Detroit Tigers American League Central rivals, the Chicago White Sox, acquired James Shields earlier this week. Detroit had potential needs in the rotation, but were wise to pass on the veteran starter.
Detroit Tigers starting pitchers have been much better as of late, mainly thanks to the recent emergences of Michael Fulmer and Matt Boyd. The two young starters have brought stability back to the rotation, but it wasn’t that long ago that Detroit was in need of starting pitching.
Anibal Sanchez, since demoted to the bullpen, and Mike Pelfrey were both struggling to stay in games. The Tigers could have easily went out and brought in an external candidate to fill the rotation via trade. Thankfully, the team has stuck with young guns like Fulmer and Boyd, but it wouldn’t have been too much of a shock to see the team acquire someone like James Shields.
Chicago ended up bringing in the 34-year-old, and the Tigers are better off for it.
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Shields is still a quality pitcher, but he isn’t the frontline arm he was during his time in Tampa Bay or Kansas City. In 11 starts with the Padres this season, the former Royal has a 4.42 FIP and seven losses in 11 starts. He also allowed a National-League worst 33 home runs in 33 starts last season.
What’s more, Shields has been worth just a 1.4 WAR in a season and a half in San Diego after averaging a 3.1 WAR each season from 2007 to 2014.
In addition to not being a consistent Cy Young contender anymore, Shields is also in the midst of a contract that is far from team friendly. The Padres inked the right-hander to a $75-million contract prior to the 2015 season. While, according to ESPN’s Jim Bowden, San Diego will reportedly be “eating between 27-31m of Shields deal if he doesn’t opt out”, it’s still a significant financial hit for the White Sox.
So far this season, the Tigers have seen the potential pitfalls of longer contracts and financial burdens. Anibal Sanchez, Mike Pelfrey, Mark Lowe and Justin Upton have all struggled. While Upton looks to be turning things around—and eventually will—the performances of the pitchers haven’t been outstanding considering they’re locked into contracts at premium and near-premium rates next season.
Adding Shields’ deal to the mix, unless perhaps the Padres were willing to cover the entire deal, simply wouldn’t have been close to financially prudent. When you consider that the right-hander would have been nearly impossible to move if he struggled, it makes even more sense that Detroit didn’t make a move.
What’s more, the veteran would also have potentially blocked pitchers like Fulmer, Boyd or Daniel Norris.
Last but not least, Detroit would have had to sacrifice some kind of prospects to bring in the former Rays starter. The Tigers have done well to rebuild the team’s farm system, but they don’t exactly have the kind of depth the Chicago Cubs used to in the minor leagues.
All things considered, it’s probably a good thing that the Detroit Tigers didn’t part with any kind of prospects (or compromise the team’s financial future) to acquire the 34-year-old from the San Diego Padres.