White Sox: Why James Shields is a valuable trade chip

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 11: Starting pitcher James Shields #33 of the Chicago White Sox delivers the ball againjst the Tampa Bay Rays at Guaranteed Rate Field on April 11, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Rays 2-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 11: Starting pitcher James Shields #33 of the Chicago White Sox delivers the ball againjst the Tampa Bay Rays at Guaranteed Rate Field on April 11, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Rays 2-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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With the White Sox in the middle of a rebuild, the question around the upcoming July trade deadline is not whether the team will buy or sell.

The questions will be about who the White Sox will deal and who will they get.

And, believe it or not, James Shields is actually proving to be a trade chip that could bring in someone of value.

He hasn’t been that good

It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of Big Game James. I’m probably still jaded from sitting through the June 13, 2016 game against the Tigers. In this game, he gave up seven runs in three innings. The newly-acquired pitcher was proving to be more of a bust than a boom, especially after the 4-11 loss the outing five days prior. Even though the Sox won the game against the Tigers, Shields was horrible. By the time his first two games for the Sox were over, his ERA was 18.00 after allowing 14 runs in 7 innings.

I should probably give up my grudge against Shields because his 2018 season could actually help the team. Don’t get me wrong, he’s no Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom, or Max Scherzer. But, he’s not awful right now. (I’m still not adding him to my fantasy team).

He’s not too bad this season

Despite, having a league-leading nine losses, he has an ERA of 4.59 – which is actually the lowest he’s had since coming to Chicago. He has also pitched in 100 innings, which ranks him 13th in the MLB.

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Right now, the average ERA in the MLB is 4.08 according to Baseball Reference. This puts Shields not too far from average. It actually places him in the 68th spot in the MLB. For comparison, these AL Central pitchers are near his ERA: Michael Fulmer – 4.17, Carlos Carrasco – 4.24, Jacob Junis – 4.43, and Jake Odorizzi – 4.97. I don’t think anyone would say no to having any of these pitchers on the Sox roster. And, Shields is right there, in the mix with them all.

Not elite, but not in the dregs

Interestingly, Shields also has 68 strikeouts. This number doesn’t put him near the top in Ks – the elite pitchers like Scherzer, Chris Sale, and Gerrit Cole have more than double the Ks that Shields has. Scherzer actually has almost 100 more than Shields has.

But, on a positive note, Shields has not given up an immense number of home runs. At 12, he’s way below the 19 given up by Bartolo Colon and Jacob Junis.

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So, with a manageable number of home runs, a near-average ERA, and an inning-eating ability, James Shields will be a valuable asset for the Sox come the trade deadline. There are plenty of teams that need a guy just like Shields to devour innings. I, for one, will be more than happy to see him go and I’m very glad that he’s managed to make himself look better than he has in his two previous Sox seasons.