Happy pitchers and catchers month, everybody. It's also Super Bowl Sunday, so add it all up, and it's just about the deadest time for baseball news.
One thing making this year different from most others -- there has to be at least one major move coming before pitchers and catchers report, because James Shields is still hanging out in free agency.
It's the day of The Big Game, and Big Game James still doesn't even have even the slightest of front-runners for his services. The last similar case to Shields was Prince Fielder in 2012, but he signed on Jan. 26. A year later, Kyle Lohse didn't find a home until March 25, but he's not quite in the same class.
Weirder still, Shields' MLB Trade Rumors tag went more than 72 hours without an update, even though he's the last true player of note left on the market. That streak was broken on Saturday night, but the MLB.com Marlins beat writer only had an idea, not a rumor.
The big names in national reporting have all poked at this story, wondering what gives:
*Ken Rosenthal said Shields is paying the price for previous poor investments in pitchers who were 33 or older:
The most recent of the above contracts was Buehrle’s, and that was three years ago. Buehrle entered the market with an even greater number of innings pitched than Shields has now, but he also boasted a better adjusted ERA. Executives cite not only Shields’ age as a negative, but also his backlog of innings, declining strikeout rate and spotty postseason performance.
A five-year, $100 million deal for Shields was the original expectation by many in the industry. A four-year deal probably is more realistic, and at this point it would be a surprise if Shields received $20 million per year.
Dave Dombrowski patiently explains the Tigers are not in on James Shields daily— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) January 25, 2015
Considering the farm system status is "Grapes of Wrath," the loss of a draft pick might loom large. In Kansas City, Dayton Moore is keeping an eye on the situation, but the Royals' payroll is already at record heights. The non-AL Central teams seem to have a better set of circumstances, but the memory of the Fielder signing from three years ago makes it hard to rule out the Tigers. It sure would be swell if we could, because while the Central looks like a slugfest no matter where Shields lands, he's the only remaining player who could shift a team's forecast by himself.