James Shields to the Padres

Posted: 02/10/2015 by levcohen in Baseball

A couple of weeks ago, I looked at the seemingly shrinking market for former Rays and Royals starting pitcher James Shields. Shields is 33-years old and has thrown at least 200 innings eight consecutive seasons and at least 227 for four straight years. In the post I wrote a few weeks ago, I narrowed down his potential suitors to three frontrunners: Toronto, Miami, and San Diego. None of the three are traditional big market teams who are factors in the free agent market, but all three are making a push to end playoff droughts. In the end, the Padres nabbed Shields, signing him to a four-year deal worth $75 million.

I think this was a really good deal for the Padres, who’ve shown throughout the offseason that they are serious about contending. Normally a small-market team, they traded for Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, and Derek Norris, four guys who should slot in the middle of their lineup. Even before this trade, the Padres figured to at least make a run at a wildcard. They still hadn’t made any improvements to their rotation, though, and had question marks like Brandon Morrow and Odrisamer Despaigne set to start regularly. Now you can slot James Shields atop a rotation that also features Andrew Cashner (2.55 ERA last year in 123.1 innings) and Tyson Ross (2.81 in 195.2). The Padres probably had no better than a 35% chance of making the playoffs before this signing and probably a sub-10% chance of winning the tough NL West. Now, they are closer to a coin-flip to make the playoffs and have a better shot at winning the division, which is more important than ever with the addition of the second wild-card and the play-in game.

I understand why Shields’s value was depressed; it’s hard to be that excited about a 33-year old pitcher. But Shields is as durable as they come, and this change will be beneficial for him, too. He’s pitched in the American League his whole career, albeit in fairly pitcher-friendly parks in Tampa and Kansas City. But now he goes to the easier league for pitchers and the most pitcher-friendly park in baseball in the division with three very pitcher-friendly parks (SD, LA, SF). In the AL, Shields has averaged an ERA in the low 3s over the past four years. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he lowered it under 3 this season atop the Padres’ rotation. For $19 million per year in today’s market, that’s a pretty good deal.

San Diego still needs some help if they want to become true contenders. In Petco Park, their deep rotation (remember, Josh Johnson and Cory Luebke, both of whom got Tommy John surgery early last season, could both return at some point this season) and strong bullpen is probably good enough. The remade outfield also looks good. But the infield needs a lot of work. As of now, it looks as if Yangervis Solarte, the former Yankee, will lead off and play third base. Solarte showed a lot of promise last year, but he’s a weak leadoff hitter, as he posted just a .336 OBP and .355 slugging % last season while with the Padres. The Padres are also hoping for huge bounceback seasons from first baseman Yonder Alonso and second baseman Jedd Gyorko, both of whom were once thought to be future stars but had sub-par seasons. And shortstop is the biggest question mark of them all, with Alexi Amarista currently set to start. So this team still needs some work. The Shields signing helps a lot, though, because it gives the rotation an established ace.

The Shields deal also impacts the Cole Hamels market because it all but crosses off the team that was the favorite to trade for the San Diego native. It’s becoming more and more likely that the best player on the market will start opening day for the Philadelphia Phillies, which means contenders will have to wait until July to trade for the ace. The Phillies better hope Hamels doesn’t suffer an immediate decline or get injured in the first four months of the season, because they’ve surely already gotten some pretty good offers for the ace. They are taking a big risk in holding off on trading Hamels.

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Comments
  1. philabundant says:

    More time in a Phillies uniform for Cole Hamels

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