For teams in need of an elite starting pitcher and who were willing to spend near or in excess of $100 million, the market consisted of three marquee options once free agency began.
Jon Lester was the first to sign, spurning the World Series champion San Francisco Giants and the Boston Red Sox, his former team, among others, to sign a six-year deal with the Chicago Cubs. Prior to Lester signing, there had been little to report on Max Scherzer and James Shields.
After Lester made his decision, the expectation largely held that matters for Scherzer and Shields would then progress. However, that has not been the case — at least not publicly. There are undeniably suitors for the right-handers, but who they are is largely unknown.
In the case of Shields, it’s believed he’s in search of at least a $100 million contract, according to FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi:
Though the front-runners for Shields are not known, a number of executives tell FOX Sports they expect the free-agent right-hander to land a contract of at least five years, $100 million.
Morosi also reports Shields may already have been presented with a contract worth $110 million:
Two execs say it is their understanding that Shields has a five-year, $110 million offer and is looking for an even higher guarantee. But others say that if Shields actually has such an offer, he should take it.
Shields was at the helm of the Kansas City Royals’ pitching staff as they reached their first World Series since 1985. The 33-year-old California native finished the season 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA, 124 ERA+, and 1.18 WHIP.
While Shields was every much the ace of the staff during the regular season, he struggled to a 1-2 record and 6.12 ERA in the postseason, including two losses in the World Series. Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi recently stated the team was no longer looking for starting pitching, but his words have previously failed to match their actions.
To this point, the Dodgers have addressed their starting rotation with the signings of Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy, and the trades for Mike Bolsinger and Juan Nicasio. Adding the four pitchers gives the Dodgers better rotation depth, but some concerns remain.
Anderson and McCarthy have been prone to injury, and Bolsinger and Nicasio have both struggled. Adding Shields or Scherzer would further deepen the rotation’s depth, and give the Dodgers somewhat of a security blanket should Zack Greinke opt out and leave via free agency following the 2015 season.
Until Scherzer and Shields have signed elsewhere, the Dodgers will likely be considered a potential dark horse candidate.