It’s not often we see significant players swapped in June — read this if you don’t believe me — but the White Sox made an early strike on Saturday to acquire James Shields from the Padres. Chicago gave up controllable righty Erik Johnson and young infielder Fernando Tatis Jr., with San Diego keeping about $31MM of the $58MM owed to Shields.
From Chicago’s perspective, Shields represents a dependable — if diminished — rotation piece who can help keep the team in contention this year. He’ll also likely be around for the next two seasons to come, though Shields has the right to opt out at year end. While there’s little reason to believe that he’s still a top-of-the-line starter, Shields is incredibly durable, still reasonably effective, and quite fairly priced with the discount included in this swap. He certainly deepens a rotation that has some questions at the back end.
If the White Sox felt that Johnson was a viable option to play that sort of role, they surely wouldn’t have parted with him. The 26-year-old has failed to stick in four stints at the major league level, so he’s had his chances. On the other hand, he’s been much more effective at Triple-A — even if he hasn’t maintained a promising strikeout rate bump from a year ago — and none of those four stints included more than six appearances. With just 89 days of service coming into the year, the Cal-Berkeley product could be a long-term asset for the Padres; on the other hand, he’ll also soon be out of options. As Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs explains, Johnson has a “mediocre” arsenal but still carries a bit of upside. Tatis, meanwhile, is a quality prospect in Longenhagen’s evaluation, though there are some limits to his ceiling and he remains a long ways from the majors.
So, MLBTR readers, did it make sense for the Sox to give up that package and take on that much salary? Were the Pads wise to act quickly to save some cash and get something back for Shields? Vote here (link for mobile app users):