Should Cubs’ Interest in James Shields Be Praised or Feared?

The Chicago Cubs are done adding pitchers with hefty price tags this offseason, but with the price tag on one free agent dropping down to more reasonable levels, the team could be pulling the trigger on a move after all.

That’s because rumors are flying that free agent pitcher James Shields could be on the team’™s radar, according to David Kaplan of CSN Chicago*.

For those that can’t read the tweet, here’™s the gist of Kaplan’™s argument: the Cubs have been waiting for the market to take shape for Shields, and it’™s becoming apparent at this point that he’s not going to get a contract worth more than $100 million this close to spring training. With teams preparing to report in two weeks (!), he’s looking to make a decision by the end of the week, and his history with Joe Maddon could make Chicago an attractive landing spot.

With those things in mind, a Shields signing would make perfect sense for the Cubs under the right parameters. If the deal is going to be in the three year range, the Cubs should jump on it and offer him as much money yearly as they want. A four-year deal would still work too, but going over $20 million per season would probably be a bit much.

The reason for an aggressive push if the term of the deal is right is simple: the Cubs don’™t have a ton of salary on the books for the next few years as some of their impact players have cheap deals. Guys like Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, and Addison Russell are all on really cheap deals during that time, and if two or three of them pan out as advertised (still a sizable if, but a much more reasonable thought than the notion that all four will be stars), having a guy like Shields added to the rotation could make the Cubs a serious contender during that time.

If Shields was paired up with Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, the Cubs would have a rotation that would rival anything that an NL Central foe could throw out there, and they’d likely have one of the top five or six rotations in all of baseball. When coupled with the offense that the team is potentially going to have with guys like Miguel Montero added to the fold, and their dreams of making Back to the Future 2 could be much closer to reality than fans dare hope.

* = Kaplan is fairly plugged in with the Cubs, but he also has occasional misses (as do most reporters), so take this and all reports of activity on the North Side with a grain of salt.

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