With Jon Lester headed to Chicago, the upper echelon of free agent starters is now down to a pair of right-handers: James Shields and Max Scherzer. On Friday, Justin Millar took a look at the market for Scherzer; here's the latest on Shields.
Though a few teams are in the mix for the former Royals ace, the Giants are the clear favorites as it currently stands. Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News reported on Thursday that the Giants are still looking to add a "frontline pitcher," and their focus lies on Shields. Peter Gammons also wrote that the "exit polls" at the Winter Meetings had Shields going to the Giants, which would put him back in the state where he grew up.
After missing out on Lester and seeing Pablo Sandoval leave for the Red Sox, the Giants still have money to burn—and their rotation is currently a big question mark after Madison Bumgarner. Matt Cain is returning from elbow surgery and Tim Hudson struggled in the second half last season, while Tim Lincecum has established himself as one of the most volatile starters in the majors during the last couple seasons.
The Giants have been linked in one way or another to many of the offseason's most prominent free agents—Lester, Sandoval, Asdrubal Cabrera, even Scherzer—but they have yet to make a single move, which reflects the philosophy of general manager Brian Sabean and the rest of his team. The Giants generally stay out of bidding wars, and they don't rush to make moves simply to add a certain player to their roster.
Shields is a bit of a mixed bag because he comes with almost guaranteed durability, having made 33 or more starts with 200 or more innings in every season beginning in 2008, but he's also about to turn 33 and will command a ton of money that will take him into his late 30s. He's also the best starter left on the market behind Scherzer, and a move to the NL West (especially to AT&T Park) would be a huge plus for the right-hander.
The Red Sox have also been linked to Shields for some time now, but it seems unlikely they'd drop that much cash on him given their recently bolstered rotation, which now includes Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Justin Masterson. With Porcello (3.43 ERA, 3.67 FIP in 2014) anchoring the rotation, Boston's pitching staff won't necessarily scare other teams, but they have to like where they're at compared to the makeshift rotation they had in place a week ago. Still, the Red Sox have been arguably the most aggressive team in the majors this offseason, and we shouldn't rule them out until the very moment Shields signs with a club.
If that's not enough, our own Chris Cotillo reported that the Rangers met with Shields in San Diego. According to sources, the Rangers should be "serious contenders" for the right-hander, which makes sense given the current state of Texas' rotation. Matt Harrison, a former 18-game winner, is a definite injury concern after making just six starts over the last two seasons combined, and left-hander Martin Perez will be coming off a UCL tear in his pitching elbow. The Rangers might be a bit of an unconventional choice, but if they're in on Shields, they are a legitimate threat to sign the right-hander.