should still manage to at least gain admission into that ballpark — right?

I’m not so sure, and recent reports suggest the same. While the still largely-unknown particulars of Shields’s market and the state of negotiations are the most important factors, precedent does suggest that the downside could go lower than merely giving up that fifth year.

This is not the first time in recent memory — or, if you prefer, the qualifying offer era — that the free agent market has been left with an unsigned, top-tier player heading into the month of February. Last year, Ervin Santana (6th) and Ubaldo Jimenez (11th) had to wait until after Valentine’s Day to sign, while 14th-rated Stephen Drew lasted through to the summer. In the 2012-13 class, No. 3 free agent Michael Bourn and No. 10 Kyle Lohse both languished.

Based on the experiences of those players, Shields faces an uphill path. To wit:

  • Santana ($15MM) and Drew ($14.1MM, prorated) both ultimately settled for far less in terms of dollars and years than had been expected (see here and here);
  • two mid-range arms in Lohse and Jimenez both had different experiences but landed within range of expectations, with the former perhaps earning more toward the lower end of his curve and the latter doing just the opposite;
  • the most analogous player to Shields in terms of quality, perhaps, was Bourn, who entered the offseason accompanied by whispers that he might be looking for a deal approaching nine figures before settling for $48MM.

The Jimenez example shows that the market can still pay out at full price in February, perhaps especially for a starting pitcher who would upgrade virtually any team’s rotation. But all the other situations are less than inspiring, even when acknowledging their innumerable independent quirks and small aggregate sample size.

Let’s look back a bit further, using MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker (with filters applied). The tracker is admittedly sporadic before the 2006-07 signing year, but is solid to that point and dips back even earlier on more significant deals.

The results are actually somewhat startling: beyond Jimenez, only one single player — J.D. Drew, Valentine’s Day 2007, five years and $70MM with the Red Sox — cleared even the $50MM barrier. Indeed, only three other players — Max Scherzer (7/$210MM, 1/19/15), Matt Garza (4/$50MM, 1/26/14), and Prince Fielder (9/$214MM, 1/24/12) — signed for over $50MM in the second half of January. The bottom line is that it is late to find big money.

While it would be foolhardy to suggest that these highly context-specific data points tell us something immutable about how much Shields can earn, they do support the intuitive idea that Shields faces a greater possibility of a slide in earning capacity. That is all the more true, perhaps, given that he apparently values non-monetary elements enough to have already rejected a $110MM offer (though that reported figure has yet to be lined up with a plausible offeror).

What we do know (or think we know) about this specific market does not paint a rosier picture. Earlier today, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney cited (Insider link) rival agents who feel that Shields may need to jump if he gets three guaranteed years at a reasonable price tag. Truly interested teams are somewhat scarce, and all have reasons not to plunk down anything approaching $100MM, as Olney’s colleague Jayson Stark recently wrote.

To be sure, plenty of time remains for the market to re-develop and the cost to go back up, to say nothing of a (perhaps unlikely) scenario in which Shields waits to see if injuries or other issues crop up this spring. But if Shields’s AAV does indeed fall below the expected $18MM to $19MM range, a three year pact could well land at or below the $50MM mark. Of course, as the above discussion shows, even reaching that threshold at this point in the offseason timeline would actually represent a rather unusual achievement.


AL Notes: Shields, Samardzija, Moncada, Rangers

James Shields, the top free agent still available, has lost his leverage and is in the worst possible spot as most teams have exhausted their payroll space and are more willing to identify reasons to dismiss an available player, opines ESPN’s Buster Olney in an Insider piece (subscription required). The longer a premium free agent like Shields remains unsigned, Olney notes, the more his negotiating strategy and leverage position are picked apart. Along those lines, a National League GM tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, “It’s hard to project a team would go five years.

In today’s news and notes from the American League:

  • Agent Mark Rodgers told MLB Network Radio’s Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette (audio link) he will listen to any overtures from the White Sox to extend Jeff Samardzija, but his client will most likely find out what his “ultimate value is in the open market, which is what free agency is all about.
  • The Tigers hosted a private workout for Yoan Moncada, reports Lynn Henning of the Detroit News. MLB.com’s Jason Beck adds the workout was held last week at the team’s facility in Lakeland. Both Henning and Beck believe this was simply due diligence on the Tigers’ part because of the signing bonus Moncada will command.
  • In today’s mailbag, a reader asks Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer why the Indians allowed J.D. Martinez to slip through their fingers and join their divisional rivals last year. The Tigers, he explained, needed depth in the outfield late in Spring Training. The Tribe, on the other hand, had more than enough with David Murphy, Ryan Raburn, Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and Michael Brantley. At the time, they didn’t know Raburn would struggle and both Swisher and Bourn would be hindered by injuries.
  • Matt Harrison told reporters, including Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News, he expects the Rangers to place him on the 60-day disabled list to open the season. Harrison also acknowleged a minor setback in his rehab, but the issue had to do with his mechanics rather than his health.
  • Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar told reporters, including FOX Sports Southwest’s Anthony Andro, he is pleased with the results his throwing program has had on his right shoulder. Profar, who is slated to take some dry swings from the right side this week, said his goal is to play in all of Texas’ Spring Training games.
  • In a nod that today is Super Bowl Sunday, Rangers GM Jon Daniels confirmed Russell Wilson will participate in the club’s Spring Training camp, Andro tweets. To illustrate the quarterback’s love of baseball, Rodgers, who also represents Wilson, told MLB Network Radio (audio link), if Wilson could figure out a way to play both sports, he would.

NL East Notes: Freeman, Olivera, Shields

With the Braves in the throes of a rapid rebuilding effort, first baseman Freddie Freeman has now played more games with the Braves than anyone else on the roster, writes Mark Bowman of MLB.com. While Freeman is optimistic about the 2015 season, it’s worth noting that Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Evan Gattis represented 51 percent of the club’s home runs in 2014. Losing the three biggest bashers from an otherwise moribund offense could be seen as a major issue. Freeman hopes a greater emphasis on contact will help to counteract the loss of power.

  • The Braves held a private workout for Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America. In attendance to watch the 29-year-old were manager Fredi Gonzalez and assistant GM John Coppolella. Olivera is likely to sign as a second or third baseman – both positions the Braves could improve upon. Current candidates for both positions include Chris Johnson, Alberto Callaspo, Kelly Johnson, Jace Peterson, and Phil Gosselin. The Padres and Giants have also been tied to Olivera per Baseball America.
  • The Marlins should consider a “Hail Mary” offer for free agent pitcher James Shields, suggests Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. A two-year, $35MM proposal might represent the limit for what the club can afford. Since Shields rejected a qualifying offer, he’ll cost a draft pick to sign in addition to the financial considerations. Such an offer represents a long shot for both sides. The Marlins are thought to be up against their payroll limit, so an addition would require the approval of owner Jeffrey Loria. From Shields perspective, he’s thought to be seeking at least four years and $70MM.

 


Pitching Notes: Shields, Albers, Cotts, Gee

In his latest piece on the market for James Shields, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports looks at the most recent significant contracts for starting pitchers of age 33 or older and points out that history is not on Shields’ side. MLBTR took a similar look at Shields in Spring Training of last year, noting that recent history suggested it’d be difficult to find a team willing to guarantee his age-37 season. Rosenthal notes that executives to whom he has spoken cite Shields’ age, innings backlog, declining strikeout rate and shaky postseason track record as negatives. At this point, Rosenthal feels a four-year deal worth less than $20MM annually is likely.

A few more pitching notes from around the league…

  • Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports that the Twins were informed yesterday of a Feb. 10 showcase for right-hander Matt Albers in Houston (Twitter link). All teams are invited to watch Albers throw, of course, and Wolfson does note that the Twins are open to adding a bullpen arm. A shoulder injury limited Albers to just eight appearances with the Astros in 2014, but he does have a pristine 2.63 ERA over his past 133 1/3 big league innings (three seasons’ worth of work).
  • While it’s been previously written that the Rangers expect Neal Cotts to sign elsewhere, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram now reports (via Twitter) that the Rangers have been officially informed that the 34-year-old lefty will sign with a different team this offseason. Cotts wasn’t able to replicate his exceptional 1.11 ERA from his 2013 comeback, but he did post a 4.32 ERA with solid peripheral stats in 2014 (8.5 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 3.58 FIP, 3.41 SIERA).
  • The Mets still aren’t close to trading Dillon Gee, tweets MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, nor are they close to dealing any of their other potentially available starters (presumably referring to Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon). However, as DiComo notes, that type of situation can change quickly in the three weeks leading up to Spring Training, and of course, a deal could always be negotiated in Spring Training as well.

Pitching Notes: Johan, Shields, Twins

Most of the meat left on the free agent bone belongs to the pitching segment of the market. Indeed, five of the seven players who I listed this morning as intriguing free agents were right-handed pitchers.

Here’s the latest on some arms from around the league:

  • There was more cloudy news out of Venezuela regarding Johan Santana‘s comeback attempt, as his agent tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports that he will not attempt to pitch again in the winter league. (Twitter links.) Santana may still aim to take a mound for scouts, but any such plans are “unclear” at this point.
  • The Angels are still not interested in chasing James Shields, even if his price may have dropped somewhat, GM Jerry Dipoto tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter).
  • For their part, the Twins have no intentions of going after free agent righties John Axford and Alexi Ogando, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune tweets. As he notes, the market has several attractive right-handed relief arms, though it is not clear whether Minnesota has any interest in adding to its pen. Both Axford and Ogando made my list of interesting players to watch. I consider the pair to be among the remaining free agents who could either break out or break down in 2015.

Central Notes: Ramirez, Shields, Reds

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince takes a look at some folks around the league who are, in his view, facing make-or-break seasons. He includes some less obvious names, but two players stand out who could conceivably be All-Stars or become non-tender candidate: Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates and Mike Moustakas of the Royals.

Here are some notes from the game’s Central divisions…

  • The Indians had the team’s defense in mind when they traded Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals at the July 31 non-waiver deadline, manager Terry Francona explains to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link). However, Francona admits that there was some hesitation on Cleveland’s behalf because of how they thought the move would be perceived by fans and the rest of the roster. “…[GM Chris Antonetti] was justifiably concerned about the perception, that we were throwing up the white flag. So we had to kind of decide, ‘OK, look, we believe in what we’re doing and we’ll make sure the players understand that we think we can actually be a better team and get a prospect back.’ I think it took awhile, but once [Jose] Ramirez came up and everybody saw how he played shortstop, they saw why we wanted to make the move. We love Cabby — always will — but we felt we had a chance to get a little bit more athletic at shortstop and you saw the way Jose played.”
  • Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals are still monitoring James Shields‘ free agency, though he notes it’s likely just due diligence. Said general manager Dayton Moore said to McCullough: “I’m not sure there’s a fit.” As McCullough notes in a followup tweet, the Royals have six starting pitchers under contract (including Kris Medlen), and the team’s payroll is already set to top $110MM — a club record.
  • The Reds completed a four-year extension with catcher Devin Mesoraco earlier today that bought out all three of his arbitration seasons and one free agent year, but it doesn’t sound like agreements for the team’s remaining arb-eligible players are close. GM Walt Jocketty told MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that the Reds are “a ways apart” with both Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman (Twitter link). It sounds like Cincinnati may have spoken with Frazier’s agents at CAA about an extension as well, via the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay, but things don’t look promising based on his tweet. Jocketty tells Fay that the Reds talked to Frazier about a new deal, “but we’re not nearly as close as we were with Mesoraco.”