The San Diego Padres are taking a huge gamble on the 2015 season and suddenly they are a World Series contender

James ShieldsPeter G. Aiken/USA TODAY SportsThe Padres took a huge gamble waiting for Shields’ demands to come down.

The San Diego Padres made yet another big off-season splash, signing free agent starting pitcher James Shields to a 4-year, $US75 million contract according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

The Padres have made a complete overhaul to their roster this winter and it has turned them into a serious World Series contender. And it all started with the first big deal of the off-season, which was a huge gamble on the 2015 season.

In early December, the Padres traded for former All-Star outfielder Matt Kemp from their division-rival Los Angeles Dodgers as part of a 5-play trade. At the time, the move was more notable for the Dodgers and new president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman who was able to unload most of Kemp’s enormous contract from a roster that had too many outfielders.

As part of the deal, the Padres received $US32 million from the Dodgers to offset some of the $US107 million remaining on Kemp’s deal. However, instead of spreading that money over the five years left on the contract, the Padres received $US18 million up front.

Instead of having to pay $US16.4 million of Kemp’s 2015 salary of $US21.0 million, the Padres are only responsible for $US3.0 million.

Matt KempAPMatt Kemp laughs with Padres general manager A.J. Preller

According to Heyman, that saved money was earmarked to go after a top starting pitcher. However, there was no guarantee the Padres could land a top starting pitcher and only got Shields by being patient and waiting for his price to come down from the 5-year, $US125 million contract he had been seeking earlier in the winter.

These moves, along with trades for outfielders Wil Myers from the Tampa Bay Rays and Justin Upton from the Atlanta Braves, now have turned the Padres into a serious World Series contender.

According to the projection system at BaseballProspectus.com, the Padres are now projected to win 85 games, the fourth-highest total in the National League.

When the off-season started, the Padres were 60-to-1 to win the World Series according to one sportsbook. After the signing of Shields, the Padres are now at 18-1, the 8th-favourite to win it all.

This surge is not without a cost. By taking most of the Dodgers’ money up front, the Padres will have bigger payrolls in the final four years of Kemp’s contract (2016-19). But by landing Shields, the Padres now have a chance to win it all in 2015.

If that happens, the other years will take care of themselves.

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