Bomber Bites With Jumping Joe–Big Game James Would Look Great in Pinstripes


Big changes await the Yankees upon the conclusion of what will likely be a second straight season without qualifying for the playoffs.  There will be many new faces in the Bronx next season.  Derek Jeter will be gone, the last link to the glory years of the late 1990s.  Many other veterans will be gone as well.  One area of the team in flux will surely be the rotation.

Injuries decimated the Bomber rotation this season.  Ivan Nova was lost for the season after Tommy John surgery.   CC Sabathia went out for the year with knee surgery.  Michael Pineda spent nearly four months on the DL with a lat injury following a suspension.  Masahiro Tanaka has been on the DL for two months trying to rehab his elbow to avoid Tommy John surgery.  Even the replacement starters got hurt.  David Phelps has been on the DL for weeks with arm trouble.  With the uncertain return from injury of Tanaka, Nova and Sabathia coupled with the probable retirement of Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees will certainly be active in rebuilding their rotation this off-season.

While the Yankees actually have some interesting internal options for the rotation next season in Shane Greene and Chase Whitley, as well as possibly re-signing Brandon McCarthy, the Bombers figure to be active players in the free agent market.  There are several enticing options on the market this winter.  Last season’s Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer will be a free agent, along with Jon Lester, the longtime Boston and current Oakland ace.  Rounding out the “Big Three” free agent starters is the Kansas City starter, Big Game James Shields.

Mandatory Credit: Chad R. MacDonald.

The price tags for Scherzer and Lester promise to astronomical.  Scherzer turned down a $145 million deal with the Tigers in the spring.  Lester was traded midseason and therefore no qualifying offer can be attached to the left-hander, putting him in play for more teams and driving up the price.  Shields however, is the oldest of the three, and figures to be the cheapest, both in dollars and years.  The Royals will almost certainly tender a qualifying offer to the right-hander, but ultimately be unable to afford to resign the pitcher.  The Yankees would be wise to focus attention on Shields early in the free agent process, rather than thinking of him as a consolation price for not signing Lester or Scherzer.

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Shields has pitched at least 200 innings each of the last 8 seasons, and could be the innings-eater the Yankees desperately lacked this season.  Too often the bullpen was called upon to pitched 3, 4, 5, or even 6 innings night after night.  Shields will be 33 next season, and will not require the massive long-term investment required to ink Scherzer or Lester.  A four or five year deal for about $22 million a season would likely get the job done.  The Yankees would then have secured at least one reliable starter for next season and beyond, and not tie themselves down with another contract that will likely become a financial albatross long before its end.