Mariners August Trade Candidate: James Shields
The Seattle Mariners still need starting pitching. Yes, the offense is bad right now, but there isn’t a whole lot you can do. However, you can improve your pitching staff.
So yes, Felix Hernandez will get another start. He “earned” it with his mediocre start against the Blue Jays. However, that doesn’t mean the Mariners don’t need another arm. Whether it is the potential ineffectiveness of Felix or Wade LeBlanc, or injury with James Paxton, or an innings cap on Marco Gonzalez, the Mariners will need another arm to navigate their final 50 games.
So today, we look at one potential option to pursue in trade, Chicago White Sox starter James Shields. Now before you roll your eyes and tell me he sucks, consider this: he is worth 1.5 more wins than King Felix in 2018.
Look, nobody would be thrilled with Shields. In fact, he hasn’t been really good since 2014. Yet, he is still an upgrade, at least statistically, to Felix Hernandez. Let’s look at the numbers.
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The 33-year-old right-handed pitcher is having a decent 2018 season. In 23 starts, Shields has posted a 4.56 ERA, a 4.65 FIP, a 1.29 WHIP, while throwing 144 innings. These numbers by themselves don’t represent a huge upgrade over King Felix. However, there may be more than meets the eye.
For example, since May 1 Shields has made 17 starts. In those 17 starts, he has posted a 4.16 ERA with an opponents slash line of .226/.290/.409 over 114.2 innings. So what we have is a not so small sample size showing Shields as a solid-average pitcher in 2018.
Contractually, Shields would cost the Mariners roughly $4 million for the remainder of the 2018 season, and he comes with a little bit of club control. The contract includes a team option worth $16 million. While it is unlikely Jerry Dipoto would activate the said option, the buyout is a reasonable $2 million.
Shields is sure to clear waivers, but even if the Mariners claimed him, they could easily absorb the $6 million should the White Sox choose to dump him on the team.
The real question is: is James Shields better than Felix Hernandez? Honestly, yes, although maybe not significantly so. And even if you believe it 100%, do you think Shields is better than Erasmo Ramirez? I can’t say for sure. It’s probably pretty close.
Should the Mariners pursue James Shields? Sure. He won’t cost you anything in trade and might be an upgrade over 40% of your rotation. It isn’t a sexy move, and if the team doesn’t go down that road, nobody would be upset. But incremental improvements to the fringes of the roster can add up. And right now, every bit of improvement counts.