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The Padres land James Shields

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James Shields is now a Padre. Now we can turn our attention to the upcoming season.

Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball is not just wacky during the season. It's wacky during the winter, too. Three months ago, the following twelve players received $15.3 million qualifying offers from their 2014 clubs:

  • Michael Cuddyer
  • Pablo Sandoval
  • Max Scherzer
  • Victor Martinez
  • Francisco Liriano
  • Russell Martin
  • Hanley Ramirez
  • Nelson Cruz
  • James Shields
  • David Robertson
  • Melky Cabrera
  • Ervin Santana

That's not not the wacky part. Imagine, however, if someone told you three months ago that only one of those players would sign with an N.L. West club this offseason, and crazier yet, that one would be James Shields inking a deal with the Padres! Crazy right?

Michael Cuddyer didn't take Colorado's qualifying offer. Pablo Sandoval left San Francisco for Boston despite each club offering about the same amount of cash. The Dodgers let Hanley Ramirez walk in favor of better defense and didn't get involved in this game, and the Padres went nuts with a roster overhaul capped by this signing today.

It's always tough to figure what's going to happen during an offseason before Thanksgiving. I'm sure even the clubs are caught off guard quite often, but the way the N.L. West evolved this winter is still shocking in some ways.

You have one club who's won the division two years in a row but felt it needed to make significant changes to its roster defensively after getting bounced by the Cardinals in the postseason in back to back years. You have another club who's been a .500 team over the last two seasons (324 games) but is bringing back largely the same roster for the third year in a row thanks to extremely well-timed hot streaks. You have the Padres who have tried to aggressively rebuild the entire team in one winter, the Rockies who seem to be waiting on what they have within to get healthy or develop from the farm, and the Diamondbacks who ... Well, I don't know what the Diamondbacks are doing.

As a group though, the N.L. West clubs represent a fascinating difference in approaches heading into 2015, and I can't wait to see how they each play out when we get to the summer months. If the winter was this odd, I can only imagine what the actual season has in store for us.

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Here's the actual story with some details on the James Shields signing. A few quick thoughts:

1) Shields got a four-year deal in the $72-$76 million neighborhood. That comes to $18-$19 million a year. So IF Shields really did get a five-year $110 million deal from somebody -- a report that gets harder and harder to believe every day - he REALLY didn't want to pitch for that club. If true, Shields left a third of the guaranteed money in that contract on the table.

2) The top eight clubs in payroll last season were as follows: The Los Angeles Dodgers, the New York Yankees, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Boston Red Sox, the Detroit Tigers, the Los Angeles Angels, the San Francisco Giants, and the Texas Rangers. Now these clubs are obviously all in different stages of the success cycle, but these are the bullies with the deepest pockets on the block, and none of them landed what I would classify as a top of the rotation pitcher this offseason (borrowing the chance that a Cole Hamels deal gets done before opening day).

Sure, the Red Sox went after No. 3 guys like they were going out of style and the Dodgers made a couple of potentially shrewd rotation signings, but for this entire group to come up empty in the Lester, Scherzer, and Shields sweepstakes is pretty wild when you think about it.

3) With the Shields signing, the draft order is now officially set, and the Rockies are in better shape than any team in baseball with the exception of the Houston Astros, and the Astros are only in that position because they failed to sign the No. 1 overall pick last year. The Rockies will now officially pick 3rd, 27th, 38th, and 44th. Other than Houston, no other club has more than two picks in the top 53 slots. This gives Colorado an excellent chance to improve on an already above average farm system.

4) Now that the last major piece is off the free agent market, it finally feels like the offseason is coming to an end. Spring training is still not quite here yet, and more trades are still on the table, but without Shields floating around, the MLB landscape develops a different feel. You can almost taste the start of 2015 now.

Mike Petriello of fangraphs tips his cap to the Padres for signing Shields, but also notes that this doesn't solve the team's much bigger problem.

Which players do you hate the most? John Paschal has some good options.

Finally, Patrick Saunders has some ugly numbers for the Rockies over the last few seasons. They'll obviously need to turn most of these around if 2015 is going to be a better year.