Available starting pitchers are becoming a scarce commodity, and Yankee fans are starting to get frustrated. Actually, I think we are reaching a fever pitch of frustration. The biggest prizes on the free-agent market are disappearing from the shelves and we are starting to feel like that dad going to the fifth Toys R Us to find that elusive Christmas gift, knowing he’s late to the game and that time is running out. To make matters worse, there’s a sense that the price point is set. David Price went for 7 years, $217M. Zack Greinke went for 6 years, $206M. Even Jeff Samardzija, who hasn’t had a winning record since becoming a full-time starter, went for 5 years, $90M. I am waiting for the announcement on the team that made Johnny Cueto the third $200M contract signing this offseason.
So what about James Shields? The San Diego Padres have been trying to unload him for a while now, and he’s available for the right price. Here’s the ironic thing. Purely based on his contract, he is a bonafide starter available for 3 years, $63M, with a 4th-year team option for $16M. The prices free agents are getting, and surely what Cueto will command, makes this look like a bargain. There is a buyout option after 2016 on Shields’ contract, so this will likely turn into a one-year rental if he has a good year. Still, it’s one year of Shields' ability.
James Shields is exactly the kind of starter the Yankees need. For the last few years, he has been considered a premier starter, highly sought after by teams looking to step up their rotation and contend for the postseason. Last year his record was a drop from his prior years, but it would be understandable if he didn’t perform playing for a team that was already out of contention by the end of June. Eleven of his first fourteen starts were quality starts before the wheels fell off the Padres’ bus. Shields had a QS% above 70% in three of the four years prior to going to San Diego. His ERA has been 3.52 or lower four of the last 5 years. If his number of wins doesn’t sparkle, it isn’t because he didn’t pitch well.
I am not saying that Shields is made of vibranium. (Sorry, I had to get that one in there – if you don’t follow Marvel, don’t worry about it J.) But he is a worthy acquisition, especially in a market where starters are way overvalued. Let’s face it – the Yankees need a lot of things, and a quality starter is an absolute must. We’ll have to give them some young talent in return, but if we take on the big contract, we won’t have to give up top-shelf talent. This fits with Brian Cashman’s plan. It's a no-brainer. Pick up the phone, make the deal, and let’s move on to the other big challenges.
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
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