Among the top tier arms available this offseason, three of the best ones are pitching deep in playoff races, and could go deep in the playoffs: Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, and James Shields. That means extra innings and extra intensity for some of the already most-well-used arms in the game. That’s not me throwing up a caution flag, of course – I’m just pointing out an angle to “playoff experience” that doesn’t always net discussion.
Speaking of the innings on those top arms, Ken Rosenthal makes an interesting point in his latest video at Fox Sports. Setting aside the ages of Lester (31 next year), Scherzer (30/31 next year), and Shields (33 next year), there is also the total innings consideration: Scherzer has thrown some 650 fewer big league innings than Shields, and some 350 fewer than Lester. Scherzer was already going to be considered the top dog on the free agent market thanks to his performance and age (not a huge difference between he and Lester, for what it’s worth – about six months), but the innings totals will be considered. Of course, you could turn that argument on its head and use the totals to underscore, for example, Shields’ durability.
Speaking of those three starters, you’ll note that Rosenthal says the “early industry buzz” has Shields going to the Red Sox, Lester going to the Cubs, and Scherzer waiting out the market thereafter.
While you can take the “buzz” only so far, it would be notable if the Red Sox were more in on Shields than Lester, given the possibility that the Cubs could be competing for Lester with those very Red Sox.
As for Shields and Scherzer, I remain of the mind that the Cubs won’t yet rule anyone out in their effort to add at least one impact starter this offseason. Lester certainly seems more likely than Scherzer or Shields, but you can’t say for certain how these things will play out. Two of three? That’s seems pretty unlikely, though.