Two Pitchers on Preller’s Radar

James Shields or Cole Hamels?

It’s not a question anymore, right?  The more one hears and reads, the more it seems inevitable that the Padres will land one or the other before pitchers and catchers report in a few weeks.

Then again, GM A.J. Preller landed both Justin Upton and Matt Kemp when most assumed it was either/or so…maybe both?

OK, let’s not get greedy.  And maybe the gun is being jumped and neither end up here but let’s have a little fun with this topic.

It probably doesn’t matter which guy San Diego lands. It doesn’t to me, at least, and I’ve read many of the statistical breakdowns like this one and asked some respected sources in MLB who they’d rather have, all things being equal.

Consensus suggests Hamels but not overwhelmingly.

Either guy is an upgrade to the rotation and gives the Padres a bonafide No. 1 they don’t currently have entering 2015.

The difference is acquiring the pitchers is where things get interesting.

To add Hamels, the Padres would have to trade away players — good players — as they have already this offseason. Nobody knows for sure what it would take to get the lefty from Rancho Bernardo but some names tossed around include top prospects like Austin Hedges, Matt Wisler and Hunter Renfroe.

Can’t imagine Preller would trade all three but, again, who knows.

My understanding is that Preller and others in development are split about Hedges as a major-league hitter and haven’t ruled out trading the minor-league catcher.  In other words, if Ruben Amaro (Phillies GM) were hell-bent on Hedges, the Padres wouldn’t let that get in the way of a deal.

On the other hand, Shields is a free agent.  As you’ve likely heard by now, he lives in the San Diego area and would reportedly prefer to sign with a team close to his home.

How one rationalizes that in terms of MLB dollars and cents is anyone’s guess. Might he take less to live at home and drive to PETCO Park?

I can buy that.

Significantly less? Not holding my breath there.

Big Game James can live here for a long time after he’s done playing.

The downside to Shields is that he’s thrown a lot of innings and really didn’t do much in the postseason last year.  Plus, he’ll cost the Padres their first-round draft pick, which might not be that important to a fan base looking to “win now” but should matter considering the amount of players traded this offseason.

It’s not the end of the world if you don’t have a first-round pick this year, but at some point Preller needs to start building from within.

One could also make a case that the Padres would be too right-handed heavy with Shields, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy but I don’t think Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley would complain much about that.

I’m also curious why Shields’ former team is allowing its ace to walk but doubt that it would prevent me from going after him on that alone.

What’s most fascinating to me, though, is the hand that Preller is holding while both pitchers are in play.

Hypothetically, if the Phillies are willing to trade Hamels and are asking more than Preller is willing to part with, the first-year GM can play the Shields card in negotiations or through the media.

And if he feels like the Shields’ camp is asking for too much, Preller goes back to the Phillies card and let it be known that he’s willing to deal again.

Who’s going to doubt his willingness to deal after the December flurry?

So here we are.  For what it’s worth, which isn’t much, my money is on Preller landing Hamels — call it a hunch.

Maybe Shields has fallen into their laps at this point and maybe the market has delivered a gift to the Padres in the form of an ace who lives locally and is willing to take less money to sleep in his own bed.

Maybe neither lands here and the Padres add pitching during the season, if things are going well.

Does Preller have one more trick up his sleeve?

Stay tuned.

+ Contact Darren Smith a



Recently in Darren & Marty Blog