It’s been rumored since last weekend, but now it’s officially happened, even though it’s only the first week of June: the Padres have traded righty James Shields to the White Sox.
It takes a rare confluence of events and circumstance to put a big trade like this together in early June, but the Padres’ desire to shed as much of Shields’ contract as possible, together with the White Sox’s urgent and obvious need for help at the back of the rotation were enough to do it.
The official trade has Shields and $31 million going to the White Sox (Shields is owed $58 million through 2018) for righty Erik Johnson and shortstop prospect Fernando Tatis, Jr. Although Johnson could be a big league pitcher in the coming years (he’s 26 and has been tremendous in the minors, but much less so in opportunities in the big leagues over the last three years), and Tatis is a legitimate prospect (but very young, just 17), this was not a lot for the White Sox to give up to get Shields.
That’s especially true when you consider that he’ll cost them only $27 million for the rest of this season and the next two. No, Shields is not the guy he was before last season anymore, but he can still be a steady 4/5 with flashes of more. For that low cost, when you consider the early timing of the deal and the White Sox’s need, this was a fantastic move for them. The AL Central still looks winnable, and the White Sox couldn’t afford to see their early success keep dwindling. It was very much worth it to them to make this deal now.
As for the Padres, it remains to be seen if this will be the first step in a broader sell off (as it should). We’ve discussed interesting Padres arms like Tyson Ross and Drew Pomeranz, but it’s not clear that the latter will be made available:
By the way, the Padres likely would have to be overwhelmed to move Drew Pomeranz. Not many good young LHPs, do have to field a '17 rotation.
— Dennis Lin (@sdutdennislin) June 4, 2016
In any case, seeing the Padres desperately dumping Shields to save some cash at this point is a reminder of how close the Cubs came to signing him before the 2015 season. Maybe he would have been more successful with the Cubs, and maybe it wouldn’t have negatively impacted any other Cubs moves thereafter, but it does make you wonder. Maybe the Cubs would not have been able to be as aggressive in free agency this past offseason – maybe they don’t, for example, get John Lackey, who has been brilliant – and maybe it would have been a bit of a dark cloud on an otherwise solid couple years for the team overall.
Sometimes you don’t get the free agent, and sometimes that’s not a terrible outcome.