Will James Shields Determine Indians 2015 Fate?

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Shields Ponders Indians, Tigers

With the Lake County Sentinel reporting (anonymously) the Indians have an offer on the table for former Kansas City Royals ace James Shields, and several outlets reporting contact between the Detroit Tigers and Shields’ camp, an AL Central offseason battle may be breaking out. The Tigers, as it stands, will enter 2015 with a weaker starting rotation than years past, with Justin Verlander another year older, Max Scherzer reportedly on his way to join the Washington Nationals, and Rick Porcello shipped to Boston in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes. Even with the additions of Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon, the Tigers seem more vulnerable than years past.

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Detroit Tigers Projected Rotation:

  1. David Price
  2. Justin Verlander
  3. Anibal Sanchez
  4. Alfredo Simon
  5. Shane Greene

Enter the Cleveland Indians, with an affordable, young, talented and deep crop of starters poised to be the AL cream of the crop in 2015. After finishing 2014 with the AL’s second-best ERA after the All-Star break, led by Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and emerging star Carlos Carrasco, the Indians brought in veteran Gavin Floyd to complement the youth of Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar and TJ House. It seems for the first time in years, the Indians have a better starting staff top to bottom than the Motor City Kitties, as well as more depth with Zach McAllister, Josh Tomlin and Shaun Marcum waiting in the wings. The Tribe has also expressed interest in Johan Santana as he mounts a comeback.

Cleveland Indians Projected Rotation:

  1. Corey Kluber
  2. Carlos Carrasco
  3. Trevor Bauer
  4. Danny Salazar
  5. Gavin Floyd

James Shields has the potential to either solidify or eliminate the Indians rotation advantage with just one signature. Shields, age 33, posted a 3.21 ERA and 3.7 WAR with 180 strikeouts in 227 innings in 2014, anchoring the Royals’ pennant-winning staff. He has a lifetime 3.72 ERA split between the Royals and Rays. His postseason experience and clubhouse presence complement his numbers to make him even more valuable, particularly to a young squad like the Tribe. For Detroit, Shields would return the rotation to elite status, mirroring the staffs that led the Tigers to four consecutive division titles from 2011-2014.

With the Chicago White Sox boasting young talent and the offseason additions of Jeff Samardzija and Melky Cabrera, and the Royals returning a large portion of their 2014 squad while adding Kris Medlen, Edinson Volquez and Kendrys Morales, Shields could give the Indians or Tigers the edge needed to rise above a crowded AL Central and capture the division title. For the Indians, Shields is also a signal to the fans that ownership is committed to winning now.

Will it be a changing of the guard, as the Indians grab an aging ace to make a title run? Or will it be more of the same, with the Tigers stealing yet another top-of-the-rotation arm? The fates of the two teams, and the AL Central at large, hang in the balance.

Statistics via Fangraphs

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