The White Sox have swapped out veteran hurlers with a roster move today, placing James Shields on the DL and selecting the contract of Mike Pelfrey, as JJ Stankevitz (Twitter links) and Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago (Twitter link) report. Shields is dealing with a lat strain, though GM Rick Hahn says it’s not believed to be serious.
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While the prognosis looks good, it’s unfortunate timing for the 35-year-old Shields. He has turned in three impressive starts thus far, allowing just three earned runs on only nine hits over 16 2/3 innings while recording 16 strikeouts against ten walks.
There’s some sample-size noise here, to be sure. Shields has stranded literally every runner to reach base against him — he has allowed three solo homers — and is benefiting from a .150 BABIP. At the very least, though, it’s encouraging that he has been able to generate some soft contact and get some results after a brutal 2016 season.
Shields would seem a plausible trade chip this summer if he’s able to return to health. There’s little reason to expect he’ll keep up anything approaching his first three outings, but there’d surely be interest in the respected veteran if he can return to the form he showed in 2015, when he gave the Padres over 200 innings of 3.91 ERA ball. There’s still the matter of salary, of course; Shields is under contract for 2017 and 2018 at $21MM apiece, though the Padres are on the hook for $22MM of that. (Chicago also owes him a $2MM buyout on his 2019 club option.)
The 33-year-old Pelfrey, meanwhile, landed in Chicago when the Tigers cut him loose late in camp. He has not been very successful in his two Triple-A outings thus far, lasting just six total innings while coughing up five earned on ten hits. But Pelfrey has long logged serviceable frames at the MLB level, and he’ll look to get back on track while providing the rebuilding organization some innings — at the league-minimum salary — while they wait for Shields to return.