When the San Diego Padres threw down $75 million dollars for the service of James Shields, they envisioned him the ace of the staff. Shields started out the season well, but has pitched poorly of late and word is the team is preparing to move on from him. He has been placed on waivers and there is speculation the team will move him before the August 31st deadline.
So what is wrong with Shields? He continues to take the ball every fifth day without any health issues. That was his reputation before coming to the Padres. Shields has still shown that bull-dog mentality, but has failed to be successful this season for his new team. His ERA of 3.75 is right on par with his career average of 3.72, however the move to the National League was supposed to produce better numbers for Shields.
James Shields has struck out (9.8 per nine innings) more batters this year than ever before, but at the same time his walk rate (3.1 per nine innings) is also an all time high. It is really puzzling. Obviously Shields is having trouble with his command. He has been the same durable pitcher, but his future contract and the millions owed concern the Padres without a doubt.
Shields is scheduled to make $21 million next season, after only making $10 million this team. That is a big bump in pay for a pitcher who is approaching his mid 30’s. Shields may opt out of his contact after next season, but that seems unlikely since he is due $21 million for the 2017 and 2018 season as well.
With all of that on the table it is quite evident that the Padres do indeed have buyers remorse on James Shields. His numbers are not horrible, but he is being paid like an ace. He is not an ace, he is a solid pitcher and a great clubhouse guy, but he is no ace. An ace pitcher is a losing streak stopper. An ace can be flat-out dominating at times for their team. Shields is just not that type of pitcher, and it has shown in his past playoff performances.
Shields could be very useful for the team, but his hefty contract is really a burden on a Major League team like the Padres who do not have the largest of payrolls. Most Padres fans appreciate the effort and the way Shields goes about his business, but at the same time the fans realize his future pay can strangle the team financially. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are both arbitration eligible next season and could be due for a decent raise. Ross was reportedly coveted by many teams prior to the July trade deadline, but the Padres did not receive an offer they deemed fair.
The signing of Bud Norris this week is a sign the team could be preparing itself to life without James Shields. Norris has been a starter in his Major League career and the team will at some point want to see him in that role for the Padres. He was a smart pickup by A.J. Preller and these next few weeks will be an audition for Bud Norris. He is a free agent at the end of the year, and could probably be signed to a team friendly deal.
Shields may or may not be traded. The team needs to find some salary relief somewhere though. Matt Kemp, Shields, Melvin Upton Jr., Craig Kimbrel and Jedd Gyorko are due a lot of money for the next two seasons and beyond. The logical choice to be dealt might be Shields and the playoff run might be the best time to find him a home on another roster. There are many teams this time of year that could surely use Shields.