The White Sox will need at least two starting pitchers for the 2019 campaign and neither spot should be filled by James Shields.
The 13-year veteran pitcher has a $2 million buy-out and the White Sox has a $16 million option. It seems like a no-brainer to spend $2 million and give Shields his walking papers.
But, there is actually some discussion on keeping Shields around for another year.
In fact, Vinnie Dubar with NBC Sports argued that the Sox should keep Shields around for another season. His argument is that the young pitchers need to have a helpful veteran on staff for guidance. Dubar wrote:
"“He’s been a particularly strong influence on Lucas Giolito, with the two set up next to each other in the clubhouse all season — that is until Michael Kopech arrived and Shields requested Kopech slide in between him and Giolito, again for mentoring purposes.”"
Sure, a veteran presence in the clubhouse can be valuable, but only if that presence is strong. Shields has plenty of experience. Considering that Giolito was the worst pitcher in 2018, it’s easy to see what type of influence Shields had on him. While Giolito finished 57th in ERA rankings, Shields finished 51st. It’s worth wondering if Giolito would have been better without Shields mentoring him.
Dubar also argues that Shields should stick around because he can pitch so many innings. Sure, being a member of the 200-inning club is impressive. But, Shields had the worst ERA of all the 200-inning pitchers. His ERA was 4.53. The next highest ERA belonged to Dallas Keuchel – 3.74. Remember, that Shields in 2016 and 2017 had ERAs of 6.77 and 5.23 respectively.
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According to Dubar, Shields has enjoyed his time in Chicago. Shields said:
"“I’ve loved my time here, the guys are great, the coaching staff’s a great coaching staff, and the training staff, I can’t say enough about what they’ve done for me over the last three years. And just the organization itself has been an amazing organization to be a part of. So we’ll see where it goes this offseason.”"
I don’t see Shields saying that he would love to be back. Do you? I also keep considering the fact that the San Diego Padres traded Shields to the Sox and paid the majority of his contract. When a team pays for a player to play for someone else, it screams volumes about that player. The Padres gave him up for two players of very little value and they paid $38 million of Shield salary. They really didn’t want to keep Shields. I still have a hard time understanding why the Sox picked him up in the first place.
Why on earth would the Sox choose to take him for another season? The Sox can do better and they certainly should.