Nearly three weeks ago, when the White Sox returned home from a six-game, two-city road trip, GM Rick Hahn announced he was ready to deal. He wanted to add to a club that was 24-14 and on top of the AL Central. It had been a rough go of it out on the road. The Sox dropped both series to the Rangers and Yankees and the bullpen had started to leak.
Although the bullpen has stopped most of the bleeding, the wound cost the White Sox the lead in the Division. They now look up at the Royals and Indians. Reinforcements are on the way.
The White Sox have acquired James Shields from San Diego. Erick Johnson (6.94 ERA in two starts covering 11.2 innings in 2016) and Fernando Tatis Jr., a 17-year old shortstop prospect are said to be headed to San Diego.
Shields’ contract status is somewhat complicated. He’s owed $21 million this season and is due the same total in 2017 and 2018. There is a $16 million team option in 2019 with a buyout of $2 million. Further, Shields holds an opt out clause after this season.
Further, the financial burden on the Sox is going to be lessened significantly. They’ll pay $5 million toward this year’s salary and cover $10 million in each of the next two seasons, should he not exercise the opt out.
That’s the nitty gritty of the deal. The upshot, at least from my perspective, is that this is a responsible yet aggressive move by the White Sox. In adding Shields to the mix, they get a quality veteran who could, if he so choses, be a part of the next two years of White Sox contention. Chris Sale and Jose Quintana already form one of the top one-two combinations in baseball and adding Shields to the mix adds strength to strength. Shields regularly goes deep into games. Only once this season has he failed to complete six innings in a start. That benefits every aspect of a ball club.
Moreover, the White Sox got Shields without having to tap into any of their three top prospects (Tim Anderson, Carson Fulmer or Spencer Adams). That does one of two things. It leaves the powder dry for making another impact move later on in the season or keeps the immediate future of the club intact as Anderson could easily make his major league debut this season–and make a difference.
The only missing piece of the equation is who gets bumped out of the rotation. Mat Latos got off to a stellar start to the year but his 1.84 April ERA exploded in the second month of the season; his ERA in May is 6.41 Miguel Gonzalez has turned in six starts of fairly yeoman’s work and the crafty right hander has a track record of success at the big league level with the stuff he’s featuring.
Still, it’s an upgrade on a number of fronts and the Sox, despite an 11-17 May are still well within striking distance in a competitive AL Central. There could be more moves on the horizon but starting with James Shields is getting things off on the right foot.