Cardinals “have shown interest” in James Shields

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Most major league teams open spring training in just two weeks, yet right-hander James Shields remains unsigned. Let’s check in on the rumor mill …

Bob Nightengale of USA Today wonders if the Cardinals might wind up with Shields, who was said to be looking for a five-year, $125 million contract when the offseason began but would maybe settle for something in the four-year, $70-80 million range at this point. Nightengale says the Cards “have shown interest” in Shields — the first we’ve heard of this.

St. Louis was also connected to Jon Lester and Max Scherzer, so maybe there’s something here. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted in January that the Cards had “indicated a willingness to discuss” something in the $120 million range with Lester, who signed a six-year, $155 million free agent contract with the rival Cubs.

Shields registered an outstanding 3.21 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 180/44 K/BB ratio across 227 innings (34 starts) last season for the American League-champion Royals. The 33-year-old has topped 215 innings every summer since 2007 and would bring some stability to a Cardinals rotation that is somewhat susceptible to collapse in 2015 with both Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha facing lingering injury concerns.

Wainwright needed a cleanup procedure on his right elbow in late October and Wacha logged only 107 innings during the 2014 regular season due to right shoulder troubles.