2:04pm: The Padres are getting calls from other teams but aren’t in active trade talks about Shields or any other big-name veterans at this time, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
1:45pm: The Orioles are one of “a few teams” who have talked to the Padres about veteran righty James Shields, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports (Twitter links). The Red Sox have also been in contact with San Diego about starting pitching, so Heyman feels Shields’ name likely came up between the two sides. No trade is thought to be close at the present time, however.
At least $65MM remains owed to Shields on his current contract — $21MM in each of the next three seasons, and a $2MM buyout of a $16MM club option for 2019. According to Heyman, the Padres are willing to cover some of Shields’ contract, though the exact number depends on how much they get back in a trade.
Shields can also opt out of the contract after this season, which adds another wrinkle to trade negotiations as a suitor may not want to give up too much for just one season of Shields’ services. Shields will be 35 on Opening Day 2017 so he may not want to test the open market again if he doesn’t think he can top the $44MM already guaranteed to him, though another solid season could make him a hot commodity in a 2016-17 free agent market that’s very thin on quality pitching.
Shields is coming off something of an unusual season that saw him post a 3.91 ERA with a career-best 9.61 K/9, yet he also had career highs in walk rate (3.6 BB/9) and homer rate (17.6%). That last stat is particularly odd given that he pitched his home games at Petco Park — it could be a total fluke, or perhaps a portent of trouble if Shields ends up moving to a more hitter-friendly ballpark like Camden Yards or Fenway Park. Still, Shields was as durable as ever, topping the 200-inning plateau for the ninth straight season, even if his 202 1/3 IP was his lowest mark of those nine years.
This isn’t the first time that the O’s have been linked to Shields this offseason, and the veteran would add some stability to a questionable Baltimore rotation. Kevin Gausman may hit the DL with shoulder soreness, while Miguel Gonzalez has had a rough spring and could lose his starting spot to Tyler Wilson. Yovani Gallardo, Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Tillman project as Baltimore’s other starters. The Orioles don’t have a deep minor league system to trade from and they’re notoriously finicky about acquiring pitchers due to injury concerns, though Shields’ track record of durability should at least somewhat mitigate the latter issue.
Beyond David Price, the Sox also have some rotation question marks. Clay Buchholz has a well-documented injury history and Eduardo Rodriguez will spend the first month of the season on the DL (with knuckleballer Steven Wright the favorite to step in). Rick Porcello and Joe Kelly are both looking to rebound after difficult 2015 seasons. Boston has enough farm system depth to offer a blue chip prospect to San Diego in order to get the Friars to cover a larger chunk of Shields’ deal, though the Sox also have the payroll space to absorb more of the contract in exchange for a lesser prospect in a semi-salary dump.
Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner both drew a lot of trade buzz this winter, so it’s fair to assume that the Red Sox at least checked in with the Padres about both younger arms. Ross would be the bigger prize, a top-of-the-rotation type who’s controllable through the 2017 season. Cashner has shown flashes of ace ability in the past, though he will be a free agent after this season.