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Report: Arizona Diamondbacks interested in free agent pitcher James Shields

The Arizona Diamondbacks’ most glaring problem among a myriad in 2014 was its starting rotation, which compiled the second-worst ERA in the National League.

Eleven pitchers made starts for the D-backs over the course of the season, with Josh Collmenter leading the staff in ERA, with a 3.54, and Wade Miley making the most starts, with 33. Four multi-game starters posted ERAs over 5.00 for the D-backs in 2014, including Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill, who combined to make 35 starts in Sedona red last season.

Ace of 2013, Patrick Corbin, was lost to an UCL injury during spring training while the team’s key acquisition over the offseason, Bronson Arroyo, suffered the same fate in June. Both remained out for the season, recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Unsurprisingly, addressing the team’s issues with starting pitching appears to be atop new general manager Dave Stewart’s agenda. The GM already traded for right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, though the former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher has most recently posted numbers similar to those seen from 2014 D-backs’ starters.

On Tuesday, the team was linked to interest in former Rays and Kansas City Royals starter James Shields. As Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports, the D-backs will need to exercise some creativity to make room on their payroll for the free agent right-hander, who may be seeking as much as $100 million over five years on his next contract, according to one report.

Rosenthal floats the idea that Stewart and the D-backs will need to move one of their bigger contracts in order to make room for a pitcher like Shields, who turns 33 next month. Miguel Montero is owed $42 million over the next three seasons, while Aaron Hill still has $24 million over two years left on his contract. Cody Ross is also owed $8.5 million next season.

Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa estimated the D-backs’ 2015 payroll to range from $80 million to $110 million. Rosenthal commented on that, pointing out where the figure currently stands.

The D-Backs already have $68.65 million in commitments for 2015, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Add the projected salaries of their arbitration-eligible players and the figure approaches $90 million.

So, for the D-Backs to make any additions, they almost certainly will need to clear money.

Shields would no doubt be a welcome addition to the D-backs, given the starting staff’s injuries and its lack of a top-of-the-rotation pitcher.

A southern California native, Shields represented the Rays in the 2011 All-Star game, the year he won a career-most 16 games, thanks to a career-best 2.82 ERA. He owns a lifetime 3.72 ERA over nine seasons and he has made at least 33 starts in each of the last seven seasons. Since 2011, he has pitched 227 innings or more every season, including 249.1 his All-Star year and an AL-most 228.2 in 2013.

Shields’ ERA since 2011 is a much more attractive 3.17, which pairs nicely with an 8.0 stikeouts-per-nine rate.

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