The Rays traded left-hander Scott Kazmir in August 2009 because they feared his value was about to plummet with $22.5 million left on his contract.
They traded right-hander Matt Garza last offseason because they wanted to clear a spot for righty Jeremy Hellickson in their rotation and reallocate Garza’s dollars to other needs
They have no compelling reason to trade All-Star righty James Shields.
That’s not to say Shields is off-limits in trade conversations; the Rays listen on everyone. It’s also not to say that Shields is certain to remain with Tampa Bay; for the right price, the Rays will trade anybody.
One thing about the Rays, though: They are reluctant to tear down their roster to the point where they are non-competitive.
If they keep Shields and lefty David Price at the top of their rotation, followed by Hellickson and righty Jeff Niemann, they will remain formidable next season.
Shields, who turns 30 on Dec. 20, is fifth in the AL with a 2.60 ERA, so perhaps his value is peaking. But unlike Kazmir, he has reversed his downward trend, rebounded from his 5.18 ERA last season. He also is a leader, a hard worker, a positive example for the team’s younger pitchers.
All of the teams interested in righty Ubaldo Jimenez — the Reds, Tigers, Yankees, etc. — also figure to be interested in Shields. The Rays hold club options on Shields for $7 million, $9 million and $12 million the next three seasons. Those are bargain prices for a pitcher of his caliber.
As I wrote earlier in the week, the ascents of right-hander Alex Cobb and Double A lefty Matt Moore could make the Rays more comfortable trading Shields or another starting pitcher. But such a move probably is more likely in the offseason than before July 31.
The Rays value Shields too much.
— Ken Rosenthal