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2015 MLB Trade Rumors: Can The Cubs Afford James Shields?

Here's one name that has been mentioned mostly after others. Could he be the one the Cubs are after?

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

You've read many rumors about starting pitchers the Cubs might target in trade: Cole Hamels, Mat Latos, Dan Haren, Mike Leake, perhaps others.

What about James Shields? According to reports, the Cubs made Shields a three-year offer in free agency last offseason, but he chose the four-year deal the Padres made him, partly for the extra year, partly because he lives in San Diego in the offseason.

Now, with the Padres in disarray, five games under .500 and pretty much out of both the N.L. West and wild-card races, general manager A.J. Preller is apparently under pressure to dump some of the big contracts he either traded for or signed last offseason. The Padres' $108 million payroll this year is the biggest in franchise history.

I think all of us are in agreement that the Cubs shouldn't give up any major farm-system pieces to acquire a "rental," a player who could only help the Cubs this year before departing via free agency. But there are a couple of pitchers out there (Hamels is another) who are under contract beyond this season and could help the Cubs going forward.

If the Padres are really serious about dumping Shields' contract, the Cubs could probably have him just by assuming the rest of the money on the deal and likely giving up no one special from the minor-league system.

I'm assuming this year is two-thirds gone (yikes!) so Shields would be owed about one-third of his 2015 salary. Add that to what's left on the deal and the Cubs would be on the hook for (approximately) $68 million for the 3⅓ years left on his deal (including a buyout after 2018). I don't think that's unreasonable, though it would probably preclude signing (for example) David Price this offseason (Price would likely cost much more in AAV). The rumored amount the Cubs had offered Shields last winter was three years and $60 million -- this wouldn't be that much more.

I know, I know. You're concerned about the 20 home runs Shields has already allowed this year. Shields has made 21 starts. Seven of the 20 homers were allowed in just two of those games, three vs. the Rockies May 3 and four vs. the Diamondbacks on May 8. The first of those games was at Petco, the other in Arizona. Over his last four starts Shields has a 2.01 ERA in 22⅓ innings with only three home runs allowed. He'd be a perfect fit for this rotation and Joe Maddon knows him well from the seven years they spent together with the Rays.

Oh, and one more thing. Shields' next scheduled start is Tuesday in New York against the Mets. If the Cubs wanted to make this deal and could do it today or early tomorrow, Shields could fill the "TBD" slot currently on the Cubs' probable pitchers list for Tuesday.

Your turn. Should the Cubs do this? If so, and they take the entire contract, who should they give up for Shields?