Free Agent Profile: James Shields Should be a Blue Jay

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I’m just going to come out and say it. The Blue Jays SHOULD sign James Shields. There. Now, there will be some who tell me I’m crazy. That is fine. If after all of this, you still feel that, I can see your reasoning. The Blue Jays have 5 starters. They don’t need to spend on another. They can’t afford him.They need to address the bullpen. They need to figure out second base.

Oct 21, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA;Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The signing of James Shields can fix more problems than we think.

The Blue Jays need an ace. Just because they call R.A. Dickey an ace, doesn’t make it so. He’s been good. Yes. But, he’s not been a gutsy, take the team on his shoulders type. Mark Buehrle is a quiet veteran who can lead by example. He’s a great guy to have around to mentor young players. His move to take Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez out shopping last season was uber classy. But, he’s not an ace either.

James Shields is. He made his name battling in the AL East with the Rays and he’s shined in doing so. Pitching in Toronto would be familiar to him.

But, let’s really get into this. Shields will be 33 when the seasons starts. Age is not on his side. But, there is nothing to indicate that it is an issue for him. He has made more than 30 starts in each year since 2007. In 2006, he only made 21, but it should be noted that he was called up on May 31. In each of the last 2 seasons, he led the league in starts.

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  • He has pitched over 200 innings in each of his full years. We know the Blue Jays value a starter who can consistently take the mound every 5th day. Shields is the epitome of that. That alone has HUGE value. Think of the rest he gives a bullpen.His career average for innings per start is 6.67! He is the definition of dependability and durability. It is for that reason that I think he’ll still be an asset 3-4 years from now.

    He is a career 31.6 WAR pitcher. He’s coming off  4.5, 3.7 WAR seasons with the Royals. Even if he only reaches his projected (Steamer via Fangraphs.com) 3.1 he is well worth the money. The general rate per WAR is ~$6M. So, 3.1X6= $18.6M. I know this is rough and probably slightly off, but you get the point.

    Need more? OK. His career strikeout percentage is 20.5% while his walk percentage is 5.8%. Last season, he only gave up 44 free passes. Well, with age, his fastball must be losing its edge. Nope. Since he entered the league, his average speed has actually increased from 90.6 to 92.5. And, can we talk about his changeup?

    Maybe we don’t even need to. That beauty speaks for itself. Never mind his fastball. That changeup has been making guys look silly for years. And, it will for a few more.

    OK. So, we know he’s good. But, is he the $100M good? I guess that depends on how you value him. Shields is looking for $100M. Considering the current free agent market and the above calculations, (4yrs at $18.6M= $74.4M- add a 5th year for $93M), his estimate may not be that far off. Do the Blue Jays want to be paying a 38 year old making nearly $20M per year? Don’t they have something like that now? I would argue that a 38 year old Shields wouldn’t be so bad. But, I would be pushing for 4 years.

    We’ve already talked about the stress he takes off the bullpen. Being overworked was one of the reasons for the Blue Jays bullpen woes of last season. But, let’s say that the Blue Jays still want to go get help from outside the organization.

    More from Toronto Blue Jays News

    With Shields headlining this rotation, it pushes back Aaron Sanchez and

    Daniel Norris

    another spot. It allows one of them to head to AAA for “seasoning”. It may allow another, one who has questionable ability to go through a lineup a few times *cough* Sanchez *cough* to possibly step into the closers role where he could be lights out. Another way to solve the bullpen. Or, it makes another arm available to trade, which would also open up bullpen options that may not be currently there.

    If the Blue Jays are serious about contending this year, they are going to need a guy who they can rely on. “Big Game” James has a reputation for being a guy you can rely on to give you a chance when you really need it. Right now, they do not have a guy we can feel confident when we need a big performance. We may have one of those in a couple years, but right now Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison are not it. They could use a guy like Shields to show them the way. They have the bulldog in them. Shields can help show them the ways of the force. The same reason AA loves the veterans presence of Dickey and Buehrle, he has to love James Shields. Yes, I know, Alex Anthopoulos does not “love” anyone except his wife and kids.

    With the structure of Russell Martin‘s deal and the number of contracts coming off the books after 2015 and 2016, the Blue Jays can afford to carry Shields’ heavy deal. With some creative accounting, they can make it work for right now. They’ve indicated they are in win now mode with the moves they’ve made already this offseason. I’ve said it before, “In for a penny, in for a pound.” If they are really aiming at winning now, they need someone like James Shields to come on board. Otherwise, there will be no “big games” for anyone.

    OK. Let me know what you think…be gentle.

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