Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

james shields padresThe Trade Deadline is just three weeks away. That’s crazy. I guess when you’re focused on the games, these dates come up more quickly, eh?

Don’t forget: you can force me to blog for 38 hours straight at the Deadline by donating to Make-A-Wish.

It’s a given at this point that, whether they’ve given up on the division or not, the Chicago Cubs will have to add a starting pitcher before July 31. Even if the focus is the Wild Card (realistically, that’s what it should be), the Cubs will need more quality depth to ensure they can hold onto a spot – and, of course, once you make the playoffs, you never know what might happen. So, I’ll say it again: I see the Cubs as “out” on the elite rentals, but very much “in” on every other kind of available starter – mid-tier rentals, pricey multi-year guys, depth guys, prospect guys.

Technically, James Shields would fit into that group for the Cubs, and Buster Olney has connected the Cubs Shields before. He’s doing it again today, which probably means it’s worth noting:

Although we know that the Cubs like Shields – they pursued him aggressively late in the offseason – I still see this as a tough fit. Here’s what I said the last time Olney raised this possibility:

But here’s the thing on that: the Cubs clearly wanted Shields in the offseason, but they were looking to do a three-year, $60 million deal. Had they wanted Shields on a longer, pricier deal – like the four-year, $75 million deal he got from the Padres – they probably would have increased their offer. Furthermore, the structure of his deal with the Padres would be a nightmare for an acquiring team – Shields makes just $10 million this year, and then $21 million each of the next three years (with a $2 million option buyout at the end). And he’s also got an opt-out after the 2016 season, though he’ll be 34 next year, so that may not matter. In other words, acquiring Shields now on this deal is acquiring a cheap 33-year-old for the stretch run this year, and then an extremely expensive 34, 35, and 36-year-old for the next three years. The Padres would have to eat a ton of salary to make that contract sensible for the Cubs, especially with a large free agent pitching market on the horizon.

And that’s still where I am. A trade is plausible, but it would require the Padres eating a bunch of salary (hard to see them doing that right after signing the guy) or the Cubs being willing to take on almost the whole contract and give up virtually nothing in return (the Cubs had that chance before the season and passed). All that’s changed since the offseason is Shields has used up one of his theoretically most valuable half-seasons during the life of the deal, and has pitched to mixed results in 2015. And his velocity is down a notch.

The other possibility that I’ll now throw out there just to keep things plausible is a broader deal, involving a number of players, which makes Shields’ salary situation more palatable to the Cubs – i.e., they take on Shields and his contract in order to get something else of value. But now we’re getting really close to fantasy/video game land, so I don’t want to go too far into it until/unless there’s something more specific out there connecting the Cubs to the Padres (well, something bigger than Will Venable, that is).

I will point out this recent report from Jon Morosi, indicating that the Padres may wind up big sellers this month, with GM A.J. Preller willing to be creative to move multiple pieces. Venable once again comes in for a mention as a fit for the Cubs, and you could make an argument for relievers like Craig Kimbrel and Joaquin Benoit (though the pen is a lot less shaky than it once was, and those guys would cost a lot). The other Padres pieces that make sense for the Cubs may not make as much sense if they were coming in tandem with Shields – i.e., controlled, younger pitchers like Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner, or rental pitchers like Ian Kennedy.

Realistically, a Kennedy/Venable package sure looks like a good fit, doesn’t it?

And now my post about James Shields has become something else entirely. So it is with Trade Season. It’s going to be a fun three weeks.



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