It's time for the Dodgers to go after James Shields

It's time for the Dodgers to go after James Shields
Kansas City Royals starter James Shields delivers a pitch during Game 3 of the American League division series against the Angels on Oct. 5. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Hmmm, are things getting interesting enough for the Dodgers to take a serious run at right-hander James Shields?

Certainly looks like it. In which case, they absolutely should.


Shields never appealed to me as the great ace he was being marketed as early in the off-season and looking for a $100-million deal. Only now it's February, he's still unsigned and looking plenty less expensive.

History says it's very difficult for a player to sign a significant deal this late in the off-season, when most teams have filled in the blanks and exhausted their winter spending budget.

The Dodgers, too, are done with their heavy lifting. Their rotation is set and they most probably feel there is no screaming need to add another starter. And signing a 33-year-old pitcher to a long-term deal hardly seems in line with the long-term plans of President of Baseball Operations Andrew Freidman and General Manager Farhan Zaidi.

Yet there are several reasons to believe the Dodgers will take another look at Shields.

He’s a local boy (Hart High School) who has said he would prefer to pitch on the West Coast. Shields pitched his first seven seasons for Freidman with the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s been extremely durable, pitching at least 200 innings in his last eight consecutive seasons. And, of course, the Dodgers have the money.

The Dodgers’ current rotation includes Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. The Dodgers already spent $48 million on McCarthy, who was sensational for the Yankees the second half and awful for the Diamondbacks in the first half. Anderson hasn't pitched over 85 innings in any of his last four seasons.

Signing Shields would make Anderson a long man, which might not be a horrible idea given his injury history. It would also cost the Dodgers a draft pick, but then they already picked one up when Hanley Ramirez signed with the Red Sox, so that’s something of a push.

Of course, it comes down to just how far Shields' price has fallen. Four years and $70 million would still keep him out of the Dodgers' sites. But should he plummet into the $50-million range, they have to pursue him. They are trying to win now, right? Hell, they gave that much to McCarthy.

And if Shields is no ace, he’s still an upper-tier pitcher. He went 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.18 WHIP for the Royals last year. His signing would push the Dodgers past the Nationals as the team with the best rotation in baseball.

In all likelihood, the longer this plays out, the less it will cost to sign him. And if they can ink him to a reasonable deal, that doesn’t rule out going after a David Price, Jordan Zimmerman, Johnny Cueto or a Jeff Samardzija next winter.

"You never say never," Friedman said at the end of December, while saying the Dodgers' rotation was complete.

Nope, never a good idea. And as time has developed, it looks like a good time to make new plans.