Rounding Third: Padres still have to make playoffs

Philadelphia, PA ( - Well, the San Diego Padres certainly had themselves an offseason, huh?

After drastically upgrading their lineup earlier this winter, the Padres turned their attention to the rotation this past week and made it official with righty James Shields on Wednesday, signing him to a 4-year, $75 million deal.

The pact also includes an team option for a fifth season that could make it a $91 million deal.

Like he was when he was traded to Kansas City back in 2012, Shields is a perfect veteran addition to a young San Diego rotation that already is pretty solid. Only the Washington Nationals had a better team ERA in the NL. And no team had a lower bullpen ERA in the NL than the Padres' 2.59.

Righty Tyson Ross emerged as an All-Star, Ian Kennedy and Andrew Cashner are solid, while Cuban project Odrisamer Despaigne showed flashes of brilliance. Plus Brandon Morrow was brought in and who knows what oft-injured Josh Johnson can bring.

But as talented a group as it may have already been, it needed a leader - more specifically someone who will eat a whole lot of innings. And at the very least Shields will take the ball every fifth day, as he has made no less than 31 starts in each of the last eight seasons, making a league-high 34 in each of the last two years.

Speaking of that megatrade three winters ago between the Tampa Bay Rays and Royals that landed Shields in Kansas City, the other centerpiece of that deal - Wil Myers - now also calls San Diego home.

"Probably safe to say Padres are the final winner in the Shields trade," Myers tweeted after the Shields signing became official. "Should be an exciting year in San Diego!"

Now Kansas City also got Wade Davis as a throw-in in that same deal, so I don't think anyone is complaining. Well, maybe the Rays.

Myers was right about one thing, though. If anything, the Padres could be the most interesting team entering the season. But let's not forget, rarely does the team that wins the winter win in October.

In fact the last few teams that transformed themselves like this failed miserably.

The New York Yankees doled out almost a half a billion dollars in contracts last winter and missed the playoffs. How about the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013 or the Miami Marlins in 2012? Heck, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim signed Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in back-to-back years and still missed the playoffs.

San Diego is certainly loaded with name talent, but this is still a lineup that was historically bad at times last season. Now, most of those faces are gone and replaced with the likes of outfielders Matt Kemp, Myers and Justin Upton, along with catcher Derek Norris and third baseman Will Middlebrooks.

Maybe outside of Norris, don't all those players have a giant question mark next to their name. Myers is supposedly one of the best young talents in the game, right? Then why will he be playing for his third franchise before he even turns 25?

And let's be honest, they still may be a third-place team in their own division behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and the defending world champion San Francisco Giants.

No, neither the lineup upgrades nor Shields guarantees the Padres anything. It does make them more exciting. And at least relevant for the first time in a long time.

And that alone makes it a successful offseason.