Adding to their busy offseason, the Padres have signed starting pitcher James Shields. Shields has agreed to terms with the Padres on a 4 year contract for 72 to 78 million dollars, discluding a club option. Shields is a very durable pitcher as he has pitched at least 200 innings every full season he has been in the majors. He has also pitched at least 227 innings each of the last four years.
Shields should be at the head of a staff that features Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy, and Andrew Cashner. The Padres also have Robert Erlin and Odrisamer Despaigne competing for rotation spots. They signed Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow as well, both should be battling for spots in the rotation. The Padres could have a solid staff this year with James Shields as their ace.
Shields is not only durable, he is also a very good pitcher. He had a 3.21 ERA in 2014 and a 3.15 ERA in 2013. He has a career 3.72 ERA but his ERA has been lower than that each of his last four seasons. He provides significant value with his combination of a low ERA and a heavy workload of innings.
A major concern with Shields is ironically durability. Many fear that he could follow the steps of C.C. Sabathia, whom had a decline due to throwing many innings early in his career. Shields is 32 years old and with his amount of work it is a viable concern. However, I would caution against the C.C. comparison since Shields has only been in the MLB since he was 24 years old while Sabathia was in the league at age 20. While C.C. Sabathia threw at least 180 innings every season before age 24, Shields never threw more than 150 innings in the minors. I expect, as do some, Shields to hold up a bit better than Sabathia.
Another concern with Shields is his poor postseason numbers. He has a nickname of “Big Game James” but has not lived up to that name. He has a career 5.46 ERA in his postseason career including a 6.12 ERA in the 2014 postseason. He has only pitched 59.1 innings in the playoffs so it is not a huge sample size and I would not be surprised to see him pitching well for the Padres in October.
What does this mean for the Padres? The Padres can expect to have a club-house leader looking to carry his team to the World Series, as he did as a member of the Kansas City Royals.