Miami believes it upgraded its starting rotation this offseason by adding Dan Haren and Mat Latos. And while the Marlins gained starting pitching depth after losing a pair of notable prospects, ESPN's Jim Bowden believes the Marlins will end up signing James Shields or Max Scherzer.
I really believe the Marlins could end up with either Scherzer or James Shields. Stop laughing. The baseball community realizes this team is ready to get back to the postseason, and one of those starters would push them over the top.
Although both Latos and Haren, who the Marlins are still attempting to trade, represent upgrades, adding one of the two best starting pitchers available in free agency would likely put Miami that much cloer to competing in the postseason consistently. But there are financial barriers that could challenge the Marlins, considering they do not want their payroll to increase significantly in 2015.
Shields, 33, has been linked to the Marlins since November. He has tossed at least 200 innings each of the last eight seasons, and posted a 3.21 ERA and 3.59 FIP with Kansas City a season ago. Shields reportedly has a five-year, $110 million offer, but is waiting to accept the best deal. He reportedly wants a contract that exceeds $100 million and is at least five years in length.
While Shields has been an attractive option for teams seeking a veteran starting pitcher, Scherzer is also a versatile option. He posted a 3.15 ERA and 2.85 FIP in 220.1 innings with Detroit a season ago, and has tossed at least 170 innings over the last six seasons. He too will likely require an extensive contract, which could make the Marlins hesitant.
Miami is seeking pitching depth until Jose Fernandez is healthy in June or July. Realistically, even without a setback, he may not fully return until August, making the depth that much more significant. Aaron Crow, Brad Hand, and David Phelps will also have the opportunity to win a rotation spot, but Shields and Scherzer are both front of the line arms that would allow the Marlins to use those three in different situations.
Bowden notes that Owner Jeffrey Loria did a "good job" backloading Giancarlo Stanton's contract, and suggests that he could do the same if the Marlins are able to sign one of the two top starters available. It would be an untraditional move for the organization, however if it is structured strategically, a deal for one of the two pitchers may not cost the Marlins, who are looking to win now, much initially.
The addition of Shields or Scherzer would make the Marlins that much more competitive. But it may not be a financial risk the Marlins are willing to take.