The Mets should explore signing James Shields
The Mets have more than enough starting pitching and are actively attempting to trade from their current excess. James Shields is a starting pitcher. Going after James Shields makes all the sense in the world. Here’s why…
Looking internally, it seems that the Mets as presently constituted are not willing to trade one of their younger, high-end starting pitchers in order to address their biggest need (shortstop).
Looking externally, it appears that James Shields’ market is close to non-existent. According to Buster Olney of ESPN, if Shields gets a good three-year offer with a fourth-year option, he should jump at it.
Writes Olney (ESPN Insider subscription needed and highly recommended):
"The longer a premium free agent like Shields remains unsigned, the more his negotiating strategy and leverage position gets picked apart. As we move into February, some executives have become convinced that while Shields was an interesting alternative on Dec. 9, he is now hurt by looming market alternatives."
This is where the Mets come in.
For New York, signing Shields would be the first of two moves, with the second move being a trade of one of their younger, high-end starting pitchers in a deal for an impact shortstop.
Here’s how it might shake out:
At present, the Mets have six starting pitchers for five rotation spots, with three other starting pitchers (Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz) as insurance.
In any scenario, Dillon Gee should be traded, leaving the Mets with five members for the Opening Day rotation and two or three other starters in the minors (Montero may open in the major league bullpen).
In order for the Mets to be comfortable dealing one of their younger pitchers – let’s use Zack Wheeler as an example – for an impact shortstop, they’d have to replace that pitcher with another reliable front-end starting pitcher first. James Shields could be that guy.
Shields recently turned 33, and if signed for just three years guaranteed, he would be off the books before his 36th birthday. The risk is minimal.
Let’s pretend for a minute that the Mets either have the financial wherewithal or willingness to add a pitcher like Shields…
Instead of a rotation of Matt Harvey, Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, and Bartolo Colon, their rotation would be Matt Harvey, Jon Niese, James Shields, Jacob deGrom, and Bartolo Colon.
Neither of their top pitching prospects (Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz) would be moved.
Instead of Wilmer Flores as their starting shortstop for the entirety of 2015, they would instead trade Zack Wheeler and perhaps another non-pitching prospect in order to acquire a true impact shortstop. For this exercise, let’s say that shortstop is Addison Russell of the Cubs.
Russell might not be ready until midseason, but who cares? Once ready, he’d be penciled in as a plus two-way shortstop for the next decade.
The above is a bit unorthodox and would require creativity and the Mets’ willingness or ability to spend. The odds of it happening are probably slim, but it’s something that a team in the Mets’ position should be open to.
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