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Spend Hal's Money: James Shields

Should the Yankees take a shot on James Shields? Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports

This Yankees offseason has no $189 million goal, nor does it appear a half-billion-dollar spending spree is in the offing, but the team will likely make a few moves. As always, we like to be helpful at ESPN New York, so once again, we will aid the Yankees' decision-makers with a little game we like to call "Spend Hal's Money."

James Shields

James Shields

#33 SP
Kansas City Royals

2014 STATS

  • GM34
  • W14

  • L8

  • BB44

  • K180

  • ERA3.21

Today's Candidate: James Shields

Position: RHP

Age: 33 in December

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 215

2014 numbers: $13.5 million salary, 14-8, 3.21 ERA, 227 IP, 1.22 WHIP

Pros: The Kansas City Royals' World Series' Game 1 starter is a 200-inning machine. Check out the innings' column on his statistics page. In each of his eight full seasons in the big leagues, he has thrown more than 200 innings.

Shields is not a dominant guy, as his 3.72 career ERA demonstrates, but he is a reliable one. The idea of adding 200-plus innings to a staff with question marks surrounding Masahiro Tanaka (elbow), CC Sabathia (knee), Ivan Nova (elbow) and Michael Pineda (who knows) is pretty appealing.

The Yankees' starting pitching could be strong and deep next year, but it will need to rely on some luck -- otherwise known as health -- to have all its difference-makers. They do have Shane Greene, David Phelps, Manny Banuelos, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Sevirino and could re-sign Brandon McCarthy. There is some depth there, but they all come with uncertainty.

McCarthy, by way of comparison, has thrown 200 innings only once in his career. McCarthy would likely be cheaper, but the innings Shields eats helps in games he is not pitching because it preserves his team's bullpen.

Cons: He has thrown 200 innings forever, so at some point he might break down. He is soon to be 33, so the Yankees don't want it to happen on their dime. This risk is always the case on big-time free-agent pitchers.

So the Yankees could be scared off by Shields' age and odometer, plus his reputation is not fully backed up by stats. His nickname is "Big Game," But that might have as much to do with the rhyme as it does with his success, considering his postseason ERA is 5.19 in nine playoff games heading into the World Series.

The verdict: Just like lefty Jon Lester, I say go after Shields.

A mistake teams make from year to year is to look at the previous season and say, "This part of our team was good, so we don't need to add there, while this other aspect must improve." It doesn't necessarily work that way. And while pitching, despite the injuries, was a positive for the Yankees in 2014, they would be wise to upgrade it even more if they want to make the playoffs in 2015.

Like Lester, I would have limits in what I was willing to do. But if they can limit a deal to four years, I would be very interested if I were the Yankees.