White Sox: James Shields Trade Not Looking So Bad Now

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 09: James Shields
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 09: James Shields /

The White Sox acquisition of James Shields was a head scratcher for some. Now it might not look so bad.

Rick Hahn has done a phenomenal job reshaping the Chicago White Sox roster. It seems like every trade he makes, he strikes gold. Just look at all the talent he added to the farm system in 2017. The acquisition of James Shields may be the one trade that makes you scratch your head. I mean, the Sox gave up a top 100 prospect in Fernando Tatis Jr. for Shields during the 2016 season. A veteran pitcher who’s had better days. Is it possible, though, that this trade isn’t as bad as it seems?

Hindsight is definitely 20-20 and it usually takes awhile to figure out how a trade will work out. When you look at Shields’ production, it’s easy to say the White Sox lost this trade miserably. In 33 starts, he is 9-19 with an ERA well over five. That’s pretty bad. And in return, Hahn gave the San Diego Padres Erik Johnson and the aforementioned Tatis Jr.

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Sports is all about the money. So let’s take a look at it. Shields signed a four year $75 million contract with an option for 2019 with San Diego back in 2014. The club option in 2019 is for $16 million or a $2 million buyout. The right-hander was sent to Chicago after just one year into his deal. So he was still owed $63 million over the final three seasons. And guess how much the Sox are going to pay? If you include his buyout, they will pay him just $27 million.

From an economics standpoint, that’s not bad. They are basically paying Shields an average of $9 million per season. Sure, Hahn gave up a top prospect but he also got just over $30 million, as well. And at the time it filled a need. Shields was struggling to start the season but did go 13-7 with a 3.91 ERA in 2015.

Let’s also not forget the White Sox had Tim Anderson, who they viewed as the shortstop of the future, in the system. In a way that made Tatis Jr. expendable. And now they have a ton of other talents in the minors. There’s no way Hahn could’ve known he would bring in the talent he did but I don’t think the Sox are kicking themselves for not having Tatis Jr. in their system right now. And by the way, Johnson hasn’t amounted to much.

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Was the trade for Shields bad? Absolutely. But it’s not as bad as it seems. He’s been pretty durable throughout his career and when healthy, has really eaten up innings. That’s all you can really ask from the veteran pitcher. Maybe they trade him at the deadline in 2018 and get something for him. If not, then they will happily pay him the $2 million buyout and then be on their way.