During the FanSided Faux Winter Meetings, we’ve been very active in making deals to bolster the Chicago Cubs, especially pitching. After being outbid for the services of Jon Lester, the Cubs signed James Shields to a four-year, $85 million deal with a team option for year five.
While many feel like anything less than Lester or Max Scherzer is settling, Shields is an obvious upgrade to the starting staff. In 2014, he was 14-8, with a 3.21 ERA. With a WHIP of 1.18, and his lowest walk total since 2008 to go along with a HR/9 of 0.9. Shields helps to minimize any damage by limiting baserunners.
He is 114-90 in his nine-year career, with a 3.72 ERA. For the second-straight season, Shields started 34 games, a career-high. He’s surpassed 200+ innings in every season but his rookie year, and even if not considered an ace compared to other free agents available, is an immediate upgrade for the Cubs.
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His struggles in the postseason seemed to leave a sour taste in people’s mouths, but it is experience he’s gained. The Cubs will gladly take a pitcher that has been to the World Series on their roster. Shields spent several years with Joe Maddon in Tampa, and the relationship there will help for a smooth transition for him to Chicago. This is NOT an Edwin Jackson type signing. Shields started 34 games the last two seasons, and lost only nine and eight games, respectively. He’s not just an innings eater, he’s a winner.
Part of the FS Faux Meetings is we do have to function within the team’s actual budget. While we could simply say “Let’s sign everybody”, we’ve tried to act in a manner similar to what we believe the Cubs front office will. We’ve used out depth in the farm system to build up pitching, and opted to keep free agent signings minimal, and to not get into a bidding war over them.