Even after a unique uniform unveiling in which James Shields donned a new “blueberry” military themed uniform as well as an old school brown throwback jersey, there are whispers the team is trying to move him.
Buster Olney of ESPN reported that the Padres are actively pursuing moving Shields and are pushing him in trade talks with teams. It is really no secret that the team would like to get his $21 million dollar salary off their books. He is due to make that for the next three seasons and has a buyout for the 2019 season at $2 million dollars. Bringing the total worth of his deal to $65 million dollars.
Shields does have an opt out clause similar to that of what Zack Greinke had this season with the Dodgers. He may opt out after next season and become a free agent, but that really depends on what kind of season he has in 2016. That opt out clause complicates the possibility of moving Shields as teams aren’t inclined to overpay for him if he may leave after the season.
The market on Shields is minimal right now but Jordan Zimmermann, Zack Greinke, David Price and John Lackey have all signed. With every big free agent pitcher signing, the Padres have increased ability to get a deal done. If A.J. Preller is patient enough teams should start to ask what the price tag is on Shields. With teams like the Cubs, Blue Jays, Astros, Rangers, Angels, Giants, Dodgers and Nationals supposed to be in the bidding for a quality starter, perhaps Shields would be of interest to one of them.
So what would it take for the Padres to deal Shields? Teams would surely want the Padres to pay some of the salary on Shields. The Padres are not a team that traditionally does that, so that really does not seem likely. However, if the market on starting pitchers starts to heat up, the value on Shields could reach a point where another team could view his contract as a deal.
Henderson Alvarez, Johnny Cueto, Wei-Yin Chen, Bartolo Colon, Doug Fister, Yovani Gallardo, Hisashi Iwakuma, Scott Kazmir, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Chris Young are all still free agents that are available. Cueto is arguably a better pitcher than Shields, but you could easily make a case for James Shields opposed to him.
Shields will make $21 million per season but is only due to make that for the next three seasons. Cueto and Samardzija are going to make around that annually and any team will be on the hook for at least five seasons for either pitcher. Cueto last season in the beginning of the year was looking like the best pitcher in the National League. He tailed off and was dealt to the Royals at the trade deadline. His tenure in Kansas City was up and down. He pitched very well at times but was hit around very hard too. He went 4-7 with a 4.76 ERA and a 1.451 WHIP in 13 starts and 81 innings pitched for the Royals.
Samardzija had his worst season in his career last year when he went 11-13 with a 4.96 ERA and a 1.294 WHIP in his 32 starts. He also allowed an American League high 29 home runs. With Samardzija signing this morning with the Giants for five years and $90 million, Shields could look like a bargain. Cueto recently reportedly turned down a six year-$120 million dollar deal from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Both pitchers are younger than Shields but the more you think about it the more you see that James Shields contract is not as horrible as once thought. The option after next season throws some complications in a potential deal but if a team is looking for a solid number two or number three starter, Shields could be that man. In a down year, Shields went 13-7 with a 3.91 ERA and a 1.294 WHIP. He allowed a National League high 33 home runs in his 33 starts. Shields did strike out 216 batters in his 202 innings pitched.
The $21 million per year on Shields contract is hefty but it is not ridiculous. When you factor in the Red Sox are paying Rick Porcello $82.5 million for the next four seasons and the Reds are paying Homer Bailey $86 million for the next four seasons, Shields will surely out perform them as he has been a consistent force. His age is a factor but at the age of 33, he should be able to sustain his performance. John Lackey at age 37 got a two year deal worth $32 million dollars. That’s $16 million per season and five million less than Shields annual salary. On the open market Shields would probably get somewhere around the $20 million mark, even more evidence that his contract is not that bad.
In reality Shields value is all about supply and demand. At some point there will be a major league team who needs starting pitching. Once the free agent dusts settles and spring training starts, there will be a need somewhere. If the Padres intend to trade Shields, they should have an opportunity eventually. It really depends on how little they require and how desperate they are to make a move. A.J. Preller is very difficult to predict so anything can really happen. Dealing Shields will not be an easy task, but the Padres should have the ability if they really want to. The ball is in A.J. Preller’s court.
***This article originally appeared at EastVillageTimes.com