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Rays should trade James Shields to fill holes

Nov 11, 2012, 6:30 PM EDT

James Shields Getty Images

That the Rays will trade a starter this winter seems like a given. With David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Jeff Niemann and Chris Archer all under contract, the Rays possess both quality and quantity in the rotation.

What they don’t have are bats and a lot of money, so with holes at first base, catcher, one middle infield spot and one outfield spot, dealing a starter for a hitter or two makes all of the sense in the world.

In terms of return, Moore and Price undoubtedly have the most trade value in the group, with Hellickson not too far behind. That’s why it might be tempting to deal from that trio.

Shields, though, has plenty of value himself. His two club options call for him about $24 million the next two years. That’s pretty expensive for the Rays — in fact, his $10.25 million salary in 2013 will be the highest in club history — but it’s palatable compared to what inferior free agents will command this winter. If Shields were a free agent, he’d probably be in line for $16 million-$18 million per year in a five-year deal.

And I just don’t trust Shields to keep this up. He’s been one of baseball’s best starters the last two years, but he’s also thrown 477 innings between those two seasons. He’s reached 215 innings five of the last six years, missing only when he finished at 203 in 2010.

That durability has given him a ton of value in Tampa Bay, but he’s on the wrong side of 30 now. Dan Haren had a very similar streak to Shields from ages 25-30 before suddenly taking a dive last season. It was probably different back in the 1970s, but in the last 30 years, the list of the pitchers who have been most durable before age 30 doesn’t match up very well with the list of pitchers durable after age 30.

There’s talk about the Rays perhaps dealing Hellickson to Arizona for Justin Upton, and I don’t think that’d be a bad idea at all. But if they’re looking at lesser names to fill the gaps, they might as well save as much money as they can in the process. They still have Price for three more years, and while he’s going to get expensive in a hurry — he could command more than Shields in 2014 — he’ll still have plenty of trade value in a year or two if they want to go that route. Hellickson is four years away from free agency.

If the Rays trade Shields for a young regular, they’ll suddenly free up $10 million they can spend on one of the other holes. It’d be like trading for an extra player. Shields might bring back a Josh Reddick from Oakland, a Travis d’Arnaud from Toronto or a Wil Myers from Kansas City.  Then the Rays could use the salary to sign Mike Napoli to play first and catch or Stephen Drew to start at short. They’d have plenty of options.

  1. dcfan4life - Nov 11, 2012 at 6:43 PM

    Rangers, Angels, Brewers, Dodgers, Marlins, and Mets all looking to add pitching, but how many have deep farm systems or benches to make this trade. Rays should get a good deal if they dont overvalue Shields. Shedding that payroll for position players is a victory in itself for one of the only small market teams that has competed regularly the last few years.

    • Old Gator - Nov 11, 2012 at 7:51 PM

      I can’t see the Feesh as players for Shields, since they feel, rightly or wrongly, that they have surplus pitching themselves and their needs are similar to the Razed. Look for the Feesh to offer Ricky Nolasco as a trading chip, if not Josh Johnson (assuming a very high quality player or players are coming back for him) for a third baseman or perhaps a first baseman. Once again, the Feesh seem inexplicably disinclined to package Tweeter for trade and have been making noises about moving him and his anemic RISP to first base. That could change, of course, if some other GM is on the wrong end of a bender and in a moment of weakness decides to risk something of value in hopes that Mantis Man’s oft-repaired knee will hold up for a season. One can hope.

    • gibbyfan - Nov 11, 2012 at 7:57 PM

      The Rays have to have one great organization to be able to compete the way they do. Given that theyhave to rely on expertise and competence rather that boatloads of $$$ is commendable to say the least—I’m sure they will make the right moves and be in the thick of it again next year–I for one hope so.

    • suhisabeast90 - Nov 11, 2012 at 8:38 PM

      Don’t forget the Tigers too. They have pieces to deal. If Sanchez leaves it will leave a big hole. Imagine Verlandeer, Scherzer and Shields all throwing over 200 skrikeouts!

  2. roverkarlthecannedham - Nov 11, 2012 at 6:53 PM

    Who could not use this guy? That would be the short list. I think we can rule out any team in the AL East. No way the Rays trade in the division or even in the same league. No point in making your direct competition stronger. If he is traded I guess he had better learn to use a bat.

    • indaburg - Nov 11, 2012 at 7:20 PM

      I agree. Friedman won’t trade within the division. Ideally, I want him far, far away in the NL. To his credit, Shields doesn’t treat the bat as if it is something from another planet. He’s probably the best hitting pitcher the Rays have, not that it’s really a selling point.

      • roverkarlthecannedham - Nov 11, 2012 at 7:54 PM

        Shields doesn’t treat the bat as if it is something from another planet

        He can use a bat? I did not know that. Good. He will be fine in the NL. If he’s traded that is. It is likely that Rays brass might feel that it is not possible to have too much pitching or that someone else might be better suited to turing into a bat or 2.

      • indaburg - Nov 11, 2012 at 8:06 PM

        He’s no Carlos Zambrano with a bat, and admittedly it’s a small sample size (I just looked up his stats and he only has 37 AB), but yeah, he can hit a little.

        Awesome gravatar, btw.

      • cur68 - Nov 11, 2012 at 8:17 PM

        You can not beat pressed pork.

      • roverkarlthecannedham - Nov 11, 2012 at 8:38 PM

        That is a pressed pork in wire rimmed glasses actually. Mr Cur did you just make an off color joke? I think you did. The pork jokes sometimes are so easy. It is not easy being a nearsighted canned ham. Everyone impugns you.

        Back to James Shields and his batting, Miss Indaburg. 37 ABs do not a sample size make but you know that and no one really expects much from a pitcher with a bat. Leaving aside the spectre of Zambrano whaling on a water cooler for the moment, I think the best we can assume for Mr. Shields is that he does what he usually does which is pitch very well and does not do something foolish at the plate like face the wrong way or attempt to bunt all the time. As a pitcher, if we factor in the easy out that is “pitcher hitting” slot, I suspect we might see him better rather than worse once he hits the NL. If he is traded of course. He might not be.

      • indaburg - Nov 11, 2012 at 9:11 PM

        I wouldn’t impugn you just because you’re a canned ham. I’ve kept worse company.

        You can rest assured Shields will not face the wrong way nor will he bunt every at bat. Why, he even has three RBIs.

        I’m going out on a limb here, but somebody on that pitching staff is getting traded. Shields seems the likely candidate, but who knows what evil lurks in the heart of Friedman. Hopefully, the trade will be for someone who isn’t completely befuddled by runners in scoring position.

      • roverkarlthecannedham - Nov 11, 2012 at 9:24 PM

        who knows what evil lurks in the heart of Friedman

        But this is excellent. A woman of letters. And quoting The Shadow too. Well, as they say in in the UK, turn about is fair play
        -so the trade will be there… around every corner… in every empty room… as inevitable as Friedman’s guilty conscience…

  3. proudlycanadian - Nov 11, 2012 at 6:55 PM

    Obviously, the Jays have a surplus catcher and a surplus first baseman (Cooper), but would the Rays make a trade within their Division?

    • roverkarlthecannedham - Nov 11, 2012 at 7:02 PM

      Doubt it. In order to compete the Rays must keep their enemies weak. Keeping Shields off the AL East rosters makes sense. Getting him into the NL would be a nice Rays bonus. No need to worry about facing Big Game James too often, if at all.

      • proudlycanadian - Nov 11, 2012 at 7:06 PM

        That argument works both ways. Why would the Jays trade a potential All Star catcher to the Rays and strengthen the Rays for years to come. Matthew did not pull d’Arnaud’s name out of a hat. He is the best catching prospect in baseball.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 11, 2012 at 7:10 PM

        Who’s the all-star catcher? We aren’t talking about Arencibia again, are we?

      • kruegere - Nov 11, 2012 at 7:12 PM

        I also doubt the Rays would trade for a catcher (D’Arnaud) whos been injured more often than not. No thanks. Catchers wear down as it is.

        If anything, I’d hope they pair up with the Royals (Myers, Moustakas, Hosmer).

      • paperlions - Nov 11, 2012 at 8:05 PM

        The problem with the Jays “catching depth” is that some of it just isn’t very good and some of it can’t stay healthy (a huge red flag for a catcher, a position at which staying healthy is always a challenge). Those guys just don’t have any real value within the context of trading for a guy like Shields. They could be add-ons, but not the center piece.

    • roverkarlthecannedham - Nov 11, 2012 at 8:00 PM

      I am but a pressed pork product in wire rimmed glasses. What do I know? You could be right Mr. Canadian. Shields could wind up in Toronto. Those guys do have some catching depth and Jose Molina is not getting any younger or less tubby. With all the surplus bats and talent the Blue Jays have it might happen. If it does the Rays will regret it.

  4. kcrobert10 - Nov 11, 2012 at 8:18 PM

    Doesn’t everyone want myers, moose, and hoz from the Royals. If they traded one of them for shields I would go down to the k and personally throw tomatoes at Dayton Moore for stupidity. Nothing against shields he is a fine pitcher but his innings pitched and contract worry me. We would be trading a young player with 4 or 5 yrs of control for one over 30 with only 2 yrs of control how does this make since. Now if you want to talk sanity I would be willing to part with say billy butler and one of Jeff francour, Chris getz, or johnny giavetella. If you want one of those 3 young guys let’s be real it better be hellickson, price, or Moore. In that deal I would deal one of myers, moose, or hoz, one of dyer, smith, Montgomery, or lamb, one of Jason Adams, jorge bonifacio, or ceaslor cuthburt. Any thing outside of this is a lose for the Royals and a bad move.

    • proudlycanadian - Nov 11, 2012 at 8:31 PM

      Ah yes! A question posed by Matthew concerns the long term prospects for Shields given his age and the number of innings he has pitched. I would suspect that any team trading for him would only expect another 2 strong years from. In other words, that team would probably exercise the 2 options and then let him walk. Such team would probably have a couple of solid pitching prospects in Double A or High Single A before they traded for Shields.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 11, 2012 at 8:47 PM

      Nothing against shields he is a fine pitcher but his innings pitched and contract worry me.

      Why, other than he’ll be 31 next year? He had shoulder surgery in ’02 which caused him to change his repertoire. Since ’07 he’s made 31 starts every single year, and since ’08 he’s made 33. He’s generally around 215IP which is just 6.5 IP per start, with one big year in ’11 when he threw 247. Compare him to another workhorse since ’08

      CC Sabathia – 1158 IP, 4749 Batters Faced
      James Shields – 1115 IP, 4625 Batters Faced

      43 less IP but 124 less batters. He’s efficient. He’s obviously healed from that ’02 injury. I don’t want to make an assumption, but sounds like a few of you think he’s “due” for an injury.

      • kruegere - Nov 11, 2012 at 8:53 PM

        He’s been a horse for a long time, I guess the concerns are that he’ll wear down. I don’t see it, he doesn’t throw a slider and his two main pitches (FB, CH) don’t really put much wear on the arm. I am not a pitching coach/trainer though.

        Getz? Francouer? I’d claim them off waivers if there were no one else and everyone on my team was injured.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 11, 2012 at 10:39 PM

        He’s been a horse for a long time, I guess the concerns are that he’ll wear down.

        But here’s the problem with sports, it’s one giant survivorship bias. We keep waiting for people to break down, because we expect them to be like us (out of shape 30-40 year olds who couldn’t do 1/10th of what they do). But they aren’t like us. They are already fantastic athletes who don’t suffer the same breakdowns we do.

        Now, I wouldn’t bet that Shields will pitch 200+ innings for the next 10 years, but he’s had zero problems since ’07 (well, he has HR issues) and i’d bet he’d pitch 800 innings over the next 4 years.

    • kruegere - Nov 11, 2012 at 8:48 PM

      Fair enough. Everyone wants to get the better end of the deal. Royals should probably trade for Matt Garza if they don’t want to give up the best 3.

  5. kcrobert10 - Nov 11, 2012 at 9:24 PM

    Hey I offered billy butler hardly a rummy. The other players are throw ins to clear a spot for myers and colon. Just saying you want one of our top 3 prospects it better be for someone we can have for 3 to 5 yrs. There is room and plenty of good players on both these teams to work out a deal just has to make since and as I pointed out shields for any of those 3 is a lose lose for the Royals.

    • kruegere - Nov 11, 2012 at 10:02 PM

      I definitely see your point.

  6. crisisjunky - Nov 11, 2012 at 10:54 PM

    Get Elvis in the building.
    Shields is a match made in heaven for Nolan. Just his type of guy, and a big name Texas Sized Blockbuster ta boot! Big Game? Why,They do evrathin’ big in Texas!
    With buckets of drool being filled over Profar, now could be the time to make the offer. Though not all the way out of the league, Mr. Friedman could do worse than to feed Shields (or even Hellickson, if that’s what it would take) to the Arlington gristmill. Added, Zobrist’s remarkable versatility is to valuable to continue
    holding down the role.

    • crisisjunky - Nov 11, 2012 at 10:56 PM

      Though admittedly, he did an amazing job.

      • kcrobert10 - Nov 11, 2012 at 11:11 PM

        Are you seriously considering trading profar for shields. If I’m Tampa take take take it. Wow why would Texas do something so dumb they are about to lose Hamilton they need all the hitters they can get. Just my opinion.

      • crisisjunky - Nov 12, 2012 at 11:05 AM

        Elvis.

  7. randygnyc - Nov 11, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    Why would the royals consider trading their future star players for a pitcher that won’t make the team any better or compete any sooner. Their is no difference being 25 games out of first or 15. James shield’s will long be retired before the royals win their division.

    • kruegere - Nov 12, 2012 at 2:58 AM

      You sure about that?

      -Baltimore Orioles, Oakland A’s

  8. crisisjunky - Nov 12, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    Kacey has a ton of wealth in their pen to choose from as a second guy.
    the Rays are always finding that next it guy in the pen, and they could get a really good setup
    guy.
    I have to put resources into keeping Butler though, popular / productive / consistent.
    Prefer to move Lo, if possible, fly with Dy at the top, with Gordon and Myers in the corners.

    Dyson/ Gordon/ Butler/ Hosmer/ Perez/ Myers/ Moose/ Alcides/ Getz(Giavotella)

    Shields/ E.Santana / Jake Odorizzi looks more palatable than Chen, Guthrie, well, you can see where that’s heading……
    anyway, Lo, Crow, and a minor leaguer should do it.

    • kcrobert10 - Nov 12, 2012 at 8:18 PM

      Umm I could trade Cain to but need to put myers in center to I’m sorry dyson isn’t the answer and never will be…

  9. bigmeechy74 - Nov 13, 2012 at 9:55 PM

    If they could really get d’arnaud I would do that in a heartbeat. The rays have had a black hole at catcher for years

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