The Miami Marlins have been one of the teams in the periphery of the James Shields discussion all season long. With Shields's free agency lasting into the start of February, his price is now dropping from a sky-high $110 million over five years to more and more reasonable numbers. However, the number of teams with money still available in their payroll and a need at starting pitcher are now lower than they were two or three months ago. As Shield's time on the market drags on into nearly Spring Training, the chances of an upset from a surprise team continue to rise.
Joe Frisaro of MLB.com had stated earlier in the week that the Marlins should go for a last-ditch two-year deal in an attempt to lure Shields and gain a major upgrade on the roster. Now, he is saying that Miami is still within the discussion of Shields.
Notable is the set of other teams are also involved in a multi-team group that is offering contracts to Shields, who may sign by this week's end. What is also notable is that a number of those clubs, at least publicly, have been rumored to be shying away from Shields. Yesterday, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports said that the New York Yankees were more interested in Max Scherzer when the two were available, but still didn't make any offers for him.
yankees are not on shields, as @Joelsherman1 said. of big free agents, they preferred scherzer, & they didnt try for him.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) February 4, 2015
The Yankees could use front-line help in the rotation to help shore up their group, but they have been staying wise about their expenses this season and have mostly stayed away from the free agent fray.
The St. Louis Cardinals have been rumored off and on to be interested in Shields, but they have significant starter depth with a good number of prospects available to them. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch tweeted that the team may be more interested in staying in-house to work on their rotation.
Maybe that move will quiet Shields rumors? Probably not. How about this: #Cardinals still prefer giving Martinez shot vs. signing Shields.— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) February 4, 2015
The Cardinals could be out of the race depending on how they feel about Carlos Martinez versus making a significant payroll contribution.
The Toronto Blue Jays have long been considered the front-runner since they have a clear need for starting pitching and supposedly the payroll room to make a deal happen. Team president Paul Beeston said that the team would increase payroll relative to 2014, but so far that has not been the case, as the Jays's payroll room has seemingly disappeared. During the course of the offseason, their payroll has shrunk significantly, meaning the Jays may not have the willingness to sign a guy like Shields, even at his reduced cost.
The San Diego Padres have a need for a front-line starter as well, but they face similar payroll issues. It also seems as though they would like to trade for Cole Hamels rather than sign James Shields. However, they do hold the advantage of housing Shields and his family, as the free agent starter would prefer to stay on the west coast if possible. The San Francisco Giants, who were once rumored to be interested in Shields, have six starters and no interest in a big investment.
It would seem as though Shields is light on actual suitors. Of course, anything could be truly the case, and we may not really know which teams have made serious or non-serious offers. Any number of these clubs could outwardly be interested and secretly be pursuing Shields heavily. But it is telling that the Marlins were among the only teams that were noted to definitely be in the mix. With clubs dropping out of the race for various reasons, this gives the Marlins the best chance to snag Shields at these reduced prices.
Of the teams listed above, I would consider the Padres and Blue Jays more significant threats. If we buy into the premise that the Marlins may be willing to expand payroll for Shields, then we should consider that those two teams, with seemingly more pressing needs at the position, would do so as well.
What do you think, Fish Stripers? Do you like the team's chances for a Shields signing?