There are a contingent of baseball fans and observers who view the Chicago White Sox as the sleeper team of the upcoming season. In order for much of that to come to fruition, the White Sox need a strong comeback season from veteran starter James Shields, as well as several career defining moments from their youthful starting rotation.
The White Sox are entrusting the 36-year-old right-hander to lead their otherwise young pitching staff as a mentor. To solidify James Shields’ role with the team, the White Sox have officially named him their opening day starter, according to Yahoo Sports. The White Sox will open the 2018 season against the Kansas City Royals.
By going with James Shields, the White Sox are setting the tone with an experienced hurler. Shields is a pitcher who once went by the moniker, “Big Game James.”
Shields is entering into his second full season, and third overall with the Chicago White Sox organization. Thus far, James Shields has had some mixed results with the White Sox, who acquired him in a trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, as reported by NBC Sports Chicago. His White Sox debut was dreadful to say the least.
Pitching for the White Sox for the first time, James Shields faced the Washington Nationals. Shields wound giving up seven runs in two innings for the White Sox, as reported by ESPN setting the tone for a forgettable 2016. He finished the year with a 4-12 record and a 6.77 ERA.
James Shields fared a bit better last season, with a win-loss record of 5-7, along with an ERA more than a run less. Most importantly, Shields had a WAR of 0.3, which was a vast improvement over the -1.8 from his 2016 season with the White Sox.
It is not conceivable to believe that Shields’ best pitching days are behind him. The White Sox hope that he can continue to bounce back from career-worst seasons.
The White Sox have a team-option slated for the 2019 season of James Shields’ contract. If the White Sox exercise their option, Shields will make $16 million. Cutting ties with him would cost the White Sox a mere $2 million.
Because of the high stakes involved, there are reasons to believe that James Shields will have a much better year on the mound. Joining a crowded 2019 MLB free agency class would not be financially beneficial for him. Judging from how slow moving free agency was this offseason, Shields could stand to lose millions.
In the past, James Shields has had the reputation of an innings eater. This year he takes on the role of a mentor. How well Shields pitches, and how he is as a locker room presence, will go a long way in determining his future with the Chicago White Sox.
This could be the season when the Chicago White Sox get what they were hoping for with James Shields.