GM Dave Stewart told reporters the Dbacks are out on James Shields. Said the market changed, as he expected it to, after Scherzer signing.— Nick Piecoro (@nickpiecoro) January 22, 2015
As I've previously written, I don't mind this development - for the rest of this piece, we will presume Stewart is actually being honest, and the team is no longer pursuing Shields, rather than this being some finely crafted piece of disinfo. It would make sense: the signing of Max Scherzer by the Nationals left Shields as the sole remaining top-tier pitcher available on the free-agent market. Given the number of teams reportedly interested - when Jayson Stark summarized the rumors earlier this week, he had literally half the major-league franchises, to one degree or another - a bidding war seems likely.
No, it won't be to the extent of the $210 million obtained by Scherzer from Washington. But as last man standing, his chances of getting a nine-figure contract would certainly seem to have improved, and that would remain too rich for Dave Stewart and the Diamondbacks. Stark, though, reckons the eventual result is more likely to be a four-year $80 million contract; might that be enough to reawaken Arizona interest? There currently doesn't appear to be any obvious front-runner for signing Shields, just a lot of teams going "Hmm, he'd be kinda helpful." It will be interesting to see where he lands, and at what price.
From the Diamondbacks' perspective, it suggests the team will instead wait until the deeper free-agent class of 2016, and then use money from the new television deal to get a name to front their rotation. While it's a decision which increases the chance of this year being another losing one, I'm comfortable enough with it. Well, at least I am, if it results in a better long-term solution than handing a truckload of cash on a long-term deal to a starter in his mid-30's, so probably well on the wrong side of the aging curve. But the questions concerning the rotation for this season remain as uncomfortable as ever.