The White Sox Should Consider Trading James Shields
The beginning of James Shields' White Sox career was horrific. Through his first four starts in a White Sox uniform, Shields lasted only 13.2 innings, posting an ERA of 15.80 while walking 13 hitters, striking out only eight, and giving up five home runs.
Shields has followed up those disasters with a rather impressive four starts since. He's lasted 28.1 innings with a 1.91 ERA. The strikeout situation hasn't really improved (12), but he's cut down on the walks (7) and homers (4).
All of which makes me wonder if James Shields turning around his White Sox career shouldn't be the impetus for ending it.
The White Sox came out of the All-Star break tripping over themselves. Any positive momentum that had been built by five consecutive series wins has been wiped out by losing two of three to Atlanta just before the break, and then being swept by the Angels this weekend. They're now below .500, and 5.5 games out of a wild card spot. Now, 5.5 games doesn't seem like a ton, but when there are also four other teams between you and that spot, it's going to be much more difficult to make up the necessary ground.
So, because of this, with the trade deadline approaching, it's logical that the Sox should consider selling off some unnecessary parts. I even wrote as much back in June.
What I went over in that post, however, is that the Sox really don't have much to sell off. They aren't going to rebuild, so whatever they do, they're going to do so with the plan of competing in 2017.
And that's where James Shields comes in.
Have you seen the market for starting pitchers this summer? It's not exactly filled with big names. This winter's free agent market is the same.
We're in a situation where Rich Hill -- the 36-year old journeyman with a career 4.23 ERA -- is a wanted commodity.
A situation in which, Drew Pomeranz, a former top prospect who is finally gaining some traction in a notoriously friendly pitcher's park, is garnering one of the top pitching prospects in the game.
A market in which Jered Fucking Weaver, a man with an 84mph fastball, and a 5.02 ERA is suddenly an "intriguing trade candidate" because he's had two consecutive quality starts.
This market is fucked.
This market is the kind of market in which James Shields could bring you back something of value, and that's why the White Sox need to consider trading him.
Let's go over the pros and cons of trading Shields.
HIS VALUE MAY BE HIGHER THAN WHEN WE TRADED FOR HIM
There's a very real chance that, should the White Sox flip Shields before the deadline, they'll get more in return for him than they gave up. The White Sox got Shields from a rebuilding team, one that was trying to move on from some big mistakes, and shed salary in the process.
The White Sox don't need to move Shields. They could hold on to him because, as part of the trade, they're only on the hook for $27 million for the rest of this season, as well as 2017 and 2018. Considering how much you're gonna have to pay Rich Hill this winter, that's an incredibly reasonable rate.
So the White Sox would be passing those savings on to you! If you're a contender in need of another arm in your rotation, Shields could be a perfect fit for you. Even a team like the Rangers, who are looking for top-line guys, might take a swing at Shields to help fill out a rotation ravaged by injuries, and they have a very deep system.
The White Sox could end up turning Erik Johnson and Fernando Tatis Jr. into a legitimate prospect, which would be a win.
EVEN IF HE'S CHEAP, SO IS REINSDORF, SO NOT HAVING TO PAY SHIELDS IN 2017 AND 2018 WOULD BE NICE RELIEF
Even if the free agent market is weak, that doesn't mean there aren't useful players available. There just won't be the marquee guys that can change your team's fortune in one large swoop. When you consider how many holes the White Sox have, and will need to address again this winter. having $22 million off the books could help fill some of those holes.
TRADING SHIELDS MAY JUST CREATE ANOTHER HOLE, HOWEVER
See, this is the thing. Shields has been much stronger lately, but he's also benefitted from a bit of Mat Latos-style luck. He's not really striking guys out, and he's giving up some hard contact, but the ball is being hit at people.
Heading into 2017 I don't know how good Shields is going to be, but if you trade him, what's your rotation look like next season?
Sale will still be there, as will Quintana and Rodon. Let's assume that the Sox believe Carson Fulmer is a starter for you next season -- I don't, but I bet they do. That's four starters. Who is your fifth? Is Miguel Gonzalez coming back? Will you have to do more dumpster-diving like you did with Latos?
If so, what does that do for your depth in case it doesn't work out? You'll just find yourself in the same position you were in this year.
If you keep Shields, though, you head into 2017 with Sale, Q, Rodon and Shields as your top four, allowing Fulmer to be a fifth guy, and then you can shop in the bargain bin for depth behind that five.
SO WHAT DO WE DO?
I'm leaning toward trade, or at the very least, shopping him around. You have to see what you can get for him because he's one of the few players that you can afford to get rid of. Sure, he might be nice to have around next year if you plan to compete, but he's not a total necessity, and if he can bring a young piece or two in return to help the farm system, that could give you a bit more to work with when it comes to swinging trades this winter.
Because, as we've gone over, the free agent market isn't going to be anything special. If you're looking to make a big splash over the winter, it'll be in a trade of some kind.
So trading Shields now could help ensure you have more ammo to make a bigger trade this winter.