royals-shields

Starting pitcher James Shields

By Brendan Kuty

Two things are certain. The Yankees’ pitching rotation still has plenty of questions. And James Shields would likely help solve more than a few of them, at least for 2015.

But, still, though Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi has reported that Yankees officials have been in recent contact with Shields’ agent, Page Odle, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman and the New York Post’s Joel Sherman each have said they’ve heard the Yankees aren’t interested in adding the 33-year-old righty.

But should they be? Let’s discuss.

YES: The Yankees need innings. Four of their returning five starters — Masahiro Tanaka (elbow), CC Sabathia (knee), Michael Pineda (shoulder) and Ivan Nova (elbow) — each missed significant time last season, and not only are their health problems probably following them into next season, Nova isn’t even due back until late May or early June. Shields could bring stability. He’s thrown more than 200 innings in each of the last seven seasons. And over his last four seasons, Shields has been spectacular, posting a 3.17 ERA while maintaining a great 3.51 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

NO: At age 33, can Shields really be counted on to remain a consistent 200-plus inning guy? It’s tough to say. But the Yankees already have an aging ex-workhorse in CC Sabathia. The big lefty spent years pitching late into games and seemingly brown down out of nowhere in 2013, becoming a shell of his former self, before succumbing to a terrible knee injury in 2014. Shields has the track record. But are too many miles already on his arm?

YES: When the offseason began, Shields was considered the third best starting pitcher available, behind Max Scherzer and Jon Lester. Both Scherzer (Nationals) and Lester (Cubs) each received seven-year contracts. Shields wasn’t expected to get such a long deal, but he might even be forced to consider something even shorter than the perhaps five-year pact he hoped for considering spring training is around the corner. And with that drop in commitment might also come a drop in price. Nobody knows exactly what Shields wants per season. But if the Yankees were willing to pay a 39-year-old Hiroki Kuroda $16 million in 2014, would it be a stretch to think they’d be comfortable giving Shields at least couple million more a year?

NO: Yankees officials have said it all offseason. They don’t want to shower a free agent with huge money. After all, if they were going to do that, why not splash on the pitching market’s top dog, Scherzer? Also, the Yankees have fortified their rotation to an extent, though likely not as much as they would like. They acquired young fireballer Nathan Eovaldi from the Marlins to act as the No. 4 starter and reclamation project and they added lefty Chris Capuano on a no-risk one-year deal to at least keep Nova’s spot warm. That gives them at least five rotation spots filled, and that’s not including the fact they say Adam Warren, Esmil Rogers, Chase Whitely and Bryan Mitchell are each entering spring training as starting pitchers, and that top prospect Luis Severino is at Double-A and on a fast track to break into the bigs as soon as the club decides he’s ready.

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