A few teams have talked to padres about James shields. O's are one. Red sox have talked to SD about SP; shields logical
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) March 25, 2016
OK, let’s do a sniff test.
Sure, given that the Padres are in a semirebuild and Shields is 34 and expensive, his current value to the team is minimal. His first season in San Diego was certainly a disappointment, given that he posted his highest ERA (3.91) since 2010, despite moving to the National League. He led the majors with 33 home runs allowed. And his walk rate spiked to a career-worst 9.4 percent; he walked 81 batters after issuing just 47 free passes in more innings the year before for Kansas City.
On the other hand, he hit 200 innings for the ninth straight season and 33 starts for the eighth season in a row. This is a guy who never misses a start, something teams certainly place a lot of value on. The trouble in trading him is the contract: Would he have made $21 million per season as a free agent this past winter? No, not based on his 2015 level of production. So it will be difficult for the Padres to expect a team to take on Shields’ contract and get a prospect or two in return.
Sure. The Red Sox's rotation currently sports just two proven, durable starters in David Price and Rick Porcello, and Porcello was worse than Shields last season. Clay Buchholz obviously is injury prone, Eduardo Rodriguez will begin the season on the DL with a knee injury and Joe Kelly has a 4.60 ERA in 35 starts with Boston. With Rodriguez out, knuckleballer Steven Wright has the inside track on the No. 5 rotation slot.
As for the Orioles, they are staring at a rotation that has replaced Wei-Yin Chen with Yovani Gallardo, likely a slight downgrade, and hoping for bounce-back seasons from Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez. The inconsistent Ubaldo Jimenez is still here, but Kevin Gausman just received a cortisone injection in his right shoulder, making him questionable for opening week.
3. Does it make sense that the Red Sox would want to trade Pablo Sandoval?
I don’t know, does Aroldis Chapman throw hard? Sandoval might have been the worst regular player in the majors last season, hitting .245 with a .292 OBP, minimal power and feet-in-cement defense. He can’t hit left-handed pitchers and -- let’s be honest here -- he’s fat, which maybe wasn’t such a big deal when he was younger. But do you want to bet on a fat guy who is 29 remaining productive? Anyway, he’s also owed $77.4 million. Who wants that?
That’s the problem with a Shields-Sandoval trade. The Padres aren’t going to take on more money, so the Red Sox would have to at least even out that part of the deal. Even then, the Red Sox would be left with an innings-eating starter, and the Padres would be left with -- don’t do it, Dave -- a third baseman coming off a horrid season.
So it seems to me the Red Sox would have to include at least $12 million in cash and a prospect of some note. One of their top guys? No, they’re not going to trade Yoan Moncada or Andrew Benintendi for Shields, but maybe somebody from the bottom end of their top 15 prospects plus another live arm. And the Padres would take on Sandoval, hoping a return to the West Coast helps him rediscover his swing.
As for the Orioles, the biggest hurdle would seem to be adding more salary to a payroll that already is an estimated $25 million to $30 million higher than it was last year. Additionally, their big-money guys are signed beyond 2016, except for Matt Wieters, so taking another long-term, expensive deal would seem unlikely.
So I see slim odds of anything working for either the Red Sox or Orioles. The Padres’ best bet probably is to hope Shields gets off to a hot start and pitches better than he did last year, thus getting more teams interested while heading toward the trade deadline.