We have chronicled the recent surge of the potential for a Miami Marlins deal with free agent starter James Shields. This week, Shields is expected to wrap up his offseason of discontent with a contract with one of many suitors, but the number of suitors has seemed to have dwindled. However, that list still includes the Marlins, who have been on the outside of the race but may have been creeping up this week.
But Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald spoke to team sources who said that the club's shot at Shields is essentially nil.
While the Marlins have closely monitored the James Shields situation, multiple sources have told me they don't expect to sign the free agent pitcher, with one assessing the team's chances at "zero percent."
The big issue appears to be the ongoing concern with Dan Haren, the starter the Marlins acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of the Dee Gordon - Andrew Heaney swap. Initially, that aspect of the deal actually appeared to be a bit of a positive: the Marlins would either get a reasonable back-end starter with some upside for free or the team could receive an influx of $10 million if Haren chooses to retire. Either way, the Marlins are getting a positive asset.
The problem so far has been that Haren has been completely undecided throughout the offseason. Initially it seemed he was sure to retire if the Fish could not find a trade partner, though the Marlins had not given up on trying to find such a team or getting him to pitch for the Fish. However, the team struggled to find takers for a deal, and Haren continued to threaten to retire if he was not on a west coast team. That would have been fine, except that Haren decided he would show up for Spring Training anyway. But then he also did not commit to actually pitching for the team despite saying he would be present at Spring Training. From Joe Frisaro of MLB.com a few days ago:
Another issue the Marlins are facing is the status of Dan Haren. Regarding Haren, the Miami Herald recently quoted team owner Jeffrey Loria saying: "I don't know: one moment he says he wants to play, the next minute he says might retire, the next minute he wants to pitch on the West Coast."
Although Haren has informed the team he will report to Spring Training, the 34-year-old right-hander also stressed his preference to pitch out West.
It is possible that Haren may show up to Spring Training, pitch a little, and decide that the move to Miami would not be tenable for his and his family's life. That is totally within reason for Haren; after all, this is his career and he is within his rights to choose to end it if it is not working for him. But it has left the Marlins in a bit of a lurch. The Fish are already in a some trouble if they are forced to deal Haren thanks to their decreased pitching depth. Their best chance at a potential impact talent at starting pitcher is Shields, but Haren's uncertain status leaves Miami uncertain about its budget.
The Fish have hit their desired payroll wall. Not including the money provided from other teams, the Marlins owe just about $68 million for 2015 after the Ichiro Suzuki signing, which is exactly what sources said was the Marlins' target for the year. Had Haren decided to retire or had the team been able to find a taker that would bring him in without the Dodgers' $10 million, the Marlins may have had a little more room with which to acquire a player. Unfortunately, Haren has essentially made no choice and is holding that $10 million hostage. The Fish cannot count on it being present for any deals for Shields, meaning a contract for the free agent righty would put the team well over budget.
If the Marlins lose Haren to retirement in Spring Training, it will likely be too late to scramble and find a quality replacement for the back of the rotation. The team still cannot find anyone to take Haren without his salary being paid off. The odds of the Fish going over budget for Shields even with Haren's $10 million was probably mediocre to low. This situation is even worse with that money tied up. The Marlins and Fish Stripes will keep an eye on the Shields situation, but Haren's issue is another intriguing story as we close in on Spring Training.