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Cardinals might be better off trading for James Shields

The St. Louis Cardinals may not get one of the top free agent pitchers from this off-season.

However, they could likely have one of the top pitchers from last winter if they like.

According to multiple reports the San Diego Padres would like to shed the contract they gave James Shields just a year ago.

At the time, it seemed pretty steep to offer a then 32-year-old pitcher a four-year contract for $75 million.

But, compared to the mega deals being thrown around for pitching this year, it seems like a relative bargain -- even though the contract was back-loaded and the remaining three seasons call for $21 million each.

If a team was willing to eat all or most of the contract, reports say the Padres aren’t asking for much in return.

Rehabbing first baseman Matt Adams might be a good place to start.

Shields has his down side. He gave up an NL leading 33 home runs in 2015. That’s an impressive feat from a guy who pitched in one of the biggest ballparks in the majors.

But he allowed only 189 hits in 202 1/3 innings or work and struck out 216 hitters.

He’s still a capable pitcher who hasn’t failed to make at least 33 starts in a season since 2007.

He might be worth a shot in what amounts to a pretty short-term contract by today’s standards.

$21 million is a lot of money per season. But it’s better than paying Zack Greinke, who is one year older for two to three more seasons.