The Red Sox need a top-of-the-rotation arm, and Shields will need a new home.

The Red Sox will need pitching help this offseason, and either through signings or trades, they’re capable of bringing it in. Free agent James Shields has already been linked to them a few times this fall — well, Red Sox interest in Shields, anyway, as the Royals’ right-hander is still playing baseball — and the Kansas City Star’s Andy McCullough reportsthat they’re the “early favorite” for signing him once that’s an option this offseason.

The Royals are reportedly going to make a push for Shields when he leaves, but you as Red Sox fans probably know what that entails: an offer large enough to look like they tried, like the Sox have done in the past with Jacoby Ellsbury, with Jason Bay, with Victor Martinez, with many others they had no intention or expectation to re-sign, but wanted to put forth a visible, PR-friendly effort. Given that, it’s going to be a battle among teams Shields has no loyalty or relation to.

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McCullough reports that rival executives believe Shields will end up with a deal between $80 million and $110 million, spanning five years. That $80 million figure seems on the low, low side, considering that in the pre-season Shields was looking for Greinke money, but $110 sounds right over five. Five years also sounds great, as Shields will be 33 years old in 2015. He’ll still be an elderly baseball player by the end of the contract, but given his repertoire and incredible durability, 38 is a reasonable age to pay him into.

Plus, what Shields is at 38 isn’t why the Sox would sign him. What Shields is at 33, 34, and 35 are the primary reasons you bring him on …read more