Resurgent James Shields Drawing More Interest On Trade Market

Shields has produced six quality starts in his past seven outings.

Bruce Levine
June 02, 2018 - 5:24 pm
White Sox right-hander James Shields

Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today Sports

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By Bruce Levine--

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- The White Sox couldn't have dealt right-hander James Shields for even an average minor league prospect the past two seasons. After a resurgent 2018, that appears to be changing.

Shields produced another solid outing in his team's 5-0 loss to the Brewers at Guaranteed Rate Field on Saturday afternoon, going seven innings and allowing three runs on eight hits and a walk with six strikeouts. It was the sixth time in his last seven starts that he registered a quality start.

Afterward, Shields' competitive juices boiled over. While he's pitched well for a long stretch, he has a 1-6 record to show for his performance this season. The White Sox have only scored 21 runs total in the last nine games that Shields has started. 

Asked about his understanding of loss after loss during a rebuilding season, Shields had had enough Saturday.

"Frankly, I don't really care about the rebuild right now," Shields said. "I care about winning. They keep talking about rebuilding. I am trying to win ball games right now, period."

Shields has done a quality job of reinventing himself after he had a 5.85 ERA in 2016 and a 5.23 ERA in 2017. He was once an All-Star who relied heavily on his fastball, but Shields has now gone to his breaking ball more this season. 

It was a process, but Shields has become more comfortable. He had a 6.23 ERA through April, then produced a 3.38 ERA in May.

His frustration lies in the fact that the White Sox are 17-38, the second-worst mark in MLB.

"I don't like losing," Shields said. "They can talk about the rebuild, but at the end of the day, we have to win ball games right now. I am not worried about this rebuild. I am worried about winning right now."

Shields' resurgence has shocked some scouts across the game.

"My club may need a starter before the deadline," said a National League scout in attendance Saturday. "I can't believe the difference in his results. He was getting murdered on the fastball the last two years. Now he spots that pitch. He changes speeds on the curveball so well and throws the curve from 77 miles per hour down to 68. There has never been any question about his makeup. He is a top-caliber guy."

There has been preliminary interest from playoff contenders in Shields on the trade market. The Brewers could be a prime candidate for Shields' services. They're missing two of their top pitchers with Jimmy Nelson and Zach Davies residing on the disabled list. After their afternoon win Saturday, the Brewers held a 3.5-game lead over the Cubs for first place in the NL Central.

"I would not be shocked," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said about teams being interested in Shields. "No, I would not be shocked. He has been doing this for over a season. The adjustments he has made show him to be able to pitch quality innings and keep a big league ball club in a game. It has been fantastic to see him evolve and reinvent himself."

The 36-year-old Shields is in the final year of his contract. He has a team option for $16 million for next season, but given his previous struggles, whatever team making that decision will surely pay the $2 million buyout.

As for a potential trade, Shields is focused on his present reality.

"I have been around the game, and I understand that process," Shields said. "I can't control that. What I can control is what I do out there every five days. My job is to post and throw as many innings as I possibly can. Do my job. I will concentrate on getting (wins.) It has not gone my way in a month or so. Just have to keep grinding."

Soon enough, Shields likely will be doing that grinding for a contender.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.