In the wake of trades for Shane Greene, and Alfredo Simon, David Dombrowski has repeatedly denounced the idea that the Tigers have any interest in adding to their rotation. But Tigers fans know better. Ask even the most casual baseball fan in the Motor City what the Tigers’ general manager means when he says he is content with the current roster, and they will tell you that a move is on the horizon.
And, while the recent rumors of Detroit’s involvement with James Shields may just be leverage in a bidding war between Dombrowski and Max Scherzer’s infamous agent Scott Boras, it may ultimately be more beneficial for the Tigers to focus their attention on Shields, and let Scherzer walk.
Tigers fans are familiar with Shields’ most recent work. In 2014, the one-time Tampa Bay Ray helped anchor both the rotation, and the clubhouse, for a Kansas City Royals team that forced Detroit into a divisional race that lasted until the last day of the regular season. However, if Shields sports the Old English D in 2015, Tigers will assuredly warm up to their former foe, and the reasons for that shift are two-fold.
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To begin, Shields is one of the premier arms in all of baseball. He has pitched over 200 innings in each of the last eight seasons, and in the last four seasons he has a record of 58-39. Shields is enticing for many teams throughout baseball, but he should be particularly enticing for Detroit. Not only is he familiar with the division, but Shields has excelled at Comerica Park in recent history. According to ESPN, in the two games Shields started at Comerica in 2014 he pitched 13.1 innings, went 1-0, struck out 11, walked only two, allowed just three runs, and held the Tigers’ offense to a .156 average. For context, the Tigers led the MLB in team batting average during the 2014 season (.277).
Beyond his pitching prowess, Shields’ close relationship with David Price also holds serious weight when considering his value. Price never truly seemed comfortable in Detroit after leaving Tampa Bay, and the fact that he and the Tigers have had no discussions about a long-term extension (according to Morosi, and Ken Rosenthal) gives substance to that rumor. However, bring Shields — Price’s former teammate — into the fold and the star left-hander may warm up to the idea of staying in Detroit.
There is no guarantee that signing Shields will convince Price to stay, but it certainly improves the chances. And if the signs suggest that the Tigers can get Shields and Price, together, for just a touch above what they would have to pay for Scherzer alone, it would be hard to argue for Scherzer.
While Scherzer is undoubtedly the better pitcher, Shields is, at most, one tier below him, and would cost about half as much as Scherzer. Factor in the idea that Shields could help the Tigers’ front office sell Price on staying in Detroit alongside him, in addition to the fact that he is comfortable within the division — specifically Comerica Park – and signing Shields quickly becomes a far better option than re-signing Scherzer.