Finally the biggest free agent remaining on the market is gone as James Shields is a Padre. How did that signing affect San Diego's World Series odds?
Padres First Targeted Offense
No team in the majors has undergone more of an overhaul this offseason than the Padres (now if only they would go back to those old uniforms). San Diego finished 77-85 last year, the team's fourth straight losing campaign and eighth straight season missing the playoffs. Clearly ownership is tired of the losing because it opened the purse strings in a big way this offseason and General Manager A.J. Preller, hired from the Rangers last August, was like a kid in a candy store.
Preller made a big trade with the NL West rival Los Angeles Dodgers in December, sending out catcher Yasmani Grandal and young pitchers Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin for outfielder Matt Kemp (and catcher Tim Federowicz). Not only did Preller get a potential MVP candidate in Kemp, but he also got $32 million from the Dodgers to help pay the remaining $107 million on Kemp's salary. The Padres had one of the worst offenses in franchise history last year. Their .226 average, .292 on-base percentage and 535 runs were all dead last in the majors and their 109 homers were second worst. Kemp can only help as he finished 2014 with a .287 average, 25 home runs and 89 RBIs. Kemp was stellar after the All-Star break, hitting 17 of those homers, driving in 54 of those runs and leading the majors in slugging percentage.
Preller really likes outfielders because he also acquired Wil Myers, the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year, from Tampa Bay and Justin Upton from Atlanta. Myers regressed last season but missed a lot of it due to injury. Upton is one of the best sluggers in the NL and had 29 homers and 102 RBIs last year. Upton will be a free agent after this season so he probably won't be a Padre in 2016. The GM didn't stop there, acquiring third baseman Will Middlebrooks from Boston and catcher Derek Norris from Oakland. Norris was an All-Star last year, batting .270 with 10 homers and 55 RBIs.
As for Shields
The Padres had a good pitching staff last year as the team ranked fourth in the majors in ERA. Preller could have left the rotation alone, but the price on Shields, who is from the San Diego area, kept coming down. San Diego got him on a four-year deal for $75 million, and a team option for a fifth year, which is a pretty team-friendly contract all things considered.
Shields is the definition of a workhorse and had a 14-8 record with a 3.21 ERA, 180 strikeouts and just 44 walks in 227 innings for the AL champion Kansas City Royals last season. Shields leads all pitchers with 1,785.2 innings pitched since 2007. That actually scared some teams off. San Diego does have to surrender its first-round pick for Shields, which is No. 13 overall.
Now Shields heads a promising rotation, with Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy and likely Odrisamer Despaigne behind him. ZiPS projects Shields to have a 2.99 ERA this season and 193 strikeouts in 204.2 innings pitching in the easier National League and with half his games or so at very pitcher-friendly Petco Park. ESPN ran a season-long simulation on ZiPS for the Padres before this trade and it had them at 81 wins. Now it's 84. That jump boosted the simulated playoff MLB odds for San Diego from 30 percent to 49 percent.
As for the futures odds at Bovada, the Padres were 25/1 to win their first World Series but now are 16/1 along with Seattle and Detroit. San Diego's odds to win the pennant dropped to 7/1, trailing the Nationals (13/4), the Dodgers (9/2), Cubs (6/1) and Cardinals (13/2). This move also obviously helps the Padres in the NL West because it kept Shields away from the Dodgers and Giants as they were reportedly interested in Shields as well.
MLB Free Picks: I don't see the Padres winning the West, but I would go slightly 'over' that 84-win total and can see them finishing second to the Dodgers because San Francisco looks worse on paper. A wild-card spot is a possibility as long as everyone stays healthy.