The MLB season has accelerated full speed towards waiver trades, and a lot of big names have emerged on the market such as Matt Harvey, Billy Hamilton and Andrew McCutchen. The Chicago Cubs already made a big splash Tuesday by acquiring second baseman, and former Cub killer, Daniel Murphy.
It’s hard to gauge whether they’re done just yet. If not, a name to keep an eye on is Chicago White Sox pitcher James Shields.
With Yu Darvish out for the year, Tyler Chatwood walking the world and Mike Montgomery on the DL, it leaves a gaping hole in their starting rotation. While some argue that Jesse Chavez could start, his role may be best suited out of the pen at this point while Brandon Morrow recovers from his injury. But Chavez has been very solid since joining the Cubs, so a spot start may be in order.
The same could also be said for Jorge De La Rosa. However, De La Rosa may have to stay in the pen out of necessity as all of the Cubs’ lefty arms are hurt except Justin Wilson and Randy Rosario.
With Friday’s starter currently TBD, it seems they may have to pursue a starter aggressively on the waiver market. Harvey, who is set to face the Cubs on Friday, was claimed by an unknown team Wednesday. But The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney tweeted that the Cubs aren’t the team who claimed him.
The best option though may be in the form of Shields. It may be tough for Cub fans to swallow another trade with the White Sox, especially with the Jose Quintana deal still fresh in their minds. But, honestly, can Shields REALLY be much worse than Chatwood?
The Cubs are looking for a fifth starter. Someone who can eat innings and still give the team a chance to win. Shields is the epitome of this trait. While his record sits at an abysmal 5-14, that isn’t necessarily a reflection of how he has pitched. The White Sox are 47-78 and in a rebuild, so naturally Shields’ record would be bad.
However, when you start to really dive into his numbers, he’s actually been very solid. While he has the occasional horrific start (like most pitchers not named Scherzer or deGrom), he currently sits seventh in the league in total innings pitched. Shields also has 16 quality starts in 26 outings, and he only has five starts this year where he has pitched fewer than 6 innings.
It’s also worth mentioning that Shields has 62 walks in 164 innings. That’s much better than Tyler Chatwood’s 93 in 101.2 innings, which leads the majors.
The asking price should be low with the White Sox still in rebuild mode and Shields being 36. It certainly should cost significantly less than a younger pitcher with more potential upside. There also is no long-term commitment associated with Shields. His contract has a team option after this year, and the Cubs most likely wouldn’t it pick up to keep him in 2019.
Down the stretch, a guy like Shields could be huge for a ball club looking for someone to eat innings until an injured arm returns before the playoffs. He also has playoff pedigree if they really needed him to start come October.
That’s why he could be exactly what the Cubs need to cure their rotation woes.