The idea isn’t as absurd as it seems, even though Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore declined to re-sign Shields as a free-agent last winter. With A.J. Preller’s attempt to apply fantasy baseball tactics proving to be a complete flop in San Diego, rumors suggest he’s looking to start over.
According to venerable baseball writer Peter Gammons, the Padres have been quietly gauging interest in Shields before the July 31 trade deadline:
Can you name one team that needs James Shields more than the Kansas City Royals?
The KC Royals rotation has floundered without their leader. After their starters ranked fourth in American League ERA in 2014, the Kansas City Royals starting staff has crashed to thirteenth. That fact doesn’t even tell the whole tale.
Rookie fireballer Yordano Ventura has looked lost in his sophomore season after he was expected to headline the rotation. Now just returning from the disabled list after suffering numbness in the fingers of his pitching hand, Ventura has a less-than-scintillating 4.73 ERA.
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That’s a far cry from last season’s 3.20 ERA. Right now, Ventura simply is not the guy that dominated the Giants in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series.
Ventura isn’t the only young KC Royals starter to lose his way. Lefty Danny Duffy is struggling to find the form that helped him fashion a nifty 2.53 ERA in 2014. Duffy credited Shields with helping him channel his competitive energy into success on the mound.
What could be better than bringing back their mentor?
Best of all, Shields solves the Kansas City Royals biggest rotation problem: their inability to eat innings. Once again Shields has been a horse in San Diego, racking up 111.1 innings pitched.
The KC Royals bullpen would LOVE to see James Shields return.
The best part of this situation is that Padres would probably have to eat money on the deal. How about that KC Royals fans, you get James Shields back AND the team gets salary relief.
There are, however, some downsides Dayton Moore would have to consider. First, Shields’ contract runs through his age 37 season. And, while James Shields has been good in San Diego (3.88 ERA, 10.2 K/9), he’s been prone to the gopher ball (1.4 home runs per nine innings).
Shields is also walking more hitters. His walk rate is up to 2.9 per nine, after a 1.7 per nine rate for the Kansas City Royals last season.
The troubling part is that Shields pitches in a big home park in Petco Field, and he’s seen his ERA, and walk rate, rise in a league that plays without a DH.
On the other hand, the KC Royals KNOW what they’re getting. With Shields, there’s no concerns about disrupting the clubhouse, or wondering how he’ll fit in the community, or how well he’ll work with catcher Salvador Perez. Further, returning to the Kansas City Royals might address some of the performance issues that have cropped up in San Diego.
Certainly, the Padres defense hasn’t done James Shields any favors. Their struggles on in the field, in particular Wil Myers in center and Matt Kemp in right, are well documented. Perhaps Shields walk rate can be explained by having less confidence in his defense than in Kansas City. And maybe the gopher balls could have something to do with getting behind hitters.
Really, can the Baseball Gods speak any clearer than James Shields coming available just as the KC Royals lose clubhouse leader Alex Gordon for two months?
Don’t ignore fate, Dayton. Bring James Shields home. This time, he’s got an even better bullpen, and a more confident team, to back him up.