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Mailbag: Should the Tigers sign Max Scherzer or James Shields?

Why not sign James Shields? Was the Alfredo Simon trade necessary? What should we expect from Jose Iglesias? These questions and more in this week's mailbag!

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Things in the baseball world seem to be dying down for the holiday season, but there are still plenty of things to be resolved before Spring Training next year. Where will James Shields and Max Scherzer end up? Is Jose Iglesias healthy? We answer these questions and more below. Remember, you can send us questions on Facebook, on Twitter, or via email at!

Why not sign Shields instead of Scherzer? It looks like he'd be half the money and he'd improve our rotation by leaps and bounds.


While the respective asking prices of James Shields and Max Scherzer differ in total dollar amount, the average annual values of their next contracts probably won't be too far off. Shields is reportedly asking for $110 million over five seasons, or $22 million per year. Jon Lester is getting just over $25 million per year, and Scherzer should probably come in a shade ahead of that figure.

While the shorter contract is nice, I would be upset if the Tigers opted for Shields over Scherzer. If you're going to invest that much money in a starting pitcher, you should get the best guy available, and Scherzer definitely fits that bill. He has averaged 5.5 fWAR over the past three seasons, while Shields' career high is just 4.5 WAR. If you get another season or two from either guy at those respective levels, you're essentially paying $3-4 million for an extra win, which is well below market value.

Age also plays a role here. Shields is two and a half years older than Scherzer, and looks to be exiting his prime. The Tigers would be paying either guy until they are 37, so it actually makes more sense to pony up for Scherzer and get those premium age 30-32 seasons during their "win now" window.

I think that the Tigers should look to sign a left-handed reliever, but I don't know if Neal Cotts is the guy I would choose. While his career 3.08 strikeout-to-walk ratio against lefties is nice, he has allowed them to hit .248/.324/.430 in nearly 700 plate appearances. Like Craig Breslow, Cotts had a great year in 2013, but struggled in 2014 when his numbers bounced back to their career norms.

If I had to pick a name to go after, I'd grab Tom Gorzelanny. He has the splits to be a LOOGY and the starter's experience to be a spot starter or long reliever. He only threw 21 innings last season after undergoing shoulder surgery in December 2013, but allowed just two earned runs. He also racked up 23 strikeouts, resulting in a 2.99 FIP. With a full offseason to train and recover from his surgery, Gorzelanny could be effective in a multi-faceted role.

I'm a bit more optimistic about Alfredo Simon than I was the day of the trade, but grabbing a bargain bin starter seems like it would have been the smarter play. Eugenio Suarez and Jonathon Crawford aren't likely to become All-Stars, but that package is still a lot to give up for one year of Simon. Crawford could probably have an impact in an MLB bullpen within the next couple seasons, though the Tigers likely would have kept him as a starter for a bit too long, a la Casey Crosby.

That said, bargain bin starters aren't exactly bargains anymore. Kris Medlen is coming off a second Tommy John surgery and just got a two year contract. Brett Anderson is made of glass and got $10 million. Gavin Floyd has barely pitched in the past two years and hasn't had an ERA below 4.00 since 2008. A $4 million contract isn't bad for a guy like that, but is he any more likely to succeed than one of Kyle Lobstein, Kyle Ryan, or Buck Farmer? I don't know.

Are you optimistic for Iglesias? Everything sounds good, but we thought he’d be fine last off-season too.

I briefly answered this question in the comments of the latest podcast post, but I want to expand on this topic a bit here. We aren't privy to Iglesias' medical reports or rehab progress, but the Tigers' willingness to trade Eugenio Suarez this offseason speaks volumes about their confidence in Jose Iglesias for the 2015 season. The organization has had a full year to determine what was causing the irritation leading to Iglesias' stress fractures, and there is no reason to believe that he won't be healthy heading into 2015.

Could the injury come back? That depends on what caused the shin splints in the first place. We heard all about Iglesias running on sand to get in shape for the 2013 season, but that's not necessarily what caused his injury. However, it's hard to see Iglesias making it through x number of years playing baseball in Cuba and making the major leagues if shin splints this severe were a more chronic issue.


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