It's February and James Shields has yet to find a home. The free agent starter just led the Royals to the World Series and was expected to sign a big ol' free agent contract worth $100 million or more. It hasn't happened, and some are speculating that it isn't gonna.
In fact, some are saying that it is looking more likely the best offer Shields is gonna get at this point is closer to Ervin Santana money (four years, $55 mil) than anything close to $100 mil. If that is indeed true, the Reds need to make some phone calls.
At this point, the Reds are in a real tough place. Coming into the winter, 80% of the starting rotation was set to reach free agency at the end of the 2015 season. Their response was to trade off both Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon. Anthony DeSclafani looks like a candidate to replace one of the two, but it goes without saying that the corps will probably be a bit less than what showed up last season (when they won 76 games). As it is, Both Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake are on board at about $10 mil apiece and will look to hit the market next year. So the rotation situation is clouded by obfuscation.
As has been mentioned before, Friend o' the Blog Dan Szymborski is skeptical of the Reds' chances of keepin' it real over the next few years. Money is tight and talent is thin. If James Shields is as affordable as it looks like he might be, then he could potentially provide the stability necessary to keep this riverboat from rockin' too much. It seems there is a possibility that something like four years and $70 mil could lure him to Cincinnati.
He's 33 now, so such a deal is not without risk. But few pitchers have been as steady as him (he has averaged 220 innings per season since 2007) in the recent past. Of course, that might be the reason he could be getting so cheap. How many 33-year-old pitchers with nearly 2000 big-league innings on their arms come out the other end of a four-year deal looking good?
Still, I think they would be really smart to trade Mike Leake and his last arb year and sign Shields with the money. A back-loaded deal could keep them from breaking too many purse strings this season while significantly upgrading the rotation and providing a steady rotation anchor to help transition the team to the post-Cueto era. This front office hasn't been all that active on the free-agent market, but they have been keen on out-of-nowhere pronouncements (how many of you expected the Chapman signing or the Votto extension?) I think this could work, and I think it could be smart.