The Detroit Tigers have been nothing short of busy this offseason, acquiring multiple new faces and shipping some of their own talent elsewhere. The acquisition of slugger Yoenis Cespedes has cooled down much of the outfield fever, while Alfredo Simon’s and Shane Greene’s arrival in the Motor City has give the Tigers flexibility with their pitching staff.
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Many negatives have turned to positives since the end of the 2014 season, and many lingering questions have found their answers. But if the Tigers really wanted to evoke fear from their opponents and cap off the winter with bang, the club should sign SP James Shields to a contract. Such a move would be much more checkbook-friendly, allow for improvements within the bullpen, and get the team clicking on all cylinders.
James Shields excels in multiple areas that would benefit Detroit greatly. First and foremost, Shields is an absolute innings-eater. Aside from his rookie season back in 2006, the powerful right-hander has never thrown less than 200 innings in a season. Over the past three seasons, Shields has thrown at least 220 innings, even leading the league in IP with 228.2 in 2013. His entire career he has went deep into games, making him a more ideal player for Detroit. With a bullpen as bad as the Tigers’ it’s vital their starters go deep into games.
The consistency James has shown his entire career foreshadows the performance he would bring to Detroit’s rotation. He’s the owner of a career 3.72 ERA, which is 11 percent better than the league average over his career (courtesy of Matthew Kory). The strikeout factor is also there, striking out at least 160 batters every season in the leagues, excluding his rookie season. In fact, it’s very difficult to find a weakness in his admirable career.
Many will point to his recent struggles in the World Series, but that is not enough to override his career success. And when looking at the bigger picture, the only weakness in Shields’ game is his decreasing strikeout rate:
"Shields’ strikeout rate has dropped two straight seasons. In 2011, he struck out 23.1 percent of the hitters he faced, 4.5 percent above the league average, impressive for a starter. In 2012, he struck out a half batter more on a percentage basis, but the league average went up 1.2 percent, so relative to the league his performance level dropped. In 2013, his strikeout percentage dropped three percent and was almost exactly league average. Last season it dropped another 1.5 percent to 19.2 percent, and perhaps most significantly, for the first time in his career he’s struck out fewer batters than league average on percentage basis."
The most enticing component of James Shields is that he will be incredibly cheaper than both Max Scherzer and David Price. Scherzer is asking clubs for a $200 million+ contract, while Price will command even more due to the fact he’s a lefty. Shields will most likely receive a deal in the ballpark of $100 million.
A contract as such would give the club the money for other moves, as where a $200 million deal would cripple the ability to sign other players in positions the team needs. Shields does not call for every single penny in a team’s budget to spent on him, and by not pouring all of the money a club possesses into him, there is wiggle room to sign other players.
Shields also fits a blueprint that would set the Tigers up for great success. The Tigers currently have six pitchers capable of starting; Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander, Shane Greene, Alfredo Simon, David Price, and Kyle Lobstein. Either Simon, Lobstein, or Greene will be coming out of the bullpen in 2015. James Shields joining the rotation allows for two of those three pitchers to assume relief duties. His signing would strengthen both the rotation and the bullpen in one way or another.
Shields is cheaper, allows for more moves, and better suits the Tigers’ current needs.
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