Last-ditch scenario to land Shields

MIAMI — Before throwing in the towel, the Marlins may consider tossing one last Hail Mary pass at James Shields.

With no clear frontrunner for Sheilds’ services, what’s the harm in making a final run at the best starting pitcher on the market?

To make something clear, there is no indication the Marlins are thinking this way. In fact, the door to signing Shields may already be firmly closed.

From what I’m hearing, Shields would practically have to fall into Miami’s lap to get a deal done.

Just in case there is a sliver of hope, here’s a scenario that might work.

The proposal the Marlins should consider is two years in the $35 million range. If it makes sense, then add an option year. That’s it.

Miami has balked at a four or five year deal, for good reason. The club is gradually building up payroll over the next few seasons as it seeks a better local TV deal. It would be devastating to the long-term success to risk blowing up the long-range budgets.

The solution could be offering a shorter deal.

After signing Ichiro Suzuki, the Marlins may have already maxed their 2015 budget. To squeeze in Shields at, say, $17.5 million would require the front office convincing owner Jeffrey Loria that the right-hander is the missing piece to reaching the playoffs.

Say they do get the financial commitment, could they convince Shields to accept a two-year deal? It could be tough. Shields’ camp has sought at least four years and $70 million.

Cutting those demands in half to two years, $35 million likely would open up a larger market for Shields. For the Marlins, it’s still worth the risk.

The Marlins could sell sunny South Florida and no state income tax. Miami is a team on the rise, and it plays in a pitchers’ park.

Why should Miami consider a two-year deal over one, which could again get Shields back on the market in ’16?

Because Shields rejected the Royals $15.3 million qualifying offer in November, Miami would surrender the 12th overall pick in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft.

Giving up a high first-round pick, plus the dollars it would take to pay Shields, would be too much for one season of service.

Two years works for Miami because it would mean the club has a front-line starter to join Jose Fernandez and Henderson Alvarez for 2016 as well. Mat Latos and Dan Haren, two key rotation pieces, are both one-year options.

If Shields still says no, the Marlins can close the door completely, with no regrets.

Joe Frisaro

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