Less than a year ago, AJ Preller acquired James Shields in a flurry of trades that had everyone in the baseball world looking at the Padres in awe. With MLB's Winter Meetings kicking off tomorrow, everyone's curious about what Preller will have up his sleeve this time. But one thing we've learned recently is that he will be actively shopping Shields in hopes of moving the right-hander and his backloaded contract this offseason.
As a free agent following his 2014 World Series run with the Royals, Shields signed a four-year $75 million contract with the Padres last offseason. He got $12 million for the first year and is owed $63 million over the next three, making him an expense the Padres would rather unload onto someone else.
Shields was the Padres' ace in 2015, but statistically had one of the worst seasons of his career. While his 13-7 record, 3.91 ERA, and 1.33 WHIP seemed impressive, they were a regression for the starter, who in his four years prior to coming to San Diego posted a 3.17 ERA and 1.15 WHIP while earning an All Star nod and several votes for MVP and the Cy Young Award. In 2015 he also gave up a Major-League-leading 33 home runs to opponents, 19 of which came at home despite Petco Park's pitcher-friendly reputation.
The soon-to-be 34-year-old, following a season that didn't quite live up to expectations, might be too much of a financial risk for the Padres to continue pursuing, especially going into a 2016 season which many believe will not be one where the Padres will be contenders. So far this offseason the team looks to be focusing on rebuilding, and keeping Shields will cost them both money and potential acquisition of organizational depth.
But it remains to be seen whether there is a team out there willing to take on Shields' contract. The Padres would likely have to expand the deal and package another player along with Shields to make it more enticing, or they might have to eat some of his contract in order to move him. Whatever the case, if we've learned anything about AJ Preller this past year it's that he will make something work.