White Sox acquire James Shields for Johnson, Tatis
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DETROIT — The White Sox bolstered their pitching staff Saturday by acquiring veteran right-hander and former All-Star James Shields from the San Diego Padres in exchange for right-hander Erik Johnson and 17-year-old infield prospect Fernando Tatis Jr.
For a beat-up team holding firm to the belief it’s a contender in the American League Central despite losing nine of their last 11 games, 17 of the last 23 and a 3-11 record against division foes not named the lowly Minnesota Twins, it was a welcome shot in the arm. These Sox need something — anything — to prop themselves back up seeing a 23-10 start dwindle into 29-27.
“It’s a good pickup,” third baseman Todd Frazier said after the Sox — with ace Chris Sale pitching — lost to the Detroit Tigers 7-4 to fall to 2-6 on what broadcaster Ken Harrelson called ‘the road trip from hell.’ For one, he’s back in [familiar territory in the] American League and two it gives him a boost to push on and help us in this division. I can’t wait to see what he has in store. I’m sure he’s fired up to play for a contender.”
With the Padres willing to eat $29 million of the $56 remaining on Shields’ contract, which calls for annual salaries of $21 million through 2018, the Sox were all in on landing an innings eater with plenty of postseason experience. White Sox will pay $27 million, including $5 million this season, $10 million in 2017 and $10 million in 2018 if Shields doesn’t exercise opt-out clauses after the 2016 season.
“We believe this move makes the entire pitching staff stronger, and the club benefits in terms of pitching depth and quality,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “He has proven to be one of the most dependable and durable pitchers in the major leagues over his career.”
Hahn knows the Sox need to shore up the offense, bullpen and bench as well but “felt it was important to move early” on landing Shields, who is 2-7 with a 4.28 ERA this season, a figure that jumped by more than a full run after his last outing in which he allowed 10 runs against the Seattle Mariners. Hahn was more enamored with the 3.06 ERA posted over his first 10 starts. His addition to a rotation that includes Sale (9-2, 2.54), Jose Quintana (5-5, 2.13) and Carlos Rodon (2-5, 4.41) and right-handers Mat Latos (6-1, 4.02) and Miguel Gonzalez (0-1, 4.09) could mean a move to the bullpen for Gonzalez.
Shields has made 30 or more starts and pitched 200 or more innings in each of his last nine seasons. He owns a career ERA of 3.76. He was scheduled to pitch for the Padres on Sunday and when he pitches and how it affects the rotation was being discussed Saturday night.
Johnson, 26, is 2-1 with a 2.94 ERA over eight starts at AAA Charlotte, where he was the International League Pitcher of the Year in 2015. He was 0-2 with a 6.94 ERA in two starts with the Sox this season.
Tatis was signed as an international free agent for $700,000 in 2015. He is the son of former major league third baseman Fernando Tatis Sr.
The Sox saved $13 million in salary when Adam LaRoche retired, and Hahn said there is still money to spend to improve the roster.
“We we are in a position over the coming weeks and months to augment the roster if the opportunities arise,” he said.