Yankees free agent pros and cons: James Shields

Would, and should, the Yankees be interested in "Big Game James?"
Would different pinstripes fit James Shields in 2019?|Art or Photo Credit: AP

The 2018 Major League Baseball season ended Sunday night, and with that end comes a new beginning: free agency.
In earnest, free agency begins on Nov. 3, the last of three important dates on the calendar over the next week. Right now, players with opt-out clauses have until Oct. 31 to exercise those, and teams have a five-day window from Oct. 29-Nov. 2 to exclusively negotiate with their own free agents; the following day, Nov. 3, is the deadline for clubs to tender their pending free agents the qualifying offer, which players have 10 days to decide on, and at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, QO or not, all players are officially on the market for everyone.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in his end-of-season press conference that the rotation will be a focus point for the Yankees this winter, so over the next two weeks, we'll take a look at three pros and three cons of 10 possible options for the Yankees' rotation.
Today is the final day of the option window and Day 3 of the five-day negotiation window, so today's spotlight shines on a pitcher whose team option was declined: James Shields.
It's not every year that the league leader in losses is a hot commodity, if ever, but that's possibly the case with James Shields. On Tuesday, the White Sox declined Shields' option for 2019, paying the righty a $2 million buyout instead of opting into a $16 million deal for next season.
Shields had seven wins to go with his AL-high 16 losses last year, and he posted a 4.53 ERA in 204 2/3 innings for a moribund White Sox squad. Not sexy numbers in a vacuum, but, is he a fit for the Yankees?
-Big Game James. Shields earned the nickname "Big Game James" during his seven years with the Rays, and he has a career ERA in the 3's at three of the five AL East ballparks -- a 4.14 mark at Rogers Centre and 5.76 mark at Fenway Park the exceptions. He's still using four pitches, and only threw a true fastball 36 percent of the time, which fits the Yankees' fastball-suppressed ideology. In fact, he's actually morphed in the same way as CC Sabathia, throwing a cutter or curveball nearly half of the time.
-Built Shields Tough. Shields made his MLB debut on May 31, 2006, and made 21 starts for the then-Devil Rays. All he did over the next decade is average 32 starts per season, until a strained lat muscle cost him two months of 2017 and limited him to just 21 starts. He rebounded to make 33 starts last year, and over the last 11 years, he has more seasons of 33 or more starts (10) than the entirety of the Yankees organization (eight).
-Chip and Run. Shields went to the World Series in his third year, but never made it past the ALDS the rest of his time in Tampa. He left KC via free agency after their World Series run in 2014, and then watched as they won it all a year later. And, he's done all that while spending the last four seasons in San Diego and Chicago, two teams closer to the No. 1 draft pick than the Commissioner's Trophy. He could probably get two years (or at least an option) for an AAV of $10 million or more, but would a chance at a title entice him on a one-year gig, which is all the Yankees would need?
-Which Game is Big? So Shields has made 11 postseason starts, and his ERA is 5.46. His best October outing came in a World Series the Rays lost back in 2008, and on the Royals' run to the 2014 World Series, they won the Wild Card Game in spite of him (five innings, four runs) and he had a 6.12 ERA in five starts.  
-Breakdown Lane. Shields has only on DL stint on his resume, that strained lat in 2017, but it also means he has a lot of miles on his right arm -- 2,675 counting the postseason, to be precise. Win-loss record, especially on a team at the start of a rebuild, is a bad metric to use, but Shields' peripherals (K/9, K/BB ratio, HR allowed) have been trending towards career lows the last few years, and he may indeed be more "veteran presence on a rebuilding team"-type than "workhorse for a contender."   
-No Chip and Run. That ring is alluring, sure, but Shields will be 37 in December. If someone offers multiple years at decent money, would that security be the deciding factor? He honestly has more to lose if he performs poorly on a one-year deal.