Yesterday, Jayson Stark took a look at the market for the services of free agent pitcher James Shields. With Max Scherzer now off of the market thanks to the monster contract he landed with the Washington Nationals, Shields remains the premier option for competing teams. In his piece however, he brings up some interesting points that beg the question: Did the Twins already sign James Shields?
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Now obviously the Twins didn’t sign James Shields in the literal sense, but as Stark examines the landscape as a whole, they may have signed him hypothetically. The Twins are not amongst the teams that Stark sees Shields landing with. Whether signing a five-year, $125 million deal or a four-year, $80 million deal, the Twins probably aren’t going to commit to him at this point.
Here comes the case study that Stark points out on Shields. He’s an innings eater, and he’s thrown over 200 innings more than any free agent pitcher at age 33 not named Mark Buehrle. Obviously Shields is the superior pitcher there, but it gets interesting when Stark pairs him to the Twins recent acquisition Ervin Santana.
The chart below compares James Shields (2014) and Ervin Santana (2013) in their time spent pitching for the Kansas City Royals.
JAMES SHIELDS VS. ERVIN SANTANA
Looking at the numbers, it is very apparent that there wasn’t much separating the two pitchers. Santana had a draft pick tied to him a season ago, and wound up having to agree to a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves.
As Santana broke into the free agent market again this offseason, some of the numbers seemed to put off teams, but the Twins wound up getting their guy. Having thrown just under 200 innings in 2014, while compiling his second highest strikeout total in his career (179), while being a year younger than Shields, Santana may be the bargain deal.
Of course Shields is the superior pitcher, but at a cost of what looks to be nearly $30 million more over the same time span, the Twins can feel good about the pitcher they got. Ervin Santana has plenty of experience in the American League, with his time in the AL Central providing some back pocket knowledge as well. Being a pitching starved team, the Twins look like they chose an option that falls in the perfect balance of quality and sensibility.
It seems that it not a matter of if, but when Shields finds his four-year, $80 million suitor. The Twins very likely aren’t going to be it, but considering what they added in Santana, they can feel good not having to be.