Calling it due dilligence or whatever you want, but the Indians are apparently taking a look at free agent pitcher James Shields.
As reported by JP Morosi on MLB.com, the Tribe are one of three teams keeping tabs on the big right-hander who hasn’t had a sub-4.00 ERA since his one-and-only full season with the Padres in 3.91 in 2015.
Since then, it’s been a rough go for Shields. Despite consistently putting up 180+ innings in his career, his latter years haven’t been kind. He carried an 82 ERA+ with the White Sox in 2017, and an almost-average 94 ERA+ in 2018.
Sheilds’ average velocity last season was among the lowest in the majors, with a fastball that struggles to say above 90, and a cutter that he used 23.2% of the time.
At his peak, Shields was easily a top-of-the-rotation guy and absolute work horse. His 134 ERA+ and 131 ERA+ in 2011 and 2013 respectively were enough to garner some Cy Young votes, and he helped the 2014 Royals reach the World Series. Those years are far behind him, however, and it’s hard to imagine he’s much of an upgrade over any of the Indians’ internal options to fill in as the fifth starter until Mike Clevinger — and eventually Corey Kluber — return to the mound.
If the Indians are already giving up on Cody Anderson being a starter (which they might be better off doing, anyway), then Adam Plutko is likely the next man up, but he’s currently sidelined with a forearm injury. He’s expected to join the Columbus Clippers in Triple-A this weekend.
If Plutko has an injury setback or just can’t hack it in the majors until mid-June, there are still other interesting internal options better than Shields. Asher Wojceichowski, for one, is a 30-year-old journeyman minor leaguer the Indians brought over in the offseason, and he’s been putting up solid numbers with the Clippers.
The Indians could also go younger with 25-year-old Chih-Wei Hu, who has more upside and a better major-league record that Wojceichowski, though he’s only pitched as a reliever with his former team, the Rays.
Even fringe-y prospect Michael Peoples with his 21.9% strikeout rate and 7.0% walk rate with the Clippers would probably be enough to plug holes for the time being.
Either way, the Indians are only looking at a very brief stop-gap until Clevinger comes back as long as Jefry Rodriguez can hold his own until Kluber returns later in the season to Voltron this rotation back into the beast that it’s supposed to be. Unless James Shields has made some major strides since his back-to-back poor seasons with the White Sox, he doesn’t make much sense as an option for the Indians.