It has been interesting to compare the approaches taken by San Diego and Arizona this winter, both teams having fired their GMs after three-plus years without a winning season. Under their new general manager, A.J. Preller, the Padres have been ferociously aggressive, picking up Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers and now Shields. In contrast, the D-backs dealt away both halves of their Opening Day battery, and the only acquisition for Arizona which could be even faintly described as "win now" (in the sense of free-agent signings or trading prospects for proven talent) was probably the Jeremy Hellickson deal,
The terms of the deal have not yet been confirmed, but reports indicate it appears to be around the $72-76 million range for four years, and means there will be a significant jump in San Diego payroll. Depending on how it's structured, this will likely mean the Padres start the year between $105-110 million, which would easily be a team record, representing around a 20% increase over the previous highest, set last year. Of course, it's also true that San Diego was a lot closer to contention than Arizona, having posted a 77-85 record last season: they finished less than half the distance from a wild-card spot we did, 11 games out as opposed to our 24.
The Padres will have to tiptoe financially through the tulips for a bit - especially as they have to take on the weight of Kemp after this year, where the Dodgers are chipping in $18 million. However, they have some flexibility coming back at the end of 2015, when Ian Kennedy, Carlos Quentin, Joaquin Benoit and Cory Luebke are all free-agents or have team options. Still, as our colleagues over at GLB point out, this is "by far the largest contract the Padres have ever awarded, eclipsing the $52 million 3-year extension Jake Peavy was signed to in December of 2007." That's something else this off-season has in common with ours, where Yasmany Tomas became our biggest free-agent.
I believe Shields is also the first free-agent to sign for in excess of $50 million after the calendar turned to February. It has certainly been a process, and both the length and cost of the contract appear to have dropped from predictions at the start of the winter that he "could be in line for a five-year pact worth $100MM or more." The Cubs and Marlins were apparently the other teams that were most in the running for Shields, both sides offering him three years plus a vesting option. The Padres' commitment to an extra year appears to have helped - the pitcher-friendly nature of Petco wouldn't have done any harm to their chances either, I suspect.
But, all told, I think it's a bullet dodged for the Diamondbacks. I laid out the reasons last month why I don't think he was a good fit for us, so I won't bother rehashing those again. "Win now" moves like this do make more sense for the Padres than us. Perhaps it foreshadows the kind of deal we might be making next winter, if this season sees an improved record, with us sitting in a similar position just below the .500 mark, as San Diego currently are.