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James Shields has five-year offer from mystery team, Red Sox unlikely to match it

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James Shields has a five-year, $110 million offer on the table from a mystery team. That might mean the Red Sox are out on the free agent starter.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

James Shields has received a five-year, $110 million offer from an unknown team according to a report from Ken Rosenthal. It's an offer that might have the Red Sox shying away from the free agent ace, if not completely out of the running just yet.

To be precise, Rosenthal's sources say that Boston is "highly unlikely" to sign Shields, which sounds about right. When you consider Shields' age relative to that of Jon Lester, even with his deal coming in one year shorter this proposed contract would carry the righty through his age 37 season, while Lester is only locked in through 36 while giving his team two more prime years at the beginning. It becomes hard to imagine, then, that the Red Sox would be willing to go to these lengths to sign Shields when they were not willing to go over the top in their negotiations with Lester.

Rosenthal offers the entirely valid caveat, however, that offers are not set in stone, and that just because Shields has a five-year, $110 million offer means he will eventually sign for that much:

The talk of Shields and $100 million does not mean that he indeed will land such a deal. Third baseman Chase Headley reportedly received a four-year, $65 million offer from an unidentified club early in free agency but wound up re-signing with the Yankees for four years, $52 million.

This could come to pass for any number of reasons. It could be that the offer wasn't serious, and made largely to play Shields' market up (something an agent would be all too happy to go along with). It's also possible that the offering team finds another player to spend their money on, or that it was a desperation bid by a team stuck in the old Catch-22 of trying to sign talented free agents to improve a team that lacks the talent to lure talented free agents on board. If James Shields wants to win, then he might well sign with a contender for four years and $80 million before potentially condemning himself to five years of irrelevance in Houston.

So those are the scenarios in which the Red Sox might still land James Shields. That, and the one in which they decide that 33-year-old James Shields is that guy they're willing to go the extra mile for. Those are a very few, fairly unlikely scenarios. Far more likely is that this offer simply means that James Shields isn't going to find his way into a Red Sox uniform in 2015 and beyond.

That's not good news for Boston's rotation, which could certainly use a front-line arm. But if this $110 million offer is for real, it's probably for the best that they're not interested. There's just too many ways for that contract to go very, very wrong.