Tigers keeping tabs on James Shields
Now that former Tiger Max Scherzer is no longer the star of free agent show, ex-Royal James Shields is. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweeted Friday that Scherzer’s most recent employer is at least kicking the tires on Shields to take over his vacated rotation spot.
We learned about a week ago that one member of the Tigers front office believed re-signing Scherzer is imperative, because of the question marks surrounding Detroit’s current and future rotation, which is closely tied to its window of competition. Among those question marks are the post-2015 plans of David Price, who has one year left before he can test free agency in what’s shaping up to be a loaded pitching class. Morosi pointed out that Shields is a close friend of the southpaw with whom he shared a clubhouse in Tampa Bay, so there is a chance—albeit small—that adding Shields now could help the Tigers in their bid to re-up with Price next winter.
More salient at the moment, though, is Detroit’s trust level in imported back-end starters Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon, and in the health of Anibal Sanchez, who’s in the no. 3 slot behind Price and Justin Verlander. After shipping Drew Smyly to Tampa to acquire Price at the deadline and moving Rick Porcello to Boston for Yoenis Cespedes, the Tigers don’t have many proven backup plans if any of the incumbent rotation arms falter or miss significant time. Greene exceeded expectations in his rookie year with the Yankees and Simon told his peripherals to take a hike in a 3.44 ERA showing with the Reds, but neither boasts an extended résumé of success in a major-league rotation.
Shields’ track record of durability and of chewing up innings could tempt general manager Dave Dombrowski, particularly in light of the perennial doubts about the back end of his bullpen. A pitcher who’s logged at least 227 innings in four consecutive years is either the epitome of durability or due for a long DL stint, depending on the fullness of your glass, but it’s a feather in Shields’ cap that agent Page Odle will surely bring up in talks.
The current price tag for the 33-year-old Shields is unknown, though there were indications last week that it has dipped well below $100 million. Morosi’s fellow FOX Sports insider Ken Rosenthal inferred that based on the Diamondbacks’ reported entry into the fray. If it’s true, then Shields would cost the Tigers considerably less than Scherzer would have. They’d take a modest hit in draft order, surrendering their first-round pick while gaining only a sandwich-round selection for the loss of Scherzer, but that’s likely an afterthought for a club in win-now mode.
Morosi followed up his initial tweet with this caveat:
Extent of Tigers' interest is unclear, source says. But there has been contact between James Shields' agent and the club.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 16, 2015
Whether serious or not, it might speed up what’s been a glacially paced race to ink a pair of pitchers who were expected to be in high demand, particularly now that Scherzer is off the board.
Rockies shopping Charlie Blackmon
Saturday brought more news from the tireless FOX Sports tag team of Morosi and Rosenthal, this time from Denver, where the Rockies are gauging interest in an All-Star outfielder with an eye on improving their pitching staff. It’s seldom a bad idea to cash in on a player whose performance outstripped his preseason stock, and Charlie Blackmon, who bookended an otherwise-unspectacular year with a tremendous April and September, fits the sell-high mold. The question, sources told Morosi and Rosenthal, is whether new GM Jeff Bridich can sell high enough.
Pitching, as usual, is on the grocery list in Colorado, and it’ll likely take a nice arm to pry Blackmon, a 28-year-old whose service-time clock stands at 2.102, a year away from arbitration and four years shy of free agency.
The plan, according to the FOX Sports report, is to move Blackmon for pitching, and then replace him with a free-agent outfielder. Of course, that market has thinned—most recently with the Giants’ signing of Norichika Aoki—and Colby Rasmus, a fellow lefty swinger, might be the only option with the offensive upside to supplant Blackmon's 2014 production. Hence, a deal exporting Blackmon might have to come together soon, so that Bridich can strike quickly on the former Blue Jay, who’s previously drawn interest from the Orioles and Rays.
As Morosi and Rosenthal pointed out, one possibility here is moving Blackmon to Baltimore to knock the Orioles out of the Rasmus bidding. The Braves and Rangers, based on their searches for outfield help, were the other possible destinations mentioned in the report.
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