The Detroit Tigers may or may not sign Max Scherzer. They're quiet, teams throughout Major League Baseball are silent, and no one wants to give anything away. That's all well and good for the Tigers, they have the luxury of seeing where the market lies for Scherzer before potentially overspending, if they jump in at all. Tigers President and GM Dave Dombrowski has repeatedly said the chances of signing the right-handed free agent were low.
In the meantime, the Tigers need other options in the event Scherzer opts to sign with another team instead of staying in Detroit. Enter free agent James Shields. While teams were filing their arbitration numbers — including the Tigers, who came to an agreement with David Price for $19.75 million in 2015 — FOX Sports' Jon Morosi reports that the Tigers have, at the very least, been in contact with Shields' agent.
Source: James Shields' agent, Page Odle, has been in "recent" contact with the #Tigers. Shields and David Price are close friends.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 16, 2015
Extent of Tigers' interest is unclear, source says. But there has been contact between James Shields' agent and the club.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 16, 2015
Of note: James Shields almost certainly will cost less than the six-year, $144 million deal they offered Max Scherzer last spring.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 16, 2015
Unlike Scherzer, Shields doesn't have an expensive and shiny price tag attached to him. There are also a few reasons for his decreased price. However, with only two Tigers pitchers signed to long-term contracts past 2015, the organization needs some options.
Shields may not possess a flashy repertoire like Scherzer, and at times he struggles to live up to the name "Big Game James," particularly in the postseason. However, at the very least he's a dependable everyday pitcher who can eat up innings. He'll also fetch about half of what Scherzer is seeking and would likely provide the Tigers a measure of security in the future.
Last year, Rob looked into the possibility of Shields coming over to the Tigers, which at the time seemed to have little-to-no chance of becoming a reality. That may still be the case, regardless of the rumors.
He allowed a 3.21 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 227 innings this season. His 243 innings pitched (playoffs included) were second only to David Price's 256 1/3 in the American League. Shields held opposing batters to a .298 on-base percentage while striking out four batters for every walk he allowed. He shouldered an even bigger load down the stretch, allowing a 2.62 ERA in 96 1/3 innings after the All-Star break in 2014. The Royals are 24-13 in games that Shields has started this season, including three wins in the postseason.
At 33-years-old, Shields is going to come with a measure of risk, and his postseason record doesn't scream stability. Despite that, the righty holds a career-ERA of 3.72, a 3.77 FIP, has nine shutouts, and features 1,626 strikeouts in 1,910 1/3 innings-pitched. With the Royals alone Shields put together an 8.1 WAR, while he has a lifetime 31.6 WAR during his nine years in the majors.
If push comes to shove and the Tigers simply don't want to sign Scherzer to a long-term contract, they may see Shields as a worthwhile investment if the price is right and the contract length fits the bill. Of course, the Tigers may also simply decide the starting staff they currently have is good enough. Don't bet on that being the case though.