The White Sox are undoubtedly sellers this year at the annual July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. For a team on the rebuild such as themselves, normally that would be a fantastic concept. Teams tend to overpay for players at the deadline in hopes it can propel them to a World Series finish.
However, with the White Sox this year, they don’t have that many assets to sell. Most of their big-name players have already been traded, and while that has sped up the rebuild a little bit, it doesn’t do the team much good this season. However, they do have two names available that stand out: Jose Abreu and James Shields.
Abreu, at least for the time being, isn’t going anywhere. It would take a Chris Sale-like deal for general manager Rick Hahn to even entertain the idea of trading their star first-baseman. Shields on the other hand, is someone that has started to interest some contending teams.
According to MLB Trade Rumors, via Bruce Levine of 670 The Score, as of June 2, 2018, Shields has started appearing on some playoff-caliper teams radar. His underlying numbers are not eye-popping by any means, but he is soaking up innings. Out of 14 games started this season, Shields has failed to complete six innings only twice.
In his past ten starts, Shields has gone at least six innings, and allowed three earned runs or less in seven of those. Dating back to his May 17th start against the Texas Rangers, Shields has thrown 41.1 innings out of a possible 54.
His ERA, sitting at 4.63 on the year, has been dropping steadily since late-April. The reason for Shields’ recent success can be attributed to him finding a lower arm angle when throwing a pitch. That started last season in August, and his last six starts of 2017 saw an ERA in the low-to-mid 4.00 range.
In terms of finances, Shields isn’t going to break the bank either. Despite the fact that he is owed $21 million this season, the San Diego Padres are on the hook for $11 million of that. He does have a club option for the 2019 season that the White Sox would currently be on the hook for. If they choose not to use that, there is a $2 million buyout clause that the Padres would also have to pay for.
Every team in major league baseball would welcome starting pitching depth, but there are a couple division leaders that might be enticed to overpay for Shields. Both the New York Yankees and the Milwaukee Brewers are teams that need starting depth badly.
However, the Yankees are determined to stay under the $197 million luxury tax threshold, and Shields’ salary might push them over it. They still have four prospects in the top-100, according to MLB.com, but it’s unlikely they will want to sacrifice any of those players for essentially a one-year rental.
As for the Milwaukee Brewers, they won’t have salary space to deal with, but they aren’t flourishing in the prospects department. They only have two players in the top-100. In addition, they are awaiting the return of their ace pitcher from 2017, Jimmy Nelson, who is set to return sometime this season.
Even so, most analysts are predicting them to finish behind the Chicago Cubs, unless they can get another solid starting rotation arm. Will a repeat of 2008 happen, when the Brewers acquired CC Sabathia from the Cleveland Indians at the cost of four promising prospects? It won’t be that lucrative for the White Sox, but it could be something to look out for.
There are other teams that would welcome starting pitching, like the Cubs, but they are most likely not going to pursue Shields, especially after last season saw them give up their best prospect in the Jose Quintana deal. One way to sweeten a potential trade would be if the White Sox were to offer Jace Fry in the mix as well. Fry has emerged as one of the better arms in the bullpen, and has an ERA of 1.89 in 19 appearances this season. The postseason has emerged as a battle of the bullpens in recent years, and another reliable arm could be enough to make any team pull the trigger.
Let it be known that the While Sox will continue to make moves that will help stack their already fortified farm system. If Shields can continue to pitch the way that he is doing, and Fry continues to be a reliable bullpen option, there will be a team come July 31st that will be aggressive and go for the both of them. If the White Sox can get another quality prospect out of it, then Hahn will jump at it.