Padres News: James Shields Signing Gives Team Lift

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The signing of James Shields brings even more creditability to a staff that was certainly no slouch in the first place. His decision to stay home and play for the San Diego Padres creates an absolute log jam at the starting pitcher position. Is that a bad thing, though?

When you look at the staff presently you have Shields, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, Brandon Morrow and Odrisamer Despaigne. That’s six potential starters right there, not to mention Robbie Erlin who threw decently last year. Add in Josh Johnson, Cory Luebke and Casey Kelly who all are returning from injury and the staff is absolutely loaded. I can smell a trade coming. Can’t you? Cole Hamels anyone? anyone?

James Shields eats up innings, like Joey Chesnut eats up hot dogs every 4th of July at the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. I mean he is the absolute epitome of a workhorse. He has averaged 233 innings and 206 strikeouts for the past four seasons. In that four-season span, he also has 96 quality starts and a 3.17 earned run average.

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He will put in a quality effort every time out there. His heart is in every pitch and he wears his emotions on his sleeve. Shields has a reputation as an excellent clubhouse guy to boot. He is credited with rejuvenating both the Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals young pitching staffs. His leadership skills come well-documented and he is known for his outstanding work ethic.

The fact he eats innings and saves the bullpen from going out there, does in fact help every other member of the staff. Keeping the bullpen relatively fresh is a great advantage when it comes to the grind of a Major League season. Besides the leadership skills off the field, he has the competitive nature you want exuding from your starting pitcher.

Coming into this off-season, Shields was viewed as the clear cut third-best starting pitcher available on the free agent market. Max Scherzer and Jon Lester were considered above him as far as value goes. Scherzer signed a seven-year, $210 million dollar contract with the Washington Nationals. Jon Lester signed a six-year, $155 million dollar deal with the Chicago Cubs. 

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With those figures, the four-years and $75 million the Padres spent on Shields was a steal. When you break it down annually at $18.75 million a year, the deal is hefty, but still very fair. When you compare it to $25.8 a year for Lester and $30 million a year for Scherzer, it looks like highway robbery.

Max Scherzer and Jon Lester are better pitchers than James Shields, but $7 million or $11 million dollars better? I think not. Yes, both pitchers are younger, however they don’t have the consistency that James Shields brings. In baseball consistency means a lot, there is something to throwing 200 plus innings for eight straight years. Some pitchers struggle to throw back-to-back 200-inning years.

Those same eight straight years of consistency, ultimately doomed his huge pay day this off-season. Teams stated, that the high mileage on his arm concerns them. 1,900 total innings is no joke, but he has shown a remarkable ability to remain healthy, despite all those continuous innings pitched. Only time will tell on this issue.

He is a very nice pitcher with a lot of miles under the hood, but unlike some pitchers, he is no lemon. There is no health concern, and his mechanics are pretty much in order. He should continue to remain a solid fixture at the top of the rotation for years to come. James Shields’ presence alone at the top of the San Diego Padres starting staff vaults the team immediately to playoff contention.

Next: Padres Second Base Depth Throughout The System

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