I’ve read reports that the Red Sox talked to James Shields’ representatives at the winter meetings and that they were “in the picture” on Shields. I think Nick Cafardo reported this drivel in December.
Today, MLB.com reports, via Jim Bowden that the Sox have “not had much recent discussion with …” Shields. This is news?
I am fascinated about how “reporters” and former front office types come up with this nonsense. Is any of this really news? It seems as if these guys have to find something to write about so they write about the fact that people have or have not met with players. Really? That’s worth writing? They can’t come up with anything better? This tells me next to nothing. I wish they’d stop with this already.
Let’s look at Shields for a second. First, his nickname – Big Game James – annoys me. When has he performed well in a big game? He has started 11 games in the post season and gone 3-6. He lost both of his starts in the World Series last year allowing a total of fifteen hits in nine innings. That is not big game studliness. In his first two appearances in the post season in 2008 he went 6 1/3 and 7 1/3 innings. He won one game and lost the other. Since then, he has not pitched into the seventh inning in any of his remaining post season appearances. That is not big game material. Can we put that stupid nickname to bed?
The guy is, though, a solid regular season pitcher. However, he’s never struck me as ace material. He does have his days but if he were on the Red Sox and slated for the start I wouldn’t feel as if I had to watch him pitch. Pedro, you watched. Schilling, despite his moronic views on the world, you watched. Lester, I might watch and when he pitched I might think a no no possible, but I would not say Lester was much watch material. Kershaw, must watch. Verlander in his prime, much watch. Shields? I would not go out of my way. To me he’s not an ace.
Here is a comparison of the ERA+ for four pitchers pretty close in age over the past five years:
Who are these guys? A – Shields, B – Hamels, C – Lester, and D – Cueto. This surprised me a bit. I don’t see that much difference between Shields and Lester. Hamels seems a slight tick better than both, but Johnny Cueto surprised me. He is in another world. I hadn’t realized how well that guy has pitched. He had one injury year in 2013, but seems to have bounced back with a solid 243 innings of 2.25 ERA with 242 Ks in 2014. Clearly, I’d rather have Cueto than any of those other guys. If Cincy is dangling him, I’d be hard pressed not to respond. I might even give up Betts or Swihart for him. Cueto looks like a stud. Shields does not. Neither, for that matter does Lester. I think we are jaded by Lester’s post season performances and that is always a bad idea.
Admittedly, Shields may be better than I think. Yes, I probably discount his ability because I find his nickname annoying, but is he really worth similar contract numbers to Lester? I’d rather survive with what the Red Sox have now, unless we can wait Shields out and get him for a three or four year deal. I’d be loath to pay him beyond his age 35 season. He eats innings and that has significant value, just not ace value.
Are the Sox considering him? Probably. I doubt, though, that they are clamoring and climbing over themselves to sign him. Long term deals to pitchers in their thirties should be avoided. Cueto turns 29 next month, has been nothing but studly when healthy, and hits free agency after next year. He’s going to be looking at a $25 million dollar a year deal. He might be worth it. I used to want to Sox to acquire Jordan Zimmerman, but looking at him and Cueto side by side, I’ve come to the conclusion that I want Cueto. Plus, the irrational side of me looks at his windup and is reminded of El Tiante. I love that.