James Shields Trade: Chicago White Sox Acquire Veteran From San Diego Padres

James Shields was traded from the San Diego Padres to the Chicago White Sox today, NBC Sports is reporting.

While the details are still being worked out, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweeted that pitcher Erik Johnson and Fernando Tatis, Jr., the son of former major leaguer Fernando Tatis whom the White Sox signed out of the Dominican Republic last year for $700,000, will be sent to San Diego for Shields and cash.

Johnson, 26, will probably take Shields’ spot in the Padres rotation. In two starts for Chicago, he is 0-2 with a 6.94 ERA.

According to Detroit News, the Tigers were also in the hunt for Shields, “but found the asking price way out of their range.” The Padres had also “reached out to ‘every team in contention’ looking to find the best return for Shields,” a source told Detroit News.

Shields, 34, was 2-7 with a 4.28 ERA for the struggling Padres, although his numbers are not necessarily indicators of his success. For one thing, he had among the lowest run support for major league starting pitchers. Also, Shields was hammered in his most recent start, May 31, against the Seattle Mariners, when he surrendered 10 earned runs in 2.2 innings in a blowout. That outing caused his ERA to balloon over a full run, from 3.06.

James Shields: A Remarkably Consistent Pitcher

While Shields is not an ace (as his lifetime 129-104 record and 3.76 ERA attest), he has been far more durable than most other major league pitchers his age.

After first being called up mid-season by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006, Shields has posted at least 200 innings every season since 2007 — nine straight seasons.

Shields was traded to the Kansas City Royals prior to the 2013 season when he had two years remaining on his contract, as Kansas City was aiming for a World Championship. Ironically, he was traded for Wil Myers, a then-prospect for Kansas City who later played with Shields on the Padres in 2015 and 2016.

He helped the Royals get to the World Series in 2014, going 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA, striking out 180 in 227 innings. But while he earned the nickname “Big Game James” in Kansas City, he faltered in the World Series, losing games one and five to the eventual World Champion San Francisco Giants.

After the season, Shields had to wait to get signed, as several other high-profile free agent pitchers were on the market. He eventually agreed to a four-year deal with the Padres in February, just days before the beginning of spring training. As ESPN reported at the time, the contract netted Shields $75 million over four years. However, Shields also has an opt-out clause whereby he could opt out of the remaining two years of the contract after this season, which many believed would have complicated a trade.

Shields’ Padres Tenure

The signing of Shields by A.J. Preller, the Padres general manager, capped off a high-profile 2014-15 offseason where San Diego had also acquired outfielders Myers, Justin Upton, and Matt Kemp; closer Craig Kimbrel; and catcher Derek Norris in a flurry of trades.

But the chemistry just was not right, as the Padres went 74-88, and fired longtime manager Bud Black.

Chicago White Sox starting rotation
As for Shields, his 2015 season was a mild disappointment, as he went 13-7 with a 3.91 ERA, although he also had 216 strikeouts. He surrendered a league-leading 33 home runs — 10 more than he gave up the previous year with Kansas City — which was surprising given that Petco Park in San Diego is considered one of the most pitcher-friendly ball parks in the major leagues.

Shields will be leaving behind a Padres team that is last in the National League West at 22-34, 12.5 games behind the first place Giants. The Shields trade likely signals that San Diego will continue rebuilding — their offseason trades of Kimbrel and Joaquin Benoit garnered them several top prospects — as well as reducing their payroll. It is likely that the Padres will pay a large portion of Shields’ salary this year.

Shields Joins a Winning White Sox Team

Shields’ new team, the White Sox, has cooled down after a very hot start. Currently, they are 29-26, 1.5 games back of the first place Royals, his former team.

The pressure for Shields will likely be less in Chicago, as he joins an already-strong rotation headed by Cy Young favorite Chris Sale (9-1, 2.29 ERA) and Jose Quintana (5-5, but with a 2.13 ERA). His trade could give Shields’ new team the motivation it needs to stay in competition.

Just a week ago, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports speculated that Chicago “could use a right-handed starter who would be an upgrade over Mat Latos and Miguel Gonzalez. Shields, 34, would more than qualify.”

What do you think? Can James Shields help the Chicago White Sox get into the playoffs?

[Photo by Otto Gruelle, Jr./Getty Images]