The White Sox acquired James Shields and more than $30 million in cash from the San Diego Padres on Saturday.
White Sox minor-leaguers Erik Johnson and Fernando Tatis Jr. were included in the deal for the 34-year-old right-hander, who is owed roughly $58 million on his current contract.
The teams have talked since last weekend about a trade for Shields, who is 2-7 with a 4.28 ERA in 11 starts this season. Shields’ ERA sat at 3.06 before his last outing in Seattle earlier this week, when he allowed a career-high 10 earned runs in 2 2/3 innings.
“He has a very long track record of durability and consistent performance,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “Our scouts and analysts feel he’s going to provide us with a solid presence in that rotation.
“What we’re hoping for from James is, he’s proven he can be an elite starter in the American League historically, but that’s not what we’re asking of him going forward. The higher quality his performance is going forward, the better. But at the same time, with the way our rotation sets up the next few years, we just needed him to be a nice stabilizing presence in the middle of it.”
Multiple National League scouts believes James would thrive playing for a contending team. One said Shields has been hurt by the Padres’ porous defense.
Shields should fit nicely in the team’s rotation behind Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. He went 114-90 in nine seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals, including 14 games en route to an American League pennant in 2014. He has started at least 33 games a season since 2008.
Hahn has made no secret he wants to try and add on to a team that has slumped of late after a very hot start. The White Sox are 6-17 since they won 23 of their first 33 games and sit in third place in the AL Central. One area he hoped to improve is the starting rotation beyond Sale and Quintana. The White Sox continue to have high hopes for Carlos Rodon, but they’re also aware he could have ups and downs throughout his second season. They also need more production from the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. Hahn said Saturday the decision on who is the odd man out of the rotation — Mat Latos or Miguel Gonzalez — hasn’t been determined. He also said when Shields would debut is up in the air. Shields’ next turn in the Padres’ rotation was scheduled to come Sunday.
Hahn also made it clear the White Sox have more needs than just the rotation. But he wanted to move quickly to solve that area and had financial flexibility to take on part of Shields’ contract because of the $11.5 million left after Adam LaRoche’s abrupt retirement freed up $13 million (Miguel Gonzalez received $1.5 million in April).
News of the talks surfaced between the sides last weekend. Part of the difficulty in negotiating the deal is the potential for Shields to walk away at the end of the season and become a free agent because he has an opt out in his contract.
Shields is set to earn $21 million each of the next two seasons — the Padres are on the hook for a large chunk of that — and has a $2 million buyout on his 2019 option. While the free-agent market for pitchers is razor thin next offseason, whether or not Shields, who turns 35 in December, would find a more lucrative offer remains to be seen.
“We had to get to the point of being comfortable from an economic standpoint how he was going to fit in going forward given his projected performance and what we were hoping to be able to surround him with it,” Hahn said. “The scenario first on the talent and then what if he leaves, what if he stays. As always, the talent part takes a lot of work in an exchange and this one was more complicated by economic factor.”
The 2015 International League pitcher of the year, Johnson hasn’t been able to stick in the majors with the White Sox. He had nice auditions with the club in 2013 and 2015, winning six of nine decisions in 11 starts. But Johnson struggled when given a chance to make the rotation in 2014 and hasn’t been able to get on track this season.
The former second-rounder out of Cal, Johnson is 7-6 with a 4.50 ERA in 18 major league starts. He’s 0-2 with a 6.94 ERA in two starts this season.
Tatis, whose father played for five teams and hit 34 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1999, signed an international deal for $700,000 with the White Sox last July.