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The Winter Meetings lit up the hot stove and kept it aflame, and it’s not even nearly out of fuel yet…

Red Sox, Giants among clubs interested in James Shields
The Giants have watched Pablo Sandoval depart for Boston and top pitching target Jon Lester choose Chicago. The Red Sox have been much more active, plucking Sandoval, adding Hanley Ramirez, and more recently, signing Justin Masterson, acquiring Rick Porcello for Yoenis Cespedes, and going to the two-yard line in negotiations for Diamondbacks left-hander Wade Miley, with some Ts left to cross before the deal is done.

With Lester, Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano, and Brandon McCarthy off the free agent board, and Max Scherzer reportedly looking to crack $200 million, one of the hottest names still available is that of Shields, the former Royals ace who is unlikely to be dogged by the qualifying offer Kansas City slapped on him. Shields’ top two suitors, according to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation, are the aforementioned Giants and Red Sox, who met with the Southern California native while in San Diego.

But before fielding overtures from San Francisco and Boston, Shields spoke with the Rangers, and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman wrote five days ago that he also might yet hear from the Angels—who obtained Andrew Heaney from the Dodgers in exchange for Howie Kendrick—if general manager Jerry Dipoto is able to shed the money still owed to C.J. Wilson.

While Lester’s six-year, $155 million contract may have served to entrench Scott Boras’ $200-plus-million price tag on Scherzer, there has been no indication to this point about the sort of effect that deal might have on Shields. Like Lester, Shields is coming off of his best recent season, a 2.9-WARP effort that marks his top output since 2011. But he’s been considerably more consistent than the southpaw, and has shouldered a heavier innings load.

That last point might be at once appealing and terrifying to prospective employers. Excluding the postseason, Shields has logged 227 or more innings in each of the past four years, which makes him the pinnacle of major-league-pitcher durability: No other starter can claim to have endured that great an annual workload dating back to 2011, and only Clayton Kershaw—who spent time on the disabled list with back inflammation this year—has done it in three consecutive campaigns during that span.

In our Hot Stove scouting report on Shields, Jordan Gorosh pegged him as a strong no. 2 starter for the next 2-3 years, whose improving command mitigates a slow downtrend in strikeouts. If that’s accurate and Shields’ health remains intact, a five-year investment would entail two poorer years; whether that means mid-rotation or back-end performance depends on how he ages. Shields turns 33 in eight days, so clubs would have to be willing to employ him through his age-37 season to put a five-year pact on the table.

The Giants appear willing to do so—but according to assistant general manager Bobby Evans, if Shields wants to come to San Francisco, he’ll have to make up his mind quickly:

With one of the top suitors setting at least a soft deadline, a resolution might come fairly soon.

Melky Cabrera wants five years; Mariners sticking to their guns at three

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has already picked up a designated hitter this offseason, but after sending Michael Saunders back to Canada for J.A. Happ, he’s in the market for a right fielder. At or near the top of the wish list sits Robinson Cano’s former teammate Melky Cabrera, who’s looking to come back across the Canadian border.

Bad news first: Melky wants $60 million over five years, and Jack Z—at least to this point—has only been willing to tender a three-year commitment. Now, the good news: Bob Dutton of The News Tribune heard Thursday that no other club has offered to pay the 30-year-old beyond 2017 either.

Cabrera has drawn interest, either passing or serious, from a handful of teams this winter. Among them, the Giants are open to a reunion despite Cabrera’s dishonorable discharge from the 2012 club, and the Royals might be in the hunt if the price comes down. The Mariners, though, are currently viewed as the favorites unless one of the other suitors ups the ante.

Were that to happen, Zduriencik’s backup plan might come via trade in the person of the White Sox’ Dayan Viciedo. A less-than-ideal solution because of his subpar defense, Viciedo could offer some more of the right-handed punch the Mariners crave even in the wake of the Cruz addition. But Jack Z doesn’t seem to be seeing eye-to-eye with Rick Hahn:

If the sides do come to terms, previous reports—including this one from Bob Nightengale of USA Today—suggest that the return will most likely include a major-league reliever, serving as the next step in a bullpen makeover that’s already brought David Robertson and Zach Duke to Chicago.

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DetroitDale
12/12
Much as I love Max Scherzer and will miss him in Motown, How does Lester's $155m validate Scherzer's ask for $200m? Scherzer is a better pitcher but is he $45m better? Or is this factoring in an anticipated bidding war from all the disappointed Scherzer suitors? Or is this wishcasting on the part of Scott Boras (AKA the Devil's Advocate)?