Earlier today, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reported that the Miami Marlins were interested in keeping Giancarlo Stanton around for a contending run, even if it meant dragging him all the way to free agency in 2017. In order to help build a competitive club around him, the Fish may even make a free agent splash in this upcoming offseason, and one name of interest that Frisaro mentions is 2015 free agent James Shields of the Kansas City Royals.
Locking up Stanton is definitely a high offseason priority, but it isn’t the team’s sole focus.
Adding a top of the rotation starter is high on the team’s shopping list. That could mean making a serious push for pending free agent James Shields. Fernandez isn’t expected back until around next All-Star Break, and the club wants to build a championship-caliber rotation in anticipation of his return.
Shields began the season with a rough start, underperforming his typically strong peripheral statistics, Since then, however, he has recovered nicely, and for the season, he has a 3.25 ERA to go along with a 3.73 FIP. His durability has never been in question either, as he has thrown more than 200 innings in each of the last seven seasons and is on pace to do so again this year. Essentially, Shields has been a model of All-Star consistency for the last three years.
But he also dropped his strikeout rate this season, down to 19.1 percent from a three-year stretch of 22.5 percent. This may be either innocuous or the beginning of a difficult run for a guy turning 33 years old next season. There is enough concern about Shield's odds of being the four-win pitcher he has been each of the last three years that Miami should be careful in offering a deal.
More importantly, the Fish are showing once again that they favor investing on pitching to their detriment. The Marlins are slated to get Jose Fernandez back at some point around June of next year ideally. The team just spent a lot of position player prospect depth to acquire Jarred Cosart, a team-controlled 24-year-old starter. And Miami also has 22-year-old Andrew Heaney, a top pitching prospect who looks as close to Major League ready as any college pitcher can be. Tack that onto incumbents Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez and you can see that Miami has an above average starting rotation before adding Shields. Making such a move would force one of those pitchers out of the rotation once Fernandez returns, and the question becomes which guy to "give up on" as a starter unnecessarily?
The Marlins would probably be much better off pursuing an infielder to help with the team's woeful situations at second base and shortstop. Even adding a third baseman like Chase Headley or Pablo Sandoval and moving Casey McGehee to first base may be a better option in the long run. But with Miami's insistence on investing on pitching, the team may make a good addition that adds little to their situation, thus not using their resources wisely again. The only good news from this is that Miami may be interested in investing money at all to build a contender around Stanton, but will signing Shields or another free agent be enough to make this team a winner?
What do you Fish Stripers think? Do you like the idea of adding Shields to the team's rotation? Who would you replace in the rotation? What other free agent moves should the Marlins consider? Let's hear your thoughts in the comments.