In 2013, the Cleveland Indians surprised many people in baseball by signing OF Michael Bourn just before the start of spring training.
The surprise was mostly because the Tribe doesn’t go after a lot of high-priced free agents, and they had already signed Nick Swisher the prior December.
The Indians should shock the baseball world again with a late off-season signing. It makes all the sense in the world for them to ink James Shields to a contract before spring training opens in Goodyear in less than two weeks.
Shields figured to get a deal worth more the $100 million following last season when he helped the Central Division rivals, the Kansas City Royals, get to the World Series.
But, he hasn’t signed yet and you would think he might be willing to sign a shorter term deal at higher dollars per year.
GM Chris Antonetti could perhaps talk his superiors into going two years at $36 million total.
We know what you are thinking, the Wahoos have a set starting rotation with Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, newly inked Gavin Floyd, Danny Salazar, and southpaw T.J. House.
Our argument would be first that you can never have enough pitching and getting Big Game James would allow the Indians not to be so dependent on youngsters Bauer, Salazar, and House.
Plus Floyd is coming off a fractured elbow, and Carrasco dazzled over the last two months, but it was the first time he pitched well as a starter since coming off of Tommy John surgery.
Shields would fit nicely in the #2 or #3 spot in the rotation and last year his numbers away from Kansas City were tremendous, going 10-2 with a 2.97 ERA, compared to a 3.51 ERA at home.
Imagine combating Detroit’s lineup in a three game series by pitching Kluber, Carrasco, and Shields. Or going against the White Sox with Chris Sale and Jeff Samardjiza, not to mention taking a key cog from the American League champions.
It would stamp the Indians, not the Tigers and not the Royals, as the team to beat in the division.
It would also send a much needed signal to the ticket buying public that the Indians recognize they have a talented ballclub and are going for it, not hoping they can somehow nudge themselves into the playoffs.
And the best thing is Cleveland would be getting a good deal. They wouldn’t be paying the high-end deal the right-hander was thought to be getting.
They should be able to handle such a contract because their other starters are young and haven’t even reached arbitration as of yet, meaning there isn’t a lot of money concentrated in the starting rotation.
Don’t forget that Shields would also be a leader along with Kluber among the pitchers. The story in KC was that he told the others in the rotation that they needed to combine for 1000 innings amongst them.
Financially, when Antonetti decides the time is right to move OF David Murphy, that will allow $6 million to be moved off the payroll and the signing would make Josh Tomlin (approximately $1.7 million) expendable too.
We realize that this is never going to happen, but it makes all the sense in the world for the Indians to make this move. And it is fun to dream.
On the other hand, the Bourn signing came out of nowhere. It would be great if the front office would surprise us all once again.