Shields trade adds intrigue to AL Central race

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers close out their 7-4 win over the White Sox on Saturday.

Detroit -- We're less removed from Opening Day than we are close to MLB's trade deadline.

But the Chicago White Sox wasted no time making an upgrade Saturday, acquiring right-handed starter James Shields from the San Diego Padres for two minor-league prospects. The deal was official in the third inning of Saturday's Tigers-White Sox game at Comerica Park.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said it's a sign of how teams are expecting the American League Central to shake out this year.

"I think they think it's gonna be a close race," Ausmus said after the Tigers' 7-4 victory. "It should be a tight division."

After the Tigers' win, four teams were within 3.5 games of each other in the AL Central, with the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals on top, followed by the Cleveland Indians, then the White Sox, then the Tigers.

Tigers said no to James Shields asking price

But the Royals have injury issues, many question whether the Indians can get by with a super-young rotation, the White Sox have fallen on some really difficult times since they were in first, and the Tigers have been an inconsistent bunch.

Shields hasn't pitched great the last two seasons, but he was an ace during his AL days, first with the Tampa Bay Rays, then the Royals.

The Tigers were called by the Padres in regard to Shields, according to a source with knowledge of talks, but found the asking price way too high.

"We've seen him before," Ausmus said. "He's certainly gonna help them. It's good for them, and probably not as great for us."

Shields has started 19 games against the Tigers, going 7-6 with a 4.10 ERA.

White Sox GM Rick Hahn told Chicago media Saturday that Shields would meet the team back at U.S. Cellular Field next week; when he makes his first start remains a question.