Over the next 30 days, I’ll look at 30 playersa��one from each teama��that I believe should be traded, but more along the lines of a a�?what ifa�? scenario. Some will seem obvious, just as others will seem nonsensical. Some may also seem desperate, but it’s important to understand that this list is entirely subjective and made up solely of notable names. A player can be deemed movable for any of the following reasons: production (or lack thereof), current and future team outlook, age, potential return value, salary, or even injury history.
Well, this couldn’t have been what A.J. Preller was expecting.
Before the 2015 season began, San Diego had a�?won the offseason.a�? They acquired former Rookie of the Year Wil Myers and also traded for Justin Upton. They followed up on those by inking starter James Shields to a four-year deal worth $75 million before finishing in style to acquire closer Craig Kimbrel.
When they had to actually play the games, that’s when things didn’t go so well. The Padres finished 74-88, good enough for fourth in the NL West. So now what?
San Diego already traded Kimbrel back in November. Since then, fellow divisional rivals Arizona have strengthened their club ahead of 2016a��we could argue that the Diamondbacks have earned San Diego’s title from a season agoa��but we’ll have to see the games first.
As for the rest of the NL West, we can never count out either Los Angeles or San Francisco. The Padres are nowhere near a lock for the ’16 postseason, and it’s time to keep listening on their more notable players.
Enter James Shields, whose remaining three years under contract will see him make $63 million. He can opt out after the season, but there’s no way he’d make more as a free agent again, even with a career year. Teams aren’t going to fall for that again, especially with Shields turning 34 this coming Sunday.
From 2011 to 2014, Shields was tough to beat. He started 33 games or more each seasona��in fact, he’s started 30 games or more in nine of his ten professional numbers. He’s also logged 200 or more innings nine years running, so at the very least, Shields remains reliable from a durability standpoint. In those four yearsa��two with Tampa Bay, two with Kansas Citya��he posted the following:
3.17 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 8.1 H/9, 0.9 HR/9, 2.3 BB/9, and 8.0 K/9.
Those strikeout rates really dipped in 2013 and 2014, and the hits per nine rates increased in that same time frame. It looked like Shields was beginning to regress, but he took that to a whole other level this past season:
3.91 ERA, 4.45 FIP, 8.4 H/9, 1.5 HR/9, 3.6 BB/9, and 9.6 K/9.
While the strikeout rate was a career best, the walk rate was a career worst. All the while, his ERA, FIP, and home run rate were at their highest point since the 2010 season.
This past season wasn’t the case of Shields alternating between a good year and a bad one, or even two good ones followed by a drop-off. Shields had been one of the better, more reliable arms in baseball for the last four seasons before 2015, when he looked anything but.
If he had a Shelby Miller-type season and the Padres were still not competitive, then we’d at least be talking about how much of a positive this could be for San Diego right now. Despite the drastic age difference between Shields and Miller, he could have still been flipped (potentially) for some notable prospects, in an effort to retool.
But now? Shields is an aging, regressing, expensive starting pitcher on a team that, unless they magically get it together, aren’t going anywhere. And San Diego, unless they’re willing to take a discount in return, may have to wait and see if Shields can build his value back up before the deadline.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs