SPORTS

James Shields finalizes 4-year deal with Padres

02/11/2015 06:29 EST | Updated 04/13/2015 05:59 EDT
Welcome to the National League, “Big Game James" Shields.

The last big-name on the free-agent market, Shields has agreed to a four-year deal to pitch for the San Diego Padres.

The deal is reportedly worth $75 million US and marks the biggest free-agent contract in club history.

The Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins were also believed to have interest in the 33-year-old right-hander, a California native who spent the first nine seasons of his major league career in the American League, most recently for the AL champion Kansas City Royals.

Shields, who has thrown the most innings in the majors over the past eight seasons — Seattle' s Felix Hernandez is second and Detroit's Justin Verlander third — joins an already strong starting rotation that includes Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy.

In 34 starts for Kansas City last season, Shields had a 14-8 record, 3.21 earned-run average and 180 strikeouts in 227 innings.

He wasn’t nearly as effective in the 2014 post-season, going 1-2 in five outings with a 6.12 ERA.

In November, Shields turned down a one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer from the Royals.

He now becomes the first free-agent pitcher to sign a contract for more than $50 million after Feb. 1 of a given year.

Strong groundball rate

In the last four seasons, Shields recorded a 3.17 ERA and 46.3 per cent groundball rate.

Though his strikeout-per-nine innings ratio has slipped from 8.8 to 7.1 in the past few seasons, it may improve with his move to the NL, where pitchers hit.

He'll probably miss the stellar infield defence in Kansas City, but Shields should benefit pitching at spacious Petco Park in San Diego.

Shields’s signing continues an active offseason for first-year general manager A.J. Preller, the former Texas Rangers executive who set out to transform the Padres’ low-scoring offence by acquiring players that could help San Diego improve immediately on their 77-85 record from last season.

Over the winter, the Padres have added outfielders Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers, catcher Derek Norris, infielder Will Middlebrooks and relief pitchers Shawn Kelley and Brandon Maurer.

San Diego hasn't had a winning record since 2010 (90-72) and last played in the post-season in 2006, losing in four games to St. Louis in the NL Division Series.

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