The Houston Astros were aggressive in July looking for starting pitcher. They found one a week before the deadline acquiring Scott Kazmir in mid-July. However, the Astros were reportedly not done in that area and kept scouring the market for one more starter as the deadline neared.
That starter ended up being Mike Fiers from the Milwaukee Brewers. Though not a frontline-starter the Astros sought, Fiers will fit nicely at the back-end-of-the-rotation. But even with the additions of Kazmir and Fiers, the Astros may not be done adding to their rotation.
As of this writing, the Astros five-man rotation includes Dallas Keuchel, Kazmir, Collin McHugh, Fiers, and Scott Feldman. We know the Astros recently sent down Lance McCullers Jr. to the Minors, though he will likely come back up once September hits. The Astros want to limit his innings and it’s unclear if he’ll rejoin the rotation once called up or if they’ll pitch him out of the bullpen.
Even though the Astros rotation is pretty solid, I think it could use some guy nicknamed “Big Game James” from the Padres.
The San Diego Padres signed James Shields to a four-year, $73 million deal with a fifth year club option at $16 million this past season. The deal paid him just $10 million this season, and will give Shields another $21 million each of the next three season before the club option in 2019.
Shields cleared waivers this weekend after no team claimed him. No team claimed him because had a team done so, the Padres could have simply dumped Shields and his entire contract on them. No team was willing to take on his full salary, but it’s possible a team would be willing to trade for him if the Padres agree to pay off a chunk of his contract. The amount the Padres are willing to eat will determine how great their return would be for their prized offseason signing.
Since Shields cleared waivers, any team can trade for him over the next three weeks before the August 31st waiver deadline. I believe and expect the Astros to be one of those teams calling about his services.
The 33-year old has a 3.75 ERA in 24 starts this season, an ERA higher than he’s had the last four seasons. His high ERA can be attributed to his abnormally high HR/9 rate, which has jumped from 0.91 last season to 1.48 this year. The number is even more interesting since he moved from Kansas City to Petco Park, one of the best pitcher’s parks in the country.
Working in Shields’ favor, however, is his 9.84 K/9 rate, which would be the best he’s had in his career. Combine that with the fact that Shields has been a workhorse his entire career, and there’s reason to believe he can keep being a pretty good pitcher into his mid-30’s.
“Big Game James” has always been a pitcher you can count on during the regular season. He’s made over 30 starts in every season since 2007 and has been a big part of some late-season runs. However, Shields hasn’t pitched so well in the playoffs in his career, amassing a 5.46 ERA in 59.1 postseason innings. Just last year with the Royals, Shields finished with a 6.12 ERA in 25 postseason innings.
So why do I still believe the Astros should go after Shields? Because he improves your team. If you can go into September with a rotation that includes Keuchel, Kazmir, Shields, and then two of McHugh, McCullers, or Fiers, then you’re giving yourself the opportunity to win every single night. Scott Feldman doesn’t give you the best chance to win every night.
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Of course a deal for Shields would also be a long-term benefit as well. If Shields can continue producing at a level like the last four seasons, he could be a better match for the Astros than trying to sway a big-time free agent this coming offseason. David Price, Johnny Cueto, and Jordan Zimmerman are three big-time starters that will be available in the offseason but that means you both need to convince them to come AND give them a six/seven-year deal just to join the team.
With Shields, the Astros would have a “big three” in their rotation for this year’s run, and would give the Astros a solid #2/#3 pitcher for the next few years as well.
Expect Luhnow and the Astros to continue looking to improve the team through trades up until the August 31st waiver deadline.
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