James Shields is on the move. On Saturday, the San Diego Padres announced that they've traded him to the Chicago White Sox.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune's Dennis Lin, the Padres acquired minor leaguers Fernando Tatis Jr. and Erik Johnson in exchange for the veteran pitcher.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported the Padres will pay $29 million of the remaining $56 million on Shields' deal.
MLB Network's Jon Heyman broke down the financial factors at play in relation to Shields' opt-out clause:
Shields, who agreed to a four-year deal with the Padres in February 2015, was supposed to be one of the final pieces in a rebuilding process general manager A.J. Preller started last winter by acquiring Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers.
Upton moved on to Detroit as a free agent this winter, while Kemp and Myers have had erratic stints with San Diego.
Lin pointed out the Padres' salary situation and Shields' contract presented problems for the team going forward:
But the 33-year-old's contract is backloaded, going from $10 million this season to $21 million in each of the next three. As well, it includes an opt-out clause after the 2016 World Series. What's more, the Padres have roughly $45 million committed to three other players—Kemp, Melvin Upton Jr. and Craig Kimbrel—for the next regular season.
It's not known if the 34-year-old would consider exercising his opt-out, though his struggles last season (a 1.33 WHIP and major league-high 33 home runs allowed in 202.1 innings) could convince him to play out the contract because teams aren't likely to pay him as much as he's set to earn.
Once things started falling apart for the Padres last year, rumblings about Shields being available surfaced. GammonsDaily.com's Peter Gammons reported before the All-Star break that San Diego was asking teams about their interest in Shields.
Nothing came of those discussions, though a new year brought new needs for many teams, and the Padres got off to a poor start.
This could be a good opportunity for the White Sox. Shields wasn't as good in 2015 as he was for most of his previous nine seasons with Tampa Bay and Kansas City, but there are reasons to be optimistic.
Chicago is a perfect team for Shields in terms of what it needs him to do. It has two aces at the front of the rotation in Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, which is one reason the team got off to such a good start in 2016.
Shields can slide into the No. 3 spot in the rotation behind Sale and Quintana, and Carlos Rodon—who's talented but has been inconsistent this season—will move back to No. 4. Mat Latos was a pleasant surprise in April with a 1.84 ERA over 29.1 innings, but that number ballooned to 6.41 in May, per Baseball-Reference.com.
The move may hurt Shields' effectiveness, as U.S. Cellular Field ranks 11th among the most home run-friendly parks in the majors this season, per ESPN.com's park factors. He's not an extreme fly-ball pitcher, but his fly-ball percentage has been over 30 percent in each of the last four seasons, per FanGraphs.
The White Sox are likely looking for a steady pitcher on whom they can rely every five days. Even when Shields has struggled, he's always been able to take the ball, making at least 31 starts and tossing 200 innings in each of the previous nine seasons.
A fresh start for Shields, who shined during his two years pitching in front of MLB's best defense in Kansas City, could be just what he needed.