James Shields: Free Agent Spotlight 2015


Today, we’re going to deviate from what we’ve been doing for the past four weeks in our free agent spotlight this year, and look at one of the other positions that the Mariners could use some bolstering for next season: starting pitching.

Although the free agent pool this year isn’t particularly fascinating, if you ask me, there are some intriguing options that the M’s could pick up, and that’s why today we’re looking at James Shields, aka Big Game James.

He’s been a dominant pitcher over the past couple years, posting a 14-8 record with a 3.21 ERA in 2014.


He’s been a consistently good pitcher, especially over the last four years. In that span, his average ERA is 3.18. Felix Hernandez‘s over the same span is 2.93, for comparison.

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According to my friend Kyle, Shields “is a stud,” and I have to agree with him. Shields knows how to get batters out, and last year posted his best strikeout-to-walk ratio, at 4.09 since his his second year in the league (2007), when it was up at 5.11.

Experience matters when it comes to starting pitchers. Shields is a nine year veteran of the league, and there’s no substitution for that.

He also has a lot of good baseball left in him (hypothetically), since he will only be 33 by the time next season starts. Yes, I suppose that he would be considered to be exiting the consensus “baseball prime,” but a pitcher can still be effective well into his 30’s, and Shields has shown over the past couple years the ability to consistently perform at a high level.

He also might be looking to move teams. He recently turned down a qualifying offer from the Royals worth $15.3 million. A team primed to make the playoffs, such as the Mariners, could prove enticing for him, if the price is right.


The most obvious con is that the Mariners would probably have to offer a fairly sizeable amount of money, over multiple years, to bring him over to the Pacific Northwest. Something around $100 million over 5 years might not be out of the question, but it really depends on what his agent asks for a pitcher that went 1-2 with a 6.10 ERA in five games in the postseason, which contradicts his nickname.

One of the less obvious cons is the fact that he’s a righty. If the M’s were to pick up Shields, a potential starting lineup, in no particular order, would go:

1. Felix Hernandez

2. Hisashi Iwakuma

3. James Paxton

4. James Shields

5. Chris Young

So, what’s the deal with this lineup? The only lefty out of those five is Paxton. While this isn’t necessarily a really bad thing, it makes the M’s starting rotation predictable, so to speak. I’d like to see another lefty in the starting rotation, but I don’t have enough confidence in Roenis Elias right now to throw him in there instead of Young.

So, where does he fit in?

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The way I see it, a team with at least three “upper-tier” starting pitchers has a really good chance to succeed in the MLB. Currently, the Mariners have two, in Hernandez and Iwakuma. Shields would give the M’s that third “upper-tier” guy, and fill the fifth spot that they don’t really have locked down right now.

Sidebar: Paxton and Taijuan Walker, it could be argued, could be upper-tier pitchers as well, but as mentioned before, nothing beats experience when it comes to pitching.


I’m hoping that the M’s make a push for Shields. A five-year deal, from anywhere between $75 to $100 million dollars would probably be a reasonable offer, and takes Shields through his 37-year-old season. I know that the M’s really need more run production for next year, but that could be achieved via trade for a number of players.

What do you think?