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With James Shields, White Sox first address non-foremost need

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It should pay off as long as the White Sox don't slide out of contention before more name-brand talent becomes available

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

On the day they acquired James Shields, the White Sox lost a game in which Chris Sale started against Mike Pelfrey.Handily.

Today's starter is Jose Quintana, who only has a 5-5 record despite his league-best 2.13 ERA.

This is why it's hard to get excited about a starting pitcher, even a name-brand pitcher like Shields. Not after a month in which which the bullpen gave away games again and again and again, nor during a month where J.B. Shuck is both the starting center fielder and No. 5 hitter.

At the start of May -- back when John Danks was the biggest target of fan ire -- Shields would've been a godsend. Alas, another starting pitcher slid down the scale of needs by the time somebody of his caliber became available.

It should be more of a thrill, as the Sox avoided giving up top prospects (Erik Johnson and Fernando Tatis Jr. don't qualify), and the Padres threw in quite a bit of cash:

That's $27 million over 2½ seasons for a pitcher who just commanded nearly $19 million per season two winters ago, and somebody who had a 3.06 ERA before a disastrous start that prompted the San Diego chairman to rip him -- and it might only be $5 milllion if Shields opts out after this season. Since money isn't the issue, it's possible the Sox ended up benefiting from an impatient owner, and for the cost of two players whose losses won't be felt during the window of opportunity the Sox are trying to maximize.

It's just an out-of-order move, especially since Miguel Gonzalez has looked like an OK back-end starter and the Sox haven't been able to win Sale and Quintana starts with regularity lately. The Sox need a bat more than anything, and probably a reliever who can get strikeouts after that. Shields' ability to throw 200 innings with a 4.00 ERA isn't the cure for what has ailed the Sox during this 6-17 stretch.

At this time of year, though, it's rare that anybody of note can be acquired. The name-brand talent just happened to take the form of a starting pitcher, and it stands to reason that the Sox will need to do better than Mat Latos and/or Gonzalez at some point. The Sox should be credited for being proactive, so long as Shields didn't cost the Sox most of their expendable resources. Rick Hahn says it didn't:

"There are other areas of need on this roster potentially over the coming months, and while the rotation was certainly a very important one — and frankly one we felt was going to be fairly difficult to address in the coming weeks leading up to the trade deadline given the supply and demand out there — we felt it was an important one to move on early," Hahn said. "But it’s not the only need we see on this roster, and whether it’s from a prospect standpoint or an economic standpoint, we do feel like we are in a position over the coming weeks and months to augment the roster if the opportunities arise."

The Sox and their fans just have to hope that the rest of the team won't crumble by the time more noteworthy talent becomes available. Ideally, Shields' ability to go deeper into games than Latos or Gonzalez helps the bullpen recover. The offense is on its own, although perhaps the returns of Melky Cabrera and Austin Jackson will provide a similar kind of boost, at least long enough to buy the Sox some time to add some firepower in that department.