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If Padres sign James Shields, will it be enough to win the NL West?

  • David Whitlock
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

James Shields big arm is coveted around MLB; he is expected to sign soon
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

The final domino in the 2015 free agent pitcher bonanza appears poised to fall and the San Diego Padres might be poised to win.  Multiple reports are indicating that former Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals ace James Shields will make a decision on his 2015 team on Monday. William Boor reports that multiple sources indicate the busy San Diego Padres are the ‘favorite’ to land the big right hand pitcher.

Several teams and dollar amounts have been linked to Shields throughout the winter, but as of Saturday, the Padres have emerged as the front-runner, according to’s Joe Frisaro.

USA Today also reported the Padres as favorites to land the right-hander, but added that several teams are still in the hunt.

The Friars have been a surprisingly active team this offseason.  They have completely overhauled their outfield, landing All-Stars Justin Upton and Matt Kemp, as well as 2013 Rookie of the Year Wil Myers via trade.  They also upgraded at catcher with a trade for All-Star backstop Derek Norris from the Oakland Athletics.

But is all this enough, even if they land Shields?  The National League West has the defending World Champions in the San Francisco Giants (who have won three in five years plus have the Sports Illustrated 2014 Sportsman of the Year in Madison Bumgarner).  The Division also has the high payroll Los Angeles Dodgers ($260M projected in 2015) who have the best pitcher in baseball and reigning National League MVP in Clayton Kershaw.

The Padres finished 8-games under .500 in 2014, to make a leap to 25-30 games over and win the West will require three things to happen.

1) The new sluggers (Kemp and Upton) will have to be healthy and adapt their game to pitcher-friendly Petco Park.  Kemp has been hampered by injuries, including one that almost nullified the trade, although many would be surprised to know he played 150 games in 2014.  It might also surprise you to know that Justin Upton has only exceeded 30 HR once, a number likely to dip in the spacious outfield of Petco Park.

2) The Padres will need to get some consistent pitching from the top of their rotation:  (presuming) James Shields, Andrew Cashner, Tyler Ross, and Ian Kennedy.  After Shields, there aren’t big names, but all were effective in 2014 (all with ERA under 4.00).  With emerging Omar Despaigne filling out the last spot, they probably have more depth than their NL West competition.

3) Who is the closer?  After years of relying on Huston Street, they dealt their veteran closer at the deadline last year.  Right now, uneven Joaquin Benoit is the guy, but just ask the Detroit Tigers whether that is a reliable option.  In what is expected to be a tight race in the West, you can’t afford to give up many in the ninth.

It will also depend on how healthy the Dodgers and Giants stay.  It is an odd number year, where the Giants usually fizzle.  The Dodgers have unloaded some of their talent (Kemp and Hanley Ramirez) so they may not be as good as they were in 2014 when they won the west.

So the answer to the question:  Yes they can but signing James Shields isn’t the end-all, things will have to go their way.  The NL West will be one of the more fun races to watch in 2015.

– David Whitlock

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David Whitlock

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David (a.k.a. Longhorndave or lhd_on_sports) joined the staff late in the 2012 season and moved to Site Manager in early 2013. A lifelong Houston Astros fan (and mini-season ticket holder for 9 years) he attends 20+ games per year. A statistics freak, David still keeps score the "old fashioned way" on occasion (and has kept manual score of World Series games since 1986 and retains the sheets). He was a featured guest weekly on the Phil Naessens Show. He is also a Texas Longhorns alumnus and huge football and baseball fan of his alma mater. When he isn't watching or writing about baseball, he works as a contractor at NASA Johnson Space Center. He lives by the mantra "a bad day at the ballpark is better than a good day anywhere else."

2 Responses to If Padres sign James Shields, will it be enough to win the NL West?

  • I don’t think the Padres, Giants or Dodgers need to be 25-30 games over .500 to win the division. The Dodgers were 26 games over last year (94-68) and they did it by having a winning record against the other 4 teams in their division. They were 10-9 against the Giants and 12-7 against the Padres, but they were 13-6 against the Rockies and an incredible 15-4 against the Diamondbacks. That’s 24 games over .500 in 76 divisional games and 2 games over the other 86 games against everybody else (and they were 6-1 against the Braves!).

    For 2015, the Giants always play the Dodgers tough (11-8 in ’13 when they were 10 games under .500) and the Padres are much improved, while the Diamondbacks are a better team than last year’s record and can improve with health and some better pitching performances. That reduces the chances of the Dodgers running away with the division, and increases the chances less than 90 wins will win it. That puts three teams, maybe four, in the hunt.

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