Looking to shed salary while also adding to their organizational depth, the Padres traded veteran righthander James Shields to the White Sox for righthander Erik Johnson and minor league shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. on Saturday afternoon. The Padres will also reportedly pay about half of the $56 million remaining on Shields’ contract. Exact figures have not been officially announced. Johnson likely slots into Shields’ spot in the Padres starting rotation, while Shields adds depth to a White Sox staff that entered the day sixth in MLB with a 3.53 ERA.
The California native was the White Sox’s second-round pick out of Cal in the 2011 draft and reached the majors quickly, making his major league debut as a September callup in 2013. Since then, Johnson has been up and down sporadically, making 18 starts over the past four seasons with Chicago but never more than six in a season. Overall he is 7-6, 4.50 in the majors and has struggled with his control, issuing 49 walks in 98 innings with 77 strikeouts. He was pitching at Triple-A Charlotte at the time of the trade, where he had a 2.94 ERA in eight starts. Johnson is likely to enter San Diego’s rotation immediately in Shields’ old spot, with expected Padres starters Tyson Ross, Robbie Erlin and Cesar Vargas all currently on the disabled list. He was the No. 63 prospect in the BA Top 100 in 2014 and features a low-90s fastball, mid-80s slider, low 80s changeup and mid-70s curveball.
|Fernando Tatis Jr., ss Age: 17
The White Sox signed Tatis as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic last July 2 for $700,000. Though a shortstop currently, the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder is expected to transition to third base or the outfield as he grows, particularly to take advantage of his strong throwing arm, which is largely considered his best tool. The son of 11-year major league veteran Fernando Tatis, the younger Tatis has not seen any game action yet in his young career. BA did not rank him as one of the top 30 international prospects in 2015 or one of the White Sox top 30 prospects before this season. Tatis is the third Latin American shortstop age 20 or younger the Padres have acquired in as many years, following Jose Rondon (in 2014) and Javier Guerra (in 2015).
The Padres signed “Big Game James” to the largest free-agent contract in franchise history in February 2015, a four-year deal worth $73 million plus a $16 million team option, with a $2 million buyout, for a fifth year. Shields was expected to be the ace of a revamped Padres team aiming for playoffs, but the righthander largely fell short, going 15-14 with a 4.00 ERA in 44 starts for the Padres. He led the majors with 33 home runs allowed in 2015 despite pitching most of his games in pitcher-friendly Petco Park. His strikeout rate dropped from 9.6 to 7.6 this season and he got shelled for 10 runs in 2 2/3 innings in his last start, a 16-4 loss to Seattle. One day after the outing, Padres chairman Ron Fowler publicly blasted Shields in a radio interview, telling XPRS 1090-AM in San Diego “To have a starter like Shields perform as poorly as he did (Tuesday) is an embarrassment to the team, an embarrassment to him," Fowler said.
|San Diego (NL)