Rosenthal: Red Sox “likely” to sign James Shields


According to a recent report by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Red Sox were in attendance during James Shields‘ start against the Tigers today and pegged it as “likely” that the 32 year old right-hander will wind up in Boston this offseason.

Shields will be the third-best starting pitching option on the free agent market, behind Max Scherzer and, of course, Jon Lester, and could represent the Red Sox’ best chance to land a frontline pitcher at a reasonable price. While Shields’ age is a bit of a concern, as he’ll be 33 on Opening Day next year, that age will reduce the number of years on a potential free agent contract and it could keep his price tag in Boston’s range. He is likely to land a deal in the four-year range, and the Red Sox would likely be willing to pay handsomely for his services as long as the deal does not extend beyond that fourth year.

As far as those services go, bringing Shields aboard would be a huge upgrade for the Red Sox rotation. After trading away Lester and John Lackey at the trade deadline, the Red Sox have a vacancy at the top of their rotation that must be filled if the team has hopes of contending next season and Shields could be just the person to fill that gap.

Following today’s start, in which Shields allowed 3 runs on 6 hits and a walk in 6.2 innings pitched, Shields’ ERA stands at 3.18, a nearly identical mark to his first season in Kansas City last year, which saw him post a 3.15 ERA. Along with that impressive ERA, Shields has similarly strong peripheral statistics as his 4.19 K/BB and 3.54 ERA suggest that he is pitching around his capabilities as a solid frontline starter.

Plus, while some likely view Shields as a low-cost replacement for Jon Lester, it’s worth noting that the two have been very similar throughout their careers (Lester has a career 3.58 ERA to Shields’ 3.72 mark). Despite that similarity, however, Shields is likely to receive a significantly smaller contract than Lester partially due to his age and partially due to the fact that Lester is in the midst of a career year. Over the course of their respective careers, the two have been very similar pitchers though and, at a much lower cost, Shields is much more likely to deliver on his contract than Lester.

Altogether, Shields would be a solid starting pitching option for the Red Sox and it’s good to hear that they’re doing their due diligence on him. Lester is likely to be the superior pitcher going forward; however, if his price becomes too high (which is quite likely), then Shields is an excellent fallback plan for Boston. Who knows? Maybe next October, Big Game James will be starting some big games for the Red Sox.