James Shields is still a free agent on January 22nd and the Miami Marlins remain in the market for the former Kansas City Royals, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN (via Twitter).
This comes one day after the team didn’t seem like a likely destination for the righty ace.
As we have mentioned several times on the site, the signing of James Shields would catapult the Marlins into a surefire contender in 2015 and 2016. This is especially important to me, because the Marlins window to win their current core is actually smaller than one may assume. We’ve also debated why the team should pass on Shields.
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Mat Latos is under contract for this upcoming season and then set to hit the free agent market after the season. It’s unclear if the Marlins intend to sign him long-term after the season, as an extension with him is doubtful at this point.
Both Martin Prado and Michael Morse have 2-year contracts with the team, set to expire after the 2016 season. Both will be in their mid-to-upper 30’s when their contracts expire, so it’s questionable if they’d be capable starters after the next two seasons.
Marcell Ozuna and Jose Fernandez are both repped by super agent Scott Boras, who just landed Max Scherzer the second largest contract for a pitcher in MLB history. Neither seem likely to sign an early extension with the Marlins, rather wait out free agency. Both will also be Super-2 player through the arbitration process, meaning both will become more and more expensive for the Marlins to keep around without a contract extension. So who knows how much longer either will be a Marlin?
The Marlins are working on extensions with Christian Yelich and Adeiny Hechavarria, and I believe both these players are the most likely to sign with the Marlins long-term, right now. So they likely aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The same could be said with Dee Gordon, but he’s yet to play a game with the Fish, so his future is a lot less certain.
With the Nationals already all but locking up the National League East with their juggernaut of a team, the Marlins are primarily focused on one of the two NL Wild Card spots. Currently, Fangraphs Depth Charts has the Marlins as the 7th best team in the NL, based on Steamer projections for the 2015 season.
To jump ahead of those ballclubs and give the team a better shot at becoming one of the Wild Card teams, preferably the one with home field advantage, the Marlins will need the services of one James Shields. Adding Shields would catapult the Marlins ahead of the Giants, in a tie with the Cubs for the 5th best projection, just one game back of the Pirates for the 4th spot.
No, James Shields wouldn’t make the Marlins an instant playoff team, but he’d bring them damn close enough they can almost taste it. Shields also would give the Marlins protection in case Mat Latos or Jose Fernandez have lingering issues from injuries the season sustained in 2014.
James Shields is still available on January 22nd and the Marlins, a team that has already gone 90% in, needs to go the other 10% and sign him, before another team does.