KC Royals former clubhouse leader James Shields cleared waivers on August 9, which means that the San Diego Padres are now free to deal him. Could the Kansas City Royals seek a post-trade deadline reunion with Shields?
Yes, Shields isn’t pitching great in San Diego. His 3.75 ERA only translates to a 95 ERA+ (6% worse than average) given the favorable pitching environment in San Diego. However, he’s missing bats with a 9.8 strikeouts per nine and he’s eating innings (146.1 innings pitched so far in 2015). His biggest problem has been the 24 home runs he’s given up, even with an enormous home park in Petco Field.
That total is more than the 23 home runs he gave up in 227.0 innings for the Kansas City Royals in 2014.
Sure, James Shields strikeout totals are inflated by a league in which pitchers hit. But, the numbers show he can still miss bats. And, you have to think that his runs allowed will improve with the KC Royals behind him instead of the defensively-challenged outfield he’s endured with the Padres.
The money, however, is the sticking point.
James Shields is affordable this season. He’s owed around $2.25 million for the rest of 2015 according to MLB Trade Rumors, which isn’t prohibitive. The problem is with the remaining three years of his deal.
Shields has $63 million remaining ($21 million a season), with a $2 million buyout in 2019 from a club option of $16 million. That contract was so untenable, that no team was willing to take on the rest of deal when he was available on waivers. And that includes the Kansas City Royals.
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Clearly, San Diego will have to eat some salary to move Shields.
One possibility to get a deal done would be for San Diego to trade Shields to the KC Royals for a “player to be named later”, which turns out to be Omar Infante. That would clear the $17.75 remaining on Infante’s contract (if you include his 2018 buyout).
The problem is that for significant salary relief, the Padres are likely to want the Kansas City Royals to add some prospects to the deal. And that’s where the James Shields reunion train goes off the rails. After trading five pitching prospects for Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist, general manager Dayton Moore might not be at all willing to drain his prospect pool even further.
Between the KC Royals need to keep their core together, and their compromised farm system, a James Shields deal might not be possible.
Still, Dayton Moore has to be thinking about creative ways to bring James Shields home. Or else he could see Shields pitching for a rival like the Minnesota Twins down the stretch.