Bomber Bites: James Shields Would Make Difference In AL East


Even with there being two weeks away from the New York Yankees having their pitchers and catchers report to Tampa, Florida, it may seem that the New York Yankees are done making moves. Yes, the team did sign Scott Baker to a minor league contract to help the back end of the rotation, but there is still one premier free agent on the market that could change the whole landscape of the AL East.

James Shields, the former Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals pitcher, is still waiting for a deal as Spring Training approaches. On Tuesday night, we saw conflicting reports from FOX Sports and MLB Network’s Jon Morosi and the New York Post’s Joel Sherman

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Right now, it doesn’t seem that the Yankees are going to be willing to part with the 17th pick in the first round for Shields or any of the premier free agents in their quest to get younger and improve a farm system that continues to be on the rise. When you look at the market for Shields, a team like the Red Sox could use him, but the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo says the Red Sox have not offered him a deal either.

I would expect, as of right now, that Shields is going to stay on the West Coast and go to a team like the San Diego Padres. However, if any of the AL East teams (Toronto included) got Shields, I think that would make that team the favorite in the AL East.

When you look at the AL East, it is arguably the worst division in baseball in terms of there not being a dominant team at the top. The Red Sox made solid adds to their rotation with the likes of Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, and Justin Masterson. However, they are still in search of a guy who can at least be a number two starter in the AL East.

As for Toronto, the addition of Shields would give them a third veteran starter in the rotation who can eat innings and allow the team to improve their bullpen as they could slide Aaron Sanchez into a late inning role.

Finally, we look at it from a Yankees’ perspective. With Luis Severino and Jaron Long still a year or two away from giving significant Major League contributions and the uncertainty of the health of this rotation, why not offer Shields a three or four year deal?

If you look at the Yankees projections for their rotation, courtesy of Fangraphs, the highest amount of innings that will be thrown by a New York starter is 188 by CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka, both with injury concerns. As for Shields, he is projected to throw 214 innings and a 7.8 K’s per nine innings, which would be the second highest for any Yankees’ pitcher (behind Tanaka).

Even though New York would still have its question marks, adding Shields would also give these new bullpen arms some rest when you consider he averaged over six innings a start a season ago. If you could go Shields-to-Miller-to-Betances, it would be an ideal way to get through a game.

Yes, Shields’ big game record is pretty similar to a player like A.J. Burnett, which Yankees’ fans still cringe when seeing his name, keep in mind that the only two AL East teams that he struggles against in his career are the Red Sox and Yankees. He is 3-6 at Yankee Stadium, but he has won his last two starts in the Bronx, giving up one run over 15.1 innings pitched.

Is Shields the ace like Jon Lester or Max Scherzer would have been in this rotation? No. Nevertheless, if you take some of the pressure off of Tanaka and improve the depth in the rotation, this allows the Yankees to win more low-scoring games if the offense doesn’t find its form.

While it may not go with what the long-term plans are for New York in offering a three or four-year deal, Shields would allow their chances to win the AL East to increase. Plus, as we saw with the Giants and Royals, once you get into the postseason, anything can happen.

Next: Where Can We Expect To See Alex Rodriguez In 2015?

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