The short answer: probably not. The Cleveland answer: hell no! The Indians ownership would never front the money to sign Shields or any other free agent, the Dolans should just sell the team to someone who cares. End of article, fire Chris Sladoje for even thinking the Indians would sign Shields.
Now that we’ve taken off our Cleveland blinders, let’s actually look into the facts of this rumor (not even really a rumor, more of a whisper). Let me take you back to February 2013, the Indians had already made their big splash in free agency, signing Nick Swisher to a 4-year, $56 million contract. Everyone thought they were done spending, when out of the blue, Michael Bourn signs with the Tribe for four years, and $48 million. What? The Indians ownership spending money? Impossible! Improbable!
Flash forward to today, and the same situation could play out with James Shields. Almost every team has said that they are out on the James Shields bidding, mainly because his asking price is around five years and $100 million. With an asking price like that, the Indians are definitely out of the running, but then again Michael Bourn was originally seeking a five year contract in the $75 million dollar range, and ended up signing for 1 year and $30 million below his asking price. However, that was when the Indians first round pick was protected, this season it is not, and the Indians are known to value first round picks very highly.
This off-season, draft compensation isn’t what is scaring off teams, in fact nothing is scaring off teams from signing Shields. Everyone is waiting for Max Scherzer to sign. The teams that miss out on Scherzer will most likely target Shields as a back-up plan. The Indians are clearly not targeting Scherzer, so it would help their cause to try and negotiate with Shields while the market is still relatively quiet.
But are we asking the right question here? The question is not, should the Indians sign James Shields, but rather do they need to? Now sure, sign Shields if the price is right, but even low-balling, Shields should still expect to make at least $12 million a year. That would put the Indians at $96 million in payroll for the 2015 season, and at $102 million for 2016. And while Shield has been a model of consistency for the past 4 seasons, he will be 33 years old entering the 2015 season, not to mention the mileage on him. Shield has thrown at least 200 innings in the past 8 seasons, once you get in your mid-30s with those kind of innings, well, just look a Justin Verlander and C.C. Sabathia.
Do the Indians even have room in the rotation for Shields? Okay, silly question, you always have room for a top of the rotation pitcher. But do you risk stunting the growth of T.J. House and Danny Salazar (one of them will already start the year in Triple-A). And, while Shields is one of the best clubhouse guys in the league, clearly one of the most reliable starters in the MLB, he just doesn’t make sense with the Indians, both financial and personnel wise. Then again, come February, this entire article could be wrong, and the Indians sign Shields, giving them the deepest rotation in the league.
— Chris Sladoje (@MLB_Doje)