Free Agent I’d sign in the offseason for the St. Louis Cardinals

This is a question I asked AJ Blankenship: Which unrestricted free agent would you pursue in the off-season.

First off, I’d re-sign one of our own, Pat Neshek, asap.

As for outside free agents, I perused the list, and one name stood out: James Shields. Our offense is solid: We’re set in the infield, especially if Adams continues his growth as a hitter, and our outfield is also in good shape, plus we’re overflowing OF prospects that can be promoted if anybody falters.

That leads me to the pitching staff. Our bullpen is solid, but a crack or two has started to appear, which is why re-signing Neshek is important. Of bigger concern to me is the rotation. Specifically, I’m concerned about Shelby Miller. The more I see of him, the worse he looks. I think he should be sent to the ‘pen or even to the minors to regroup. If either of these things happen. who takes his place? We don’t have anyone in our pipeline ready to be a starter (Marco Gonzalez got a shot this year, but he still needs some development.) So we’d have to go outside the club. Enter James Shields. Shields, who is 33, is coming off a solid run for Kansas City, who acquired him in a trade. He’d fit in well with our rotation, give us a group that looks like this:

The extra starter from the Martinez/Kelly duo (and Miller, for that matter) serve as injury insurance as well as providing long releif out of the bullpen. Chances are, though, one (if not two) of those players will be traded if we signed Shields. I’m for trading Miller, I think he could use a change of scenery. I would like to keep Martinez though.

Shields is 33, chances are we can get him for a 3 or 4 year deal, so we wouldn’t be locked into a crazy 6 or 7 year deal. Shields is a steady performer who has averaged over 220 innings the past 3 years and is on pace to do so again this year. He currently has a 9-5 record with a 3.65 ERA. He had a 3.15 ERA last year and a 3.65 ERA the year before that. So 220 innings and a 3.40 to 3.60 ERA. That’s a solid, steady starter that would fit very well on our staff.

Another reason I’d go after Shields is draft pick compensation due to qualifying offers. Due to that compensation, when signing a free agent you’d better be sure he’ll produce, and Shields, as noted above, has been as steady as they come. I’m confident he’ll provide solid numbers throughout the length of the deal.

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