If the Boston Red Sox have been the worst disappointment of the 2015 Major League Baseball season, the San Diego Padres are arguably the second-worst. While expectations for the Red Sox run high every year, the Padres created their own high expectations as 37-year-old rookie General Manager A.J. Preller reinvented the team in his own image with a seemingly relentless barrage of offseason moves.
Despite assuming the reins only last August, by Opening Day of 2015, the first five hitters in the Padres batting order were Preller’s offseason pickups — as was the starting pitcher, the closer, and the eighth-inning reliever.
In fact, as Fox Sports baseball blogger Sam Miller pointed out, as of the end of July, 54 percent of the Padres’ plate appearances had been consumed by Preller’s offseason acquisitions. However, the Padres had the 26th-ranked offense out of the 30 MLB teams.
But of all Preller’s offseason moves, none was bigger than the free agent signing of former Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays starter James “Big Game” Shields, a 33-year-old righthander who was lured to San Diego with a four-year, $73 million contract — with a team option for a fifth year at an additional $16 million.
For that, Shields has proceeded to deliver his worst season since 2010, with an ERA+ of just 91 — with 100 being the MLB average — after four straight years over 100. In terms of the WAR (Wins Above Replacement player) metric, Shields has posted a number of just 1.0, his lowest since posting a negative number in 2010.
The Boston Red Sox, under General Manager Ben Cherington, also made a series of boondoggle offseason deals, led by the signings of shortstop-turned-left-fielder Hanley Ramirez and former San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval.
Now, with Shields known to have cleared waivers, some trade rumors say that the Red Sox and Padres are willing to swap debacles, with Boston sending the woefully unproductive Sandoval — whose WAR of -0.7 is easily the worst of the 255-pound, 29-year-old’s eight-year career — to southern California in exchange for Shields.
Sandoval is owed about $75 million on his five-year contract with the Red Sox. Presumably, if the Padres agreed to the hypothetical deal, the Red Sox would absorb substantially more than the difference between Shields’ salary and Sandoval’s.
In return for easing the Padres payroll burden, the Red Sox would acquire a starting pitcher who they hope would rebound to his numbers of 2011 through 2014, providing at least some sort of an anchor to their disastrous starting rotation, which ranks 28th in MLB in terms of ERA.
Shields also has a player option to opt out of his contract after next season, giving somewhat more credence to the trade rumors that see him going to the Boston Red Sox.
[Image: Denis Poroy/Getty Images]