The MLB had its busiest offseason day on Friday, as nearly 100 players reached an agreement with their current ball clubs to avoid any arbitration hearings. Among those players were Tigers pitchers David Price and Alfredo Simon, who signed 1-year deals worth a combined $25.3 million, and Price getting the bulk of it at $19.75. The deal for the powerful lefty set a league record for the highest one-year contract for a player in arbitration. 2014 breakout outfielder J.D. Martinez also avoided an arbitration hearing as well, agreeing for $3 million. The Price deal alone pushed the Tigers into 3rd on the MLB’s list of highest payrolls, leaving them only behind the not-surprising Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees.
These moves seemed to trickle into the daily Max Scherzer swirling rumors. The 2013 Cy Young winner made news that he would sign a 7-year contract with the Washington Nationals totaling $210 million dollars. You have to think if the Tigers weren’t expressing major interest in Mad Max to begin with, but the money they paid David Price probably closed the doors on that possibility.
The strong speculation in and outside the clubhouse is that Price will pitch in the Motor City for the 2015 season, but could be very much trade bait for General Manager Dave Dombrowski. There have been numerous stories through the winter months that Dombrowski had not approached his southpaw ace about a contract extension, leading to believe that Price will test the free agent market next off-season. Many fans have been on the fence about Price being a part of the team and whether or not he actually likes to pitch here. He has the capability year in and year out to put up Cy Young-like numbers, and be a leader to whatever pitching staff he is a part of. However, there are recent rumors regarding another big name starting pitcher on the free agent market that just may help Price re-think his long-term future.
According to recent rumors, the Tigers had been linked to right-hander James Shields. Shields, who spent his last two years pitching for the Kansas City Royals and played his first seven seasons prior with the Tampa Bay Rays, is undoubtedly the last remaining big fish to make a splash in the free agency pool. The dominant changeup-throwing hurler went 27-17, with a combined 3.18 ERA, in his two seasons with the defending AL champions. Shields is a proven workhorse who can log innings almost every start he makes. There seems to be no real serious interest right away on the part of ‘Dealer Dave’, as he has stated numerous times how content he is with his current staff. He should be, their starting five is still one of the best in baseball.
A deal for Shields though could have a number of long term positive domino effects for the old English D. First off, having a guy like Shields on the mound every fifth start certainly would take a lot of stress off of the bullpen, which has been prone to struggle at times. Second, although he is a talented pitcher, Shields would be a cheaper and more reasonable investment for the Tigers as opposed to pursing Scherzer. If the Tigers were to sign him, it would more than likely put newly acquired Shane Greene into the bullpen. Lastly, and maybe the most important, a move like this could interest David Price in staying in Motown for more seasons. Both Price and Shields pitched together in Tampa Bay for 4 seasons, from 2008-2012, including three postseason appearances and one in the Fall Classic of 2008, in a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Again, there is no strong indication early on not only where James Shields will end up, but if even the Tigers are seriously interested in signing the right-hander. As the winter days have come and gone, it was becoming less likely that Max Scherzer would re-sign with Detroit, especially more so after Price banked a few days ago. More than likely the Tigers will be going through this stage again one year from now, meaning Price will be testing the free agent market. One has to think though that signing James Shields to a reasonable and cost-efficient contract could be very positive for the Tigers for years to come.