San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller continues to dismantle the team he built last year.
Pitcher James Shields was traded to the Chicago White Sox on June 4. Despite signing a 4-year, $75 million contract in 2015, Shields served less than half of that in a Padres uniform.
Shields’ departure via trade certainly points to the indication that the Padres have gone into full dismantle and rebuild mode. Shields now joins Justin Upton as another high-priced acquisition that didn’t spend much time playing at Petco Park.
Upton turned down a qualifying offer to sign a 6-year, $132.75 million with the Detroit Tigers this past offseason. Of course, Upton leaving looks more like a blessing based on how his stats look so far this season: .214 batting average, three home runs and 12 RBIs in 51 games played.
Like Upton, Shields’ departure also appears to be a blessing. He went 2-7 in 11 starts, posting a 4.28 ERA. In his last start, he gave up 10 runs in two and 2/3 innings against the Seattle Mariners. Executive chairman and co-owner Ron Fowler called that performance “embarrassing.”
Moving Shields is great for two reasons:
1) His production, or lack thereof, is no longer the Padres’ concern, which leads into the second reason.
2) San Diego moved that huge contract. Sure, they sent $29 million to Chicago to pay a large portion, more than half, of what remains. He’s still owed $56 million through 2018, all of which is guaranteed.
Drew Pomeranz has put up good numbers so far this season: 5-5 through 11 starts with 77 strikeouts and a 2.22 ERA.
Christian Friedrich has a 2-1 record through four starts with a 2.53 ERA.
Cesar Vargas has made quality starts so far this season. His last outing was rough, seven earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list with elbow soreness in his throwing arm. Seeing “elbow soreness” and “pitcher” is enough to make any baseball fan cringe.
Colin Rea is said to have a lot of upside. He was sent down to AAA-El Paso because the team wanted to preserve his innings count, but the injury to Vargas has caused management to call him back up to San Diego.
Cashner is on the final year of his contract. He was the subject of trade rumors prior to the start of the season. He may very well be mentioned in rumors next month as we approach the trade deadline.
He hasn’t really had the kind of production that would make the Padres want to keep him around. He’s 3-5 with a 4.78 ERA through 10 starts. If he can be traded, he should be.
Ross has been injured since his Opening Day start. He began throwing on June 1, but his rehab is said to be “slow and cautious,” according to padres.com.
Ross is also in the final year of his contract. The best case scenario is that Ross has a successful return (whenever that may be) and agrees to an extension. He has all the makings of an ace for San Diego — he can throw a lot of innings and he can strike people out. He struck out 212 batters through 196 innings last season, and struck out 195 through 195 2/3 innings in 2014.
As for the pitchers who currently fill the rotation, innings pitched has been a glaring issue. It’s rare to see a pitcher pitch at least seven innings. Most starts by Padres pitchers haven’t gone more than five.
These young pitchers have all shown some promise. But, to be successful, they’ll need to find a way to keep their pitch counts low and throw deep into games.
With the money that will be saved after moving the Shields contract, Preller might be able to convince a free agent to join the team next season. Doug Fister, Jaime Garcia and Gio Gonzalez stand out the most on the free agent list. Garcia and Gonzalez both have club options.
Preller may continue to dismantle what he built last year and build a winning ball club from the ground up. Pitching wins championships, and pitching should be his top priority.