Padres Editorial: Was Signing James Shields A Mistake?

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As news finally broke late Sunday night the James Shields was going to sign with the San Diego Padres, I can’t help but to be a little concerned. $72-$80 million dollars is a lot to pay for a pitcher who is 33-years old and never had much postseason success. 

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Not to mention the draft pick the Padres now lose by adding James Shields (type A free agent) to the roster. Trea Turner, the shortstop of the future is basically a Washington National. Losing that pick, eliminates the possibility to replace Turner with a top-tier first round selection.

A.J. Preller’s forte is scouting and foreign player evaluations, so after all the wheeling and dealing his real talent should take hold. I do not anticipate the Padres winning the bidding war for Yoan Moncada, especially with James Shields now under contract for the four, possibly five years.

James Shields has been flat out reliable for the past eight years. He has totaled 203-plus innings every year for the past eight years. In that time, never starting less that 31 games in a season. He is the absolute definition of a work horse.

With a 3.72 career earned run average and 114 wins under his belt, he was expected to receive in excess of $100-plus million dollars this off-season. In the end, his workhorse like manor might have cost him the extra $20-$25 million.

Teams must have been scared off by all the innings already under his belt. Over 1900 innings in nine major league seasons. He hasn’t really ever had arm issues (knock on wood), his pitching motion is relatively smooth and stress free. He should be healthy and productive for the whole term of his contract.

Next season there are an incredible amount of free agent pitchers available. Johnny Cueto, David Price, Mat Latos, Jordan Zimmermann, Yovani Gallardo, Doug Fister and Jeff Samardzija among others who are due for free agency following the 2015 season.

Should the Padres have stayed away from Shields and instead go hard after a David Price or Jordan Zimmermann next year? The answer is really a moot point as A.J. Preller has made the move already. Justin Upton is probably only here this year, so Shields was brought on to take the Padres to the postseason now.

Breaking down the deal is complicated. On one side, I am extremely excited that the Padres are spending money on quality free agents. The $17-$20 million for Shields is a decent contract. It’s not by any means a horrible one. He has a worthy track record and deserves to be paid.

James Shields is no ace though, not a bad pitcher, but he is no ace. He has a WAR (wins above replacement) of 26.7 in his nine years of major league service. That translates to about a 3-win player. In fact his best WAR year was 2007 (5.5), his first year in the league full time. He throws the innings, but does get hit now and then too.

Compare those WAR numbers to Cole Hamels, and you will see a difference. Hamels has nine years of service just like Shields. He has put up a 40.4 in his time. That is an average of 4.5 for his career. That’s basically one and a half more victories on your team if you have Cole Hamels as opposed to James Shields.

Of course numbers fluctuate from year to year for everyone. It is nearly impossible to get a total value of a player in one stat, but the WAR stat is universally recognized as the best thing to determine a player’s value.

Padres fans shouldn’t expect Kevin Brown 2.0 this 2015 season. Shields just isn’t that type of pitcher. He will be out there every fifth day, that is a given. Shields can be a solid pitcher, and who really knows. Perhaps pitching in the National League for the first time in his career will take his pitching to a new level.

James Shields has flat out nasty stuff. Can he get better with age? Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling only seemed to get better with age. Can Shields solidify his name as one of the greats or will he just be a solid major league pitcher? Stay tuned Friar Faithful, stay tuned.

The signing of Shields, in my opinion, was a risky move. Losing the draft pick is huge. The Padres farm system is a little low on prospects and losing draft picks on a mid-market team can be fatal. It is risky, but I can’t help but have a huge smile on my face this Monday morning.

I imagine A.J. Preller has a master plan to all this madness. We are all just three steps behind him. Just sit back and enjoy the ride, I know I am.

The game is played on the field, not on paper. Even with all these additions, winning is still no guarantee. Baseball is the ultimate team sport and chemistry is a key factor.

The signing of Shields can really make or break this franchise for the near future. All they need is his usual consistent numbers of 220 innings, 32 starts, 12-15 wins and an ERA of about 3.50

If he can deliver those numbers year after year, then the contract is justified. He is no ace though, I once again can’t possibly state that enough. Adding him to the front three of Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, and Ian Kennedy now however, make the Padres’ starting rotation as dangerous as their new lineup projects to be.

Next: Cole Hamels Rumors Won't Die Down

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