Red Sox are early favorites to land James Shields

Brian Hines (@BringLesterBack)
Contributing Writer

With a deep free agency pitching list, names like Max Scherzer and Jon Lester lead the list.But the two top names have been booted out of the playoffs. The last big pitcher name left in the playoffs is James Shields. Shields' Royals came back to beat Lester's Athletics on the wild-card game. Scherzer and his Tigers were swept by the Orioles. So that leaves Shields. The 32 year-old showcased himself last night in Game 1 of the ALCS. Shields pitched well but not great going 5 innings and giving up 4 earned runs on 10 hits. He only had 3 strikeouts with one walk and finished with a 7.20 ERA.

The Red Sox have emerged as the front-runners to sign Shields this winter
Shields appears to be the most affordable out of the big three pitchers. Shields rejected the Royals one-year, $15 million-dollar qualifying offer, but are expected to try to regain Shields this offseason. The competition on the market for shields should be aggressive. The team that has emerged as the early favorite? The Boston Red Sox. It makes since as they need a top of the rotation guy, and Shields won't cost as much as the other top guys.

Executives around the league expect Shields to land a five-year deal between $80 and $110 million. Shields, at 32, has never had an arm surgery before. This is something that usually makes the Red Sox front office hesitant. But with this type of contract, the Red Sox could get something done.

Shields has been a solid, durable pitcher over his career. The last eight seasons he's pitched 200 innings. Barring injury, which he's been able to avoid, you know what you're getting in innings. The only question is if the quality will continue. Shields has posted a career 3.72 ERA through his nine seasons of work. But his numbers over the last four seasons are much better. He's improved over his last four years as his highest ERA is just a 3.52. This past season he had a 3.21 ERA with a 1.811 WHIP.

If Shields can continue to be durable and pitch quality innings while he's durable, hell be a big addition to the Red Sox weak pitching rotation. Look for the Red Sox to make a big push this offseason and try to persuade Shields into coming to Boston as their number one pitcher.

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