It was reported while most of us slept last evening that, as rumored, the Padres have signed free agent starting pitcher James Shields to a four year, $75 million contract, with an option for a fifth year. Here is Chris Cotillio, from MLB Daily Dish, with the news, via Twitter:
Sources: #Padres in agreement with James Shields on four-year deal. Includes club option for fifth season.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) February 9, 2015
The signing concludes an active offseason for the Padres and new GM A.J. Preller, as Shields now joins outfielders Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, third baseman Will Middlebrooks, catcher Derek Norris and pitcher Brandon Morrow who now call Petco Park home.
The move to Petco is a positive one for Shields, as he moves from the American League to the National League, so I expect his ERA and WHIP to drop a bit and his K% to increase slightly. Shields is coming off a season where he went 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 3.56 xFIP, a 1.18 WHIP, but with a declining strikeout rate.
I have to say it is surprising to see a pitcher with Shields track record waiting till early February to sign a free agent contract. He has thrown 200 or more innings in eight consecutive seasons, but has seen his K/9 drop in each of the last two seasons. But, he keepers the ball on the ground, walks less than two batters every nine innings, and still strikes out more than seven batters per nine innings.
The move to San Diego is a positive one for Shield's fantasy value, as we could see a slight drop in his ERA, WHIP and K/9 with the move. At the very least, his numbers remain the same and he is still a very productive starting pitcher for fantasy owners in 2015.
I ranked Shields as my #21 ranked starting pitcher when I published my Top 100 Starting Pitcher rankings back in late December. I don't see myself moving Shields in my rankings, but there is a chance I might move up a spot or two at the most, but I like Jered Weaver and Gerrit Cole, who are ranked just above him, a little more.