Tonight, James Shields will start Game 1 of the 2014 World Series. I suppose, by definition, that makes him the kind of pitcher that you can picture starting Game 1 of the World Series for your team – the strange, arbitrary standard many cite for finding an “ace” in baseball.
So far, Shields hasn’t been a dominant postseason pitcher in his career, but I don’t put much stock in that. Instead, I see the value in a guy who has consistently been so durable and so effective for so many years. The Chicago Cubs are in the market for a top tier starter, and, if they aren’t going to pursue Max Scherzer or if things don’t work out with Jon Lester or if the contracts in either case don’t make sense, Shields looks like a pretty great target. Indeed, we’ve already heard that he’s on the Cubs’ radar.
You can add this CSN Chicago piece to the pile of evidence indicating that the Cubs will at least want to talk to Shields about his next job. There, Patrick Mooney suggests Shields could be an alternative to Lester for the Cubs.
If the Cubs do enter into the offseason with their top-tier pitching preference as Lester and then Shields, in that order, one small point to make: Lester is going to get the much larger contract regardless, but the separation in contracts will be increased slightly by the fact that Shields will receive a qualifying offer, while Lester is ineligible for one. As I’ve said before, because the Cubs have a protected first round pick, they have a relative advantage in signing guys like Shields over other teams that do not have a protected pick (and would stand to lose, for example, the 15th pick in the 2015 draft, whereas the Cubs would lose something like the 45th pick – that’s a huge difference). Maybe that makes Shields, vis a vis Lester, just a little more attractive to the Cubs.
One more plaudit for Shields? He’s probably something of a badass. During the ALCS, according to Andy McCullough, Shields was dealing with a kidney stone … which he passed, and told the Royals he was ready to pitch at any point in the process. I have not experienced a kidney stone, but I have been thoroughly instructed on the discomfort.