Cardinals exploring market for front-of-the-rotation starter
The Cardinals boast one of the stronger starting rotations in the senior circuit, albeit one that comes with some question marks. Adam Wainwright is recovering from elbow surgery in October and Michael Wacha pitched just 107 innings last season due to a stress reaction in his throwing shoulder. Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales are both vying for the final spot in the rotation and could have bright futures ahead of them but neither has much major-league rotation experience.

According to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, the Cardinals do like their current rotation but are “exploring trades for Cole Hamels and David Price and the possibility of signing Max Scherzer.” Each of the three high-end starters would come at a hefty price, with Scherzer reportedly seeking a $200 million contract and the Phillies previously demanding an elite prospect plus more in a return package for Hamels. With just one year remaining on his contract, Price would be the cheapest of the three to acquire and Derrick Goold, the Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, told The Ryan Kelley Morning After on Thursday that the Cardinals have the most interest in Price.

The Tigers and Price have yet to discuss a long-term contract this offseason, although it could be that they are waiting to see if they can bring back Scherzer before deciding whether to offer an extension to Price. The left-hander is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to make $18.9 million in his final year of arbitration.

If the Cardinals were to acquire Price, their rotation would feature two starters set to be free agents in 2016. There’s a good chance that either Martinez or Gonzales would head back to Detroit in a deal for Price, which would leave a hole in the Cardinals rotation in 2016 should Price and John Lackey decide to test the free agent market. However, with next offseason shaping up to be a strong free agent pitching market, the Cardinals could simply decide to push their chips in for next season and worry about their rotation in 2016 when the time comes.

Shields asking price may be too steep for Marlins
On Sunday night, Ken Rosenthal wrote that a number of major-league executives expect James Shields to land a contract of at least five years and $100 million. Two executives told Rosenthal that they believe the highly coveted free agent currently has a five-year, $110 million offer on the table. The chances that the identity of that mystery team is the Miami Marlins are slim-to-none, as Joe Frisaro, who covers the Fish for, writes that “if his price tag remains, as reported, at five years and at least $100 million, you can pretty much count Miami out.”

However, if that figure does drop, Frisaro writes that the Marlins “could definitely be in the mix” to bring Shields back to the Sunshine State. The reported offer on the table doesn’t necessarily mean that Shields will end up with a deal that rich, as Rosenthal pointed out that Chase Headley reportedly had a four-year, $65 million deal on the table early in free agency but ended up re-signing with the Yankees on a four-year, $52 million contract.

Dan Haren remains unlikely to pitch for the Marlins next season and Frisaro writes that the officials within the organization “are wrestling with whether the club's rotation is strong enough to contend without Haren and a guy like Shields.” If Miami trades Haren and fails to acquire another starter, either Brad Hand or David Phelps would round out the rotation until Jose Fernandez returns, making it understandable that they are holding out hope that the market for Shields dips back below nine figures.

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