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James Shields Rumors
Jim Bowden of ESPN (Insider required) speculates the best fits for the current top 10 free agents. At the head of the list is James Shields who Bowden thinks fits with an AL team. Specifically mentioned are the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers, and Rangers. However, now that his price tag may have dropped below five years and $110MM, other teams could get involved too. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also explored nine potential suitors for Shields and turned up plenty of NL contenders like the Cardinals and Padres.
- The Yankees franchise has benefited from the longevity of players like Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Derek Jeter, writes Chad Jennings of LoHud.com. Now, the key for the franchise is the longevity of players like Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and CC Sabathia. I would also add Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann to the list as there is reason to worry about how both players will age.
- Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig is healthy and ready to contribute, but he’ll face a difficult path to playing time, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. The Sox have Napoli at first base and a jam packed outfield mix with Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Shane Victorino, and Jackie Bradley Jr. jockeying for playing time. Manager John Farrell suggested training at third base to Craig, but even then he’d be competing with Pablo Sandoval, Brock Holt, and Ramirez. Craig is likely to become trade bait during spring training, once he proves he’s healthy once again.
It’s still unclear where James Shields will wind up, and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tracks Shields’ hard-to-read market, guessing at nine potential destinations for the free agent righty. Topping the list is the Cardinals, who showed some interest in Jon Lester and Max Scherzer and likely have room for Shields in their budget. Still, much about the Shields market remains uncertain, without much reported action from traditionally heavy-spending teams, leaving teams like the Marlins, Astros and Padres near the top of Heyman’s list of possible destinations. Here’s more from around baseball.
- New Red Sox staring pitcher Rick Porcello is not yet ready to discuss an extension, Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com writes. “I just got here and met the guys last night so I think it’s premature for that,” says Porcello. “I’m just trying to settle in and fit in with everybody, get to know the staff and the guys.” Mastrodonato notes that the Red Sox would also probably like to get to know Porcello a bit better before signing him long-term. With a year remaining before free agency and youth on his side, the 26-year-old Porcello stands to cash in if he has a 2015 season similar to his 2014, when he had a 3.43 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and a stingy 1.8 BB/9 in 204 2/3 innings.
- GM Terry Ryan says that although the Twins aren’t planning to have top prospect Byron Buxton break camp with the team, Buxton could make his big-league debut at some point during the season, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets. Buxton only recently turned 21, has only a few plate appearances in the high minors, and missed most of the 2014 season with a wrist injury, so such an aggressive promotion schedule would be unusual for most players, particularly given the Twins’ typically cautious approach. Buxton has exceptional tools, however, and MLB.com currently rates him the top overall prospect in the game, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the Majors at some point this season.
The Marlins‘ offseason moves position them for a “measured buildup,” Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Mat Latos has just one year of control remaining, while Martin Prado and Michael Morse have two. And even the post-opt-out portion of Giancarlo Stanton‘s contract is structured so that the Marlins will be able to afford it once they renegotiate their TV deal. This isn’t like the 2011-2012 offseason, when the Marlins signed Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell to long-term deals, only to trade all three. For that reason, Rosenthal writes, the Marlins are unlikely to sign James Shields to a big contract, even though they’ve been connected to him lately. Here’s more from throughout the big leagues.
- After Ichiro Suzuki plays his first game with the Marlins, the Reds will be the last team that hasn’t had a Japanese-born player, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. The Reds did express interest in Nori Aoki this offseason, but they don’t have a strong presence in Japan (although Rosecrans notes that the Reds aren’t the only team that doesn’t). “We do have some people who do cross checking. We don’t have a scout in Japan,” said GM Walt Jocketty. “It’s too costly.”
- The White Sox signed closer David Robertson for four years and $46MM, but GM Rick Hahn says they weren’t the highest bidder for his services, CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes tweets. It’s unclear who the top bidder might have been, although the Blue Jays and Astros were connected to Robertson this offseason.
- GM Jon Daniels said today at Rangers Fan Fest that the team is unlikely to trade for Josh Hamilton, Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest tweets. The Rangers reportedly discussed a Hamilton deal with the Angels earlier this offseason, although those talks were not in-depth. Also, free agent lefty reliever Neal Cotts is not likely to re-sign with the Rangers, Andro tweets.
Multiple reports have indicated that there’s “zero” chance the Marlins will sign James Shields, but Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that there are some within the front office that are trying to sell owner Jeffrey Loria on making the financial investment necessary to add Shields to the rotation (the linked piece is an updated version of Rosenthal’s column from last night). As Rosenthal points out, GM D an Jennings drafted Shields when he worked for the Rays in 2000, and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez worked with Shields as a minor leaguer in the Rays system, so he does have fans in the organization. Rosenthal adds that the departure of Mat Latos next season should seemingly increase Shields’ appeal to Miami, and I’d add that parting with their top MLB-ready pitching prospect, Andrew Heaney, could factor into that thinking as well. Then again, next offseason’s crop of free agent starters features many enticing options — most of whom will be younger than Shields is now — and MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweets that a Shields signing remains a longshot.
Here’s more on the Marlins…
- In a lengthy but well-crafted and insightful piece, Grantland’s Jonah Keri examines the Marlins’ origins and the distrust among fans that has spawned from a number of fire sales. Keri spoke to team president David Samson, who noted that the initial fire sale following the team’s World Series win in 1997 was a catalyst for many of the team’s struggles in subsequent years. “That led to a lot of hurt, frustrated fans,” Samson said. “So [the team] never got that bounce, that sustained success that should come with winning a World Series.” As Keri notes, however, then-owner Wayne Huizenga had stated after spending exorbitantly the previous offseason that he would blow the team up regardless of success if local government didn’t approve a new stadium. That proved to be exactly the case, and Huizenga stayed true to his word. Keri examines the subsequent sell-offs from the Marlins and how each has contributed, in a way, to positioning the club for sustained success now.
- Samson also expressed some frustration to Keri regarding the fact that teams like the Athletics are lauded in the media for selling high on players and re-tooling their roster, while the perception surrounding the Marlins’ most recent retooling was largely negative. Samson and Loria hope that the results of the last sell-off can help convince fans that sometimes such tactics are a necessary evil in an effort to build sustained success. “We want to make them recognize that it’s not doom and gloom,” Samson explained to Keri. “We want to make people understand that we’re a normal team. We’ll have good years and bad years, but in the end, they’re just years. We’ll break your heart sometimes, but also make you jump for joy other times. That’s what being a sports fan is.”
- The Marlins added Ichiro Suzuki earlier today on a one-year, $2MM contract to serve as their fourth outfielder, and Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that Jennings has been pursuing Ichiro for about a month. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweets that while the deal is just a one-year pact without an option, the team wants to keep the door open for Ichiro to return in 2016 as he chases his 3,000th hit.
James Shields‘ market still lacks clarity, as more notable teams are claiming to be out rather than in on the free agent right-hander. The Diamondbacks and Brewers both seem to be out of the running, while Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said his team is more focused on adding rotation depth than a potential ace. Here’s some more about which clubs may or may not still be in the Shields derby…
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports takes an overview of Shields’ market, plus passing on the news that Shields would prefer to pitch closer to his home on the west coast. Rosenthal also adds to the lack of a Brewers/Shields connection, reporting that Milwaukee owner Mark Attanasio isn’t pushing his front office to add Shields. The Blue Jays, who are known to be interested in Shields, have limited payroll space and would need a “massive backload” of a contract to make it work.
- Also from Rosenthal, some executives think Shields will receive a four-year deal worth $70-$80MM. Page Odle, Shields’ agent, has been very quiet about his strategy or expectations for his client’s next salary, though Rosenthal reports that some around the game feel Shields would’ve been better off billing himself as a No. 2 or No.3 starter rather than as a top-of-the-rotation ace.
- The Marlins are “closely monitoring” the Shields market, ESPN’s Jim Bowden reports (Twitter link). Miami has been linked to Shields in recent weeks though they’re wary about paying too much to sign him and Grantland’s Jonah Keri recently reported there is a “zero percent” chance of Shields joining the Fish.
- In an interview with Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (audio link), Royals GM Dayton Moore said it’s “doubtful” that Shields returns to Kansas City. While Moore admitted that “I can’t say [re-signing Shields] hasn’t crossed my mind,” he said that the Royals’ roster, and particularly its rotation with new addition Edinson Volquez, is probably settled going into Spring Training.
- The Padres are “unlikely” to sign Shields though they’re still “on [the] periphery” of his market, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. A few weeks ago, I speculated that the Padres could be a dark-horse contender for Shields since they’ve been so aggressive in upgrading their roster, not to mention the fact that Shields lives in the San Diego area.
The Diamondbacks are no longer pursuing right-hander James Shields, general manager Dave Stewart told reporters today, including Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona (Twitter link). Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic adds that Stewart said the market for Shields changed following Max Scherzer‘s seven-year deal with the Nationals (Twitter link).
Stewart has publicly expressed his club’s interest in Shields in the past, opining that Shields was a “throwback” type of pitcher that would appreciate the D-Backs’ old school approach. Somewhat controversially, Stewart speculated that Shields might view the D-Backs as a “true” baseball team as opposed to others that are more driven by numbers and analytics.
Arizona could undoubtedly benefit from Shields’ presence in an otherwise thin rotation, but Stewart said at the time he acknowledged his interest in Shields that he was also aiming to get the team’s payroll under $100MM. Since then, reports have indicated that Arizona is actively trying to shed payroll, making Shields seem a tough fit. The D-Backs have Jeremy Hellickson and Josh Collmenter locked into their rotation, but beyond that, there’s little certainty. Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Trevor Cahill, Vidal Nuno and Chase Anderson are among the rotation candidates on the 40-man roster, and they’ve also added former Mariners starter Blake Beavan on a minor league deal this offseason.
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.
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.
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.”
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 (Dodgers, Giants, Padres) and a trio from the AL Central (Tigers, Royals, White 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.”