The San Diego Padres have agreed to sign free agent right-handed starter James Shields, according to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. It's a four-year deal with an option for a fifth season. The deal is worth $75 million, per reports, and the option is valued at $16 million.
Talks between the sides "heated up" and were "gaining momentum" as of this weekend, as Scott Miller of FOX Sports San Diego and Bleacher Report reported. The Padres had been named the favorite to sign Shields as of yesterday. He liked the idea of pitching there. The Marlins, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Giants, Red Sox, Cardinals, Yankees, and Cubs were all teams connected to Shields throughout the offseason.
The 33-year-old Shields is a native of Santa Clarita, California, a mere two and half drive from San Diego. He wanted to pitch on the west coast. The Padres obviously fit that bill. The All-Star righty was picked by the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 2000 MLB Draft and has since prospered, pitching nine big league seasons with the Rays and Royals, whom he was dealt to in 2012.
Shields is a workhorse; he has tossed 200 or more innings every year from 2007 forward. At 33, this was looked at as a problem by teams who had interest. Over the past three seasons, Shields has thrown more pitches than every other pitcher in the Major Leagues. Even though he has been good, no team was willing to give him the deal he initially wanted, which was in the five-year range.
This past season, Shields was 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA (3.59 FIP) and a 1.181 WHIP in 227 innings pitched. He had a 7.1 K/9 and a 1.7 BB/9, which ranked 6th in the American League amongst all qualified pitchers. Shields played an important role in getting the Royals to the playoffs. They went 21-13 when he pitched, and of his 34 appearances (all starts), he made 24 quality starts.
Metrics such as FIP and xFIP suggest that Shields' ERA was a little inflated by some good Royals defense. His 3.59 FIP says that his ERA was 0.38 runs deflated. On the other hand, his 3.56 xFIP, which includes a flat home run rate, says Shields' ERA was 0.35 runs deflated. Overall, he was worth 3.7 fWAR. In 2015, Steamer projections project Shields to be worth 3.0 fWAR.
James Shields represents a big addition to the Padres starting rotation that already includes Andrew Cashner, Odrisamer Despaigne, Ian Kennedy, and Tyson Ross. Their rotation posted a 3.55 ERA in 2014, which ranked 9th in baseball. Both FIP and xFIP, however, suggest that their rotation's ERA should have been 3.65. Regardless, Shields makes an already good rotation even better.
The Padres have been busy adding talent this offseason, acquiring Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, Derek Norris, and Will Middlebrooks via trade. It is impossible to know if all these additions will turn into wins, but regardless GM A.J. Preller and company have been busy trying to the best they can. It will only be a matter of time before we know.