The Padres have asked teams about any possible interest in James Shields, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com reports (Twitter link). The extent of these discussions isn’t known, as the Padres could’ve been simply doing due diligence on trade scenarios rather than seriously gauging the right-hander’s market, though the fact that Shields’ name has been floated at all is a notable step.
Following today’s win over the Rangers, San Diego enters the All-Star break with a 41-49 record that puts them 10 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West and 7.5 games back of the Cubs for the second NL wild card spot. It’s a disappointing spot for a Padres team that made several major additions last offseason, and yet GM A.J. Preller hinted that his club’s trade deadline goal was to reload for 2016 rather than rebuild.
Still, Preller also noted that Padres were open to all options and “the biggest thing we preach to our scouts is to just be prepared for all different scenarios.” Dealing Shields would naturally present a far different “scenario” than dealing, say, a player on an expiring contract. As others have noted, trading Shields just months after the veteran and San Diego-area native signed a large multi-year contract would hurt the Padres in the eyes of both the fans and future free agents who might think twice about signing with the club.
Shields has a 4.01 ERA, 3.28 K/BB rate and a career-best 10.1 K/9 over 116 2/3 innings this season. Advanced metrics (3.30 xFIP, 3.25 SIERA) indicate that Shields’ 4.01 ERA is a bit high, as Shields has been hurt by a 17.9% home run rate — this number is not only well above Shields’ career average, it stands out even more as an outlier given that his home games are at one of baseball’s most notoriously pitcher-friendly ballparks.
Shields is guaranteed roughly $4.1MM for the remainder of this season, then $63MM over the 2016-18 seasons and a $16MM club option (with a $2MM buyout) for 2019. That’s a lot of salary for a 33-year-old hurler, yet since Shields can opt out after the 2016 season, a trading team might prefer such a potentially medium-sized commitment rather than deal for a pitcher on a guaranteed long deal (i.e. Cole Hamels) or one who can enter free agency this winter.