Despite the fact that they are among the best teams in the league this season, the New York Yankees are constantly looking to improve. They did that by acquiring Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, but the Yanks may not be done as they had a scout on hand to evaluate Tampa Bay Rays pitcher James Shields during his last start, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.
While there is no question that Shields is a solid arm with some big-game experience, the Yankees are already set when it comes to their starting rotation. I wouldn't say that New York has the best rotation in the league by any means, but the what the Bombers have is good enough to win the World Series.
CC Sabathia is going to be the alpha male during the postseason as he always is, and although he hasn't been lights out every start, Sabathia is a workhorse that the Yankees can count on. Next in line is free-agent acquisition Hiroki Kuroda. His tenure in the Bronx got off to a rough start, but he has lost just one game since the end of May and has been a fixture in the Yankee rotation.
Things are a bit more uncertain after that, but veteran Andy Pettitte promises to be the No. 3 starter come playoff time. He is still recovering from a fibula fracture, but Pettitte was very impressive in nine starts after coming back from retirement and is considered by many to be the best postseason pitcher of all time. The fourth and final spot will come down to Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova, but I would give Hughes the edge as he has been very good over the past couple months.
When you consider what the Yankees went through last postseason in terms of their poor pitching depth, it's hard not to be optimistic about their pitching prospects in 2012. When you add the fact that the Yanks may very well have the best offense in baseball as well as a strong bullpen anchored by Rafael Soriano and David Robertson, I don't see any reason for New York to deal for Shields.
Shields is an awfully streaky pitcher and this year hasn't been a great one for him as he currently sits with a 4.39 ERA. Shields has a monster 2011 with 11 complete games and an ERA of 2.82, but that appears to be a career outlier at this point. He would be a better option than Hughes or Nova, but the Rays figure to be asking for a ton in return.
The Yanks are at an even further disadvantage when you consider that they are AL East rivals of the Rays, so Tampa is certain to want an arm and a leg in a potential trade. New York has built up a nice stable of prospects, so it can afford to meet that type of asking price, but if the pieces are already in place, then there isn't much reason to do so.
As they are currently constructed, I have little doubt that the Yankees are the best team in baseball. It is obviously always possible to get better, but trading for Ichiro may have been the final piece to a championship puzzle. If the Yankees could get Shields at a fair price that would be one thing, but that seems highly unlikely.
Shields has traditionally given up a lot of home runs, so Yankee Stadium wouldn't be the best place for him either. It's easy to see why Shields would be enticing as he has been an innings eater with good stuff for a long time, but I'm not sure he can be counted upon in a big spot, particularly at Yankee Stadium.
Shields would help the Yankees to some degree, but if they have to overpay for his services, then he simply isn't worth it.
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