I know it’s hard to hear, but moving James Shields is a good thing. Not that he is a bad pitcher. In fact I wish the San Diego Padres staff consisted of five pitchers with his moxie and demeanor on the mound. He is a competitor and a great leader for young pitchers to emulate. His intensity and workhorse attitude will be missed.
His numbers have taken a bit of a dive recently, but he still provides quality starts and takes the ball when it is his turn in the rotation. Something that in itself is extremely valuable to a major league team. Having Shields on your team helps prevent your bullpen from being taxed. He is an innings eater and a competitive team needs a pitcher like that in their rotation. The White Sox will allow Shields to be himself and there is no need for him to carry the staff. Chris Sale is the Sox ace and Shields will be used more like a number three in their rotation.
So how in the world is moving him a good thing for the Padres organization? Simply put he was on the wrong team. When signed by the Padres, the team looked poised to make a playoff run. The franchise invested into winning for the 2015 season. Things obviously didn’t work out well and with that, the team has changed gears with their approach of gaining success in the future. Like it or not things have changed.
Instead of attempting to buy a quality team with trades and free agent signings, the team has decided the best course of action is to build from the bottom up. The A-ball level of the Padres is currently rock solid and the future is bright in that regard. However they are 2-3 seasons away from being major league ready, so having a high-priced pitcher like James Shields is not a smart move. They are not rebuilding, nor or are they competing. Spinning your wheels as a franchise and being stuck in mediocrity is a bad thing.
The Padres are at a dangerous level right now. They are absolutely stuck in limbo. Their payroll is right around $100 million so fans cannot complain that they are not spending money. The issue is their funds are allocated to areas in which the team has strength emerging. Particularly the outfield where the team is heavily committed into Melvin Upton Jr. Matt Kemp, and Jon Jay for this year. At the Triple-A level the team is getting great production from Alex Dickerson, Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot. They have problems. Big problems that need to be rectified.
Trading Shields on Saturday was a good thing. After Ron Fowler’s comments about the pitcher, the relationship between the two sides was obviously fractured. It was reported that Shields was very unhappy about being called out specifically. He has every right to be unhappy. The play of the whole team has suffered and for Ron Fowler to specifically point out Shields after a game in which he gave up 10 runs, was a low blow.
James Shields was very aware he stunk that day in Seattle. He is his biggest critic. He didn’t need the owner of his team to point out his bad day on the radio. If Shields was to remain with the team, things would not be the same. With comments like that from your majority owner, about the leader of your staff, it was inevitable that he be dealt. Yes Shields was the leader. Now he is gone and the players have this feeling of uncertainty. If Shields can be dealt, anyone can be moved.
What truly worries me is the fact the Padres signed Shields to the richest free agent deal in the history of the club, only to give him away 15 months later. Future top-level free agents are really going to have a hard time committing to the Padres long-term. Their business ethics of the past while dealing with players will burn them constantly if they don’t start to live up to their obligations.
Under different circumstances I would be very upset about moving Shields and potentially eating more than $30 million dollars in total in the process. The Padres are not the Los Angeles Dodgers. They cannot afford to give payroll away. Every penny counts when formulating a competitive team in a smaller market.
Thankfully Shields should opt out after this season. A weak free agent market dictates that he will indeed seek a new deal next off season. If he does opt out, the Padres did well in this deal. If he gets injured or decides to stick to his contract, then the Padres are really going to potentially be hurt by this deal. Still, it had to be done. Shields was clearly becoming very unhappy in San Diego and the Padres got two decent players in return for their former ace. The money and how much the Padres have to kick in will make or break this deal.