D-backs out on Shields

The D-backs are no longer talking to free-agent right-hander James Shields, general manager Dave Stewart said Thursday.

“We are not,” Stewart said when asked if Arizona was still in on Shields, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert tweeted.

Stewart also told reporters the market for Shields has changed since Max Scherzer signed with the Nationals.

Although Stewart had expressed interest in Shields in the past, Arizona will continue to search for other options to slot in the rotation behind right-handers Jeremy Hellickson and Josh Collmenter. Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Trevor Cahill, Vidal Nuno and Chase Anderson are among the candidates to fill the D-backs’ rotation.

— Cash Kruth

Report: Money in last 3 years of Scherzer deal deferred

Max Scherzer’s seven-year, $210 million contract with the Nationals became official on Wednesday, and a day later, more details emerged about the biggest deal ever awarded to a free-agent pitcher.

It had been reported previously that half of the money in the contract would be deferred until after the seven years is up, following the 2021 season. ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported on Thursday that Scherzer will make $10 million this season, then $15 million per year from ’16-’18. For the final three years of the deal, his salary will jump to $35 million annually, except that all of that money will be deferred, without interest.

Scherzer, who won’t receive a no-trade clause, also gets a $50 million signing bonus, spread out over the course of the seven years. In addition, he will receive bonuses for various accomplishments, including $250,000 for a Cy Young, MVP or World Series MVP award.

– Andrew Simon

Vogelsong returning to Giants?

The Giants and free-agent starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong are working towards a one-year deal, tweets Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Vogelsong has been linked to a number of clubs this offseason, and was in Houston earlier this week. But a deal with the Astros never happened and MLB.com’s Chris Haft reported Wednesday that a return to the Giants was possible for the right-hander.

Vogelsong, 37, would add depth and stability to the Giants rotation. He was 8-13 with a 4.00 ERA with the club in 2014, while his 32 starts were second only to Madison Bumgarner. Since joining San Francisco in 2011, Vogelsong has a 3.74 ERA and 39-35 record.

While it appears Vogelsong could be headed for a return to the Giants, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted Thursday morning that the Astros had not been told they were out of the running to land the pitcher.

–Austin Laymance

Phillies Looking at Billingsley

The Phillies lack starting pitching depth, so they’re still looking for pitching help with Spring Training less than a month away.

CSNPhilly.com reported they are looking at free-agent Chad Billingsley, who made just two starts in 2013 and pitched just three innings in the Minor Leagues last season because of elbow problems. He is reportedly healthy, and would be low-risk, low-cost option for Philadelphia.

If everybody is healthy and nobody is traded when camp opens, the Phillies’ rotation includes Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams and David Buchanan. Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez also will get a look as a starter. But with Hamels and Lee trade chips they could be gone in the next few months, which would leave the Phillies short on starting pitchers.

Geovany Soto to White Sox

The White Sox have signed catcher Geovany Soto to a Minor League deal, tweets Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago. It’s not clear if Soto has an invite to Major League Spring Training.

Soto, 32, appeared in 24 games last season, split between the Rangers and A’s. He was an All-Star in 2008 with the Cubs and has played parts of 10 seasons in the Majors.

The White Sox have four catchers on their 40-man roster: Tyler Flowers, Adrian Nieto, Rob Brantly and Kevan Smith.

–Austin Laymance

Shields not a fit in Boston?

James Shields is still a free agent and the Red Sox could use a No. 1 starter, but they don’t appear to be a fit at this point. The Sox do not believe the right-hander’s pitching style suits Fenway Park, reports Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald.

Shields gets a lot of fly ball outs, which worked well in spacious Kauffman Stadium last season with the Royals. But Fenway Park is a much smaller venue with the Green Monster just 310 feet from the plate.

Boston added two starters this offseason who get more ground balls than fly balls in Justin Masterson and Rick Porcello. That’s an indication of the kind of pitchers the club values.

Shields has a career groundball percentage of 44.7 percent, compared to 52.1 percent for Porcello and 56.6 percent for Masterson. Shields has a groundball-to-flyball ratio of 0.86, versus 1.12 for Porcello and 1.33 for Masterson. In addition, Shields has allowed an average of 25.2 home runs per year, while Porcello averages 18.5 and Masterson 12.9.

In 13 career starts at Fenway Park, Shields is 2-9 with a 5.42 ERA and 11 home runs allowed.

Of course, with one month until Spring Training, things could change and the Sox could become a player for Shields if his asking price drops. He’s reportedly been seeking a five-year deal worth around $125 million. MLB.com columnist Jim Duquette ranks the Red Sox fourth on Shields’ list of potential suitors.

–Austin Laymance

Rays interested in Moncada

Matt Silverman, Rays President of Baseball Operations, said Tampa Bay is interested in Cuban free-agent Yoan Moncada. However, the team has yet to workout the shortstop.

“We may,” Silverman said on Tuesday while talking with MLB Network Radio. “We don’t leave any stone unturned and he is someone who has great intrigue and we are eager to see what he can do.”

The Yankees, Giants, Red Sox and Dodgers are reportedly a few of the other teams interested in the 19-year-old switch hitter.

“Given our financial situation, I wouldn’t expect us to be the winners of an auction, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to do our due diligence and evaluate the player and put our best foot forward,” Silverman said. “If we are in a position to acquire him, great. If we don’t acquire him, at least we know we have done the work and have checked all of the boxes.”

Quinn Roberts

Moore on Shields returning to KC: ‘It’s doubtful’

Royals general manager Dayton Moore says the idea of re-signing free agent starting pitcher James Shields has crossed his mind, but “at this point in time, it’s doubtful.”

Moore was on MLB Network Radio’s Power Alley with Mike Ferrin And Jim Duquette, and touched on the issue of the Royals’ starting rotation —- sans Shields —- heading into Spring Training.

“We feel right now that we’re probably who we are going into Spring Training,” Moore said. “You never say never, but right now with the addition of Edinson Volquez and rounding out our rotation and replacing James Shields, we feel that our rotation’s going to be very solid. It’s going to give us guys that compete and utilize our defense.”

Volquez, 31, signed a two-year deal with the Royals on December 29 worth $17 million, and that deal also has a $10 million team option for 2017 and a $3 million buyout.

– Joey Nowak

O’s reportedly agree on deal with Johnson

The Orioles have reportedly come to an agreement for a one-year deal with reliever Steve Johnson, according to a report from MASN’s Roch Kubatko. The Minor League deal comes with an invitation to Major League Spring Training.

The 27-year-old Baltimore native appeared in 21 games for the O’s between 2012-13, compiling a 5-1 record and 3.67 ERA. He underwent surgery early this fall to remove a bone spur from his right shoulder and Kubatko reports that Johnson “has been pain-free while playing catch.”

According to the report, the Phillies, Mariners and Blue Jays were among the other teams to express interest in Johnson, whom Kubatko says is expected to begin the season in the bullpen of Baltimore’s Triple-A team in Norfolk. He spent the majority of his 2014 season there, posting a 7.11 ERA over 38 innings (13 appearances) while batting injury.

—  Joey Nowak

Report: Padres likely out on Shields

The list of possible landing places for James Shields is apparently down one, according to a report from FOXSports.com‘s Ken Rosenthal.

Rosenthal tweeted that the Padres are “on [the] periphery of [the] Shields sweepstakes” at this point and are “unlikely to land him.”

That being said, Rosenthal also tweeted that the front-runners for Shields are still largely unknown. It was also reported earlier this week that the Yankees do not appear to be suitors for Shields either.

— Joey Nowak

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