By Kevin Flanagan
With Christmas fast approaching and the Red Sox without a proven ace on their starting staff, rumors are circulating that Ben Cherington may be in talks to bring free agent pitcher, James Shields, to Boston.
Santa, say it ain’t so.
ESPN’s Jim Bowden ranked the suitors for Shields in his blog on Monday where he had the Sox second in line to land the man known as “Big Game James”, just behind the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported in his Sunday notes column that the price tag for the aging innings eater is expected to be in the range of 5 years and $110 million.
That’s pretty pricey for a guy that will be turning 33 years old this Saturday and has shown that he is best suited as a second starter on a staff, but not quite a horse that can carry a team in October. That was pretty evident when the Cinderellaesque Kansas City Royals saw him turn into a pumpkin in the playoff this year. And while he takes the ball every time it his turn to pitch, he never has won more than 16 games in a season and the Sox currently have a couple guy who should give them a lot of innings after dealing for Rick Porcello and Wade Miley from Detroit and Arizona, respectively.
The move to overpay him to come to Boston could prove to be a combustible one as the spotlight would be squarely on Shields to lead a mediocre staff and the Red Sox back to respectability. If he was to fail to do so, the Fenway faithful would not be bashful in letting him know how they felt about it should they struggle to get back to playing winning baseball next season.
If Shields were open to a higher dollar, shorter term deal, it would be much more palatable for him to play the role of a number one temporarily. Shields has given not indication that he would be amenable to such a deal and quite frankly, he would be crazy to do so given the limited amount of prime starting pitching that is available on the free agent market currently. In the unlikely event he would consider more cash for less term, the Sox could then see if Henry Owens shows he is the ace he has been portrayed to be and Cherington would have more time to trade to fill the gaping hole at the top of the Sox rotation, perhaps at the trading deadline next July.
The Sox GM could also be using the team’s supposed interest in Shields to create a sense of urgency for Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro regarding a possible trade for lefty Cole Hamels. Amaro is thought to want at least two of Boston’s top prospects in a package including other players, with Mookie Betts being one of the two. The Sox have practically shouted from the rooftop at Fenway Park that Betts will be their lead-off hitter and starting right fielder next season when they ironically open the year in Philadelphia. So any deal with the Phillies would require Amaro to lessen his demands to get a deal done, something the GM seems unlikely to do, at least at the moment.
It could also be a way for the Sox to see if indeed the Washington Nationals are interested in dealing their soon to be free agent, Jordan Zimmermann as well.
Whatever the reason the rumors continue to swirl around the Sox and Shields, here is hoping that Santa delivers him to an address other than Yawkey Way. Otherwise the Sox could have what would amount to a very expensive lump of coal at the top of their rotation for the next five years.
Kevin Flanagan can be reached at Bsdkevinflanagan@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinMFlanagan