Thursday, December 11, 2014

Will Yankees cave in for Max Scherzer or James Shields?

Believe what you may in the New York Yankees desire to stay away from nine-figure salaries this offseason, but with Max Scherzer and James Shields on the market it will be tough for the team to shy away from a truly dominant pitcher, or one who can dominate, both of whom they could absolutely use.

Let me begin by saying that I fully support the notion of steering clear of a $200 million-plus contract for Scherzer. I’m not of the belief that he’ll be worth anything at the end of the seven or eight years he’d be under contract. On the other hand, I would completely understand if the Yankees shoved it all aside and took their chances with the right-hander.

As for Shields, he’s not going to cost as much, and his term will not be as long, but he has significantly more mileage on his arm than Scherzer. For over $100 million, the Yankees would have to think just as hard about signing "Big Game" James.

What will Yankees general manager Brian Cashman do?

Jon Lester is off the board, and so too is Brandon McCarthy, who perhaps was the Yankees first choice of the mid-tier group of free-agent starters. McCarthy is said to be in agreement to pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers for four seasons. The Yankees did not want to go to a fourth year on a pitcher who finally reached 200 innings pitched in a season, his ninth in the majors.

With McCarthy gone, the Yankees, in need of two starters according to most evaluators, see a market that does not have any sure things in the mid-tier area (not that McCarthy was either). Each player available in that group has question marks – Ervin Santana, Jake PeavyEdinson Volquez and Justin Masterson to just name a handful (and not to be perceived as my wish list) could be disasters in their own right.

That leaves the Yankees with a dilemma. They could go strong after Scherzer and hope he pays off quickly – a World Series title is what I’m speaking of – because we all know how his contract might look after five seasons? Or do they go one step below Scherzer and look at Shields who is undoubtedly less of a question mark when compared with the mid-tier arms still available? In the end if the Yankees were to decide on these two, it’s likely that they’d go all-out for Scherzer. I’m not certain they have any interest in Shields at all.

Many Yankees fans want the team to be going hard after Scherzer, especially after not being involved at all with Lester. But, if you’ve been paying attention from the moment the Yankees were bounced from postseason eligibility for the second straight season, the team is looking at new ways to compete.

One of those methods is to not get sucked into a contract they’ll hate for the final two or three seasons they’re on the hook for it. The other is to find potential upside players in the free-agent or trade market to match with a growing farm system. And all the while, they would prefer not to trade away their top prospects. It’s a slippery slope and a difficult one to navigate with the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays improving their teams already this offseason.

The Yankees have to consider if they were to sign Scherzer or Shields, they might not have enough in their budget for Chase Headley at third base and another starter. It would force them into going the cheaper route in the field or on the hill.

Will Cashman stay the course? Or will he ring up another Scott Boras special with a $200 million-plus Scherzer, or downgrade to $100 million-plus in Shields? What do you think the Yankees should do? Let me know in the comments below.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.