3. James Shields, RHP, Rays — We suspect the Rays will field a lot of calls on him in the coming weeks. Whether they pull the trigger in order to obtain offense remains to be seen. With former Rays special adviser Gerry Hunsicker now in LA, the Dodgers may make a push to get Shields, but what could they give back? Ethier? It makes sense if they have their eye on Hamilton. But the Rays may not be able to carry Ethier's contract. They have already received inquiries on Shields from the Twins.
Shields, who will be entering his age-31 season in 2012, is top flight talent. He's averaged 33 starts and 222 innings per year over the last six seasons, and in the last three seasons has posted an 8.4 K/9 while allowing 1.2 base runners per inning.
In terms of his contract, Shields is due to make $9 million this season with a club option worth $12 million in 2014 that includes a $1 million dollar buyout. Neither of those costs are prohibitive for the Twins. Whether or not the Twins pull the trigger in any potential deal would likely have more to do with what Tampa Bay was requesting in terms of prospects.
Taking that amount of money off the Rays' hands while gaining a player who could theoretically be a free agent after one season shouldn't take more than one solid and probably another fringe prospect. As for what it means for the Twins, I could see it going two ways.
- Shields helps stabilize the rotation and becomes one of a new core of pitchers going forward, possibly paired with a player like Anibal Sanchez or Shaun Marcum.
- The Twins don't improve enough and Shields becomes trade bait at the deadline, where his trade value could very well be higher than it is right now.
All this is viewing scenarios through rose-tinted glasses, obviously. It assumes a number of things. But when you target a pitcher of Shields' caliber and history, something the Twins haven't done in terms of a Major League pitcher in...ever...well, I don't think we can be blamed for wanting to see the best case scenario.
Regardless of whether anything comes of this nugget of news or not, it's good to hear that the front office is taking the issues with the rotation as seriously as we are.