Monday, August 17, 2015

Most Popular Article of the Week: Should The Yankees Go After James Shields?

By Bryan Van Dusen:

While it's true that the Yankees don't have the best starting rotation in baseball, it's also true that they don't have the worst.

Everybody cheer for us not being the worst!

In fact, in terms of fWAR, the Yankees' starters are 6th in the American League. While being 6th in the league isn't great, allow me to point out that four of the teams in front of them are not going to the postseason. The Chicago White Sox starters have the highest fWAR, but their team is currently 4th in the AL Central. The Oakland Athletics are 2nd, but are currently in last place in the AL West. The Cleveland Indians are next, but are cellar-dwellers in the AL Central. And finally there are the Tampa Bay Rays with the 5th best fWAR in the AL, who are currently in 4th place in the AL East.

The only team whose starters have a higher fWAR, and who are likely headed to the postseason, are the Houston Astros. Fortunately, the Yankees have a better bullpen and a better offense, so Houston does not frighten me.

Speaking of bullpens, the Yankees have the best bullpen in baseball. A bullpen that includes two pitchers with a sub-2.00 ERA (Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller), another guy with an ERA barely over 2.00 (Chasen Shreve - 2.06), and a fourth pitcher whose ERA is a very respectable 2.43 (Justin Wilson). That means that as long as the Yankee starters give the team a good five innings, the game is definitely winnable.

Heck, I didn't even mention that Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell are also currently in the bullpen, where they can give the Yankees three or more strong innings of work.

Basically, another starter is not necessary.

Which brings me to James Shields.

"What's UUUUUUP!?"

The Yankees do not need James Shields. That's all that has to be said about it, but I'm sure you won't be surprised to find out that I'm not leaving it at that.

First of all, there's the fact that Shields is walking more batters this year than he ever has. His career walk percentage is 5.9%, but this season that number is 8.1%.

Secondly, James is giving up a lot of home runs. His home run percentage of 3.9% is higher than it's ever been in his career. And if you think the majority of the homers against him have happened away from spacious Petco Park, you'd be wrong. He's given up 13 home runs in just 11 starts at Petco, while giving up 11 home runs in 13 starts on the road. Oh, and more home runs are hit at Yankee Stadium. Not a good omen.

My biggest issue is his contract, which runs through 2018 for another $63 million (not including the $2 million buyout of his team option 2019 season). If the Yankees have to pay a third starter over $20 million, then chances are they wouldn't be willing to go after somebody like David Price in free agency, as he would make it four starters earning $20+ million next season.

Now, I'm not going to ignore the opt-out clause in Shields' contract, which he can trigger after next season. While he's already 33, I don't think it would be hard for a guy with his consistency (he's made at least 33 starts in each of the past seven seasons, and has 24 already this season) to get a contract of at least four years and $16 million per. That means he would be guaranteed a million more dollars than he's already getting paid, plus another year. And that's a modest estimate.

So while it's exciting to think about the Yankees adding another solid piece to the rotation, when you actually sit back and think about acquiring James Shields you'll realize that it's not worth it.

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