What About Signing James Shields and Then Just Never Giving Up a Run Ever Again?
On MLB Trade Rumors, Jeff Todd had a great article about how James Shields has basically out-waited his market. And while the Cubs have an excellent pitching staff right now, I cannot think of many good reasons for Chicago to not dig a little deeper and snare one of the best right-handers in the game.
So, here's the rotation at present:
SP Jon Lester
SP Jake Arrieta
SP Jason Hammel
SP Kyle Hendricks
And one of:
SP Tsuyoshi Wada
SP Travis Wood
SP Felix Doubront
SP Jacob Turner
This is the first time in a long time the Cubs had five legitimate competitors for the 5th rotation spot. Personally, I think Tsuyoshi Wada has a good chance to go Hisashi Iwakuma on us, so I'm pulling for him and Jacob Turner this Spring Training. But what if both Wada and Turner went to the bullpen? I think they'd both make killer relievers -- until need pressed them back into the rotation.
That's why the idea of James Shields is so alluring. Not because he would replace Wada, Wood, Doubront, or Turner, but because he would (effectively) replace the worst reliever. There's no guarantee the Cubs would rather use Wada in relief rather than just exercise another option year and keep him stretched out. And sure, that might not improve the team much.
But Shields is a 4-win pitcher. Wada, I think, can be a 2-win pitcher. Adding Shields not only removes the volatility of an unknown like Wada, but it also adds two wins.
Can the Cubs afford Shields? Looking at recent payrolls, I'm going to say sure, maybe:
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Shields might cost around $18M AAV or per year, effectively. For three years at $18M, that would put the Cubs at the Soriano era of the Ricketts era. I think the Ricketts got a foul taste from those years saddled with the Tribune's overspending.
But two extra wins for the next three years (which is a generous assumption -- especially considering the recent history of workhorse pitchers -- but you never know), not to mention adding to the Cubs already strong pitching depth, might be worth it as the team jumps towards competitiveness. I say if they can get him for anything close to $15M AAV, then it's time to pull the trigger and start this Joe Maddon -- James Shields reunion.