There will not be too many top-tier starting pitchers on the trade market this summer. Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels are names that there will be a lot of speculation about, but after them the talent level drops off.
Jason Churchill of ESPN (Insider required) has suggested that the Tampa Bay Rays could look to deal James Shields this summer in an effort to push themselves towards the playoffs. His logic is that the Rays have starters that can fill in for him and that they can address a need while picking up a prospect or two if they trade Shields.
While a trade like this seems to be very unlikely, there are certainly a number of teams that would be willing to pay what the Rays want in return for Shields.
Catcher has seemingly been a black hole for the Tampa Bay Rays so far this season and they have barely gotten any offensive production from the position.
Devin Mesoraco could immediately step in and improve that position for the Rays. The Cincinnati Reds also have a number of other prospects, such as Billy Hamilton, that could also be sent to the Rays in return for James Shields.
Shields would be a big boost to the Reds pitching staff and could help them run away from the pack in the National League Central.
Second base has been another area which has been a problem for the Tampa Bay Rays this season. They have Ben Zobrist playing there, but the Rays would be better off if they could keep him in the outfield.
The New York Mets could send Daniel Murphy and Scott Hairston to the Rays in addition to a prospect like Matt Harvey in return for James Shields.
New York would have an outstanding top of their rotation with Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey and Shields, which would immediately turn them into a legitimate playoff contender. The Rays would improve both their infield and outfield in a deal like this and they would get a starting pitcher who could replace Shields as early as next year.
If the Los Angeles Angels centered a deal for James Shields around Kendrys Morales, the Tampa Bay Rays would certainly start listening to what they had to say.
Morales could come in and either play first base or DH for the Rays. The Angels may also include a prospect like Taylor Lindsay to sweeten the deal for the Rays. Shields would make the Angels starting rotation significantly better.
The Atlanta Braves thought that they had a lot of pitching depth heading into the season but injuries and poor performances have really cut into that. They could now be in a position where they look to improve their rotation.
Atlanta has a few players that could be a fit for the Tampa Bay Rays. Andrelton Simmons and David Ross would certainly entice the Rays, but the Braves would also need to include another piece or two in a deal for Shields.
With the news that Chris Carpenter will be undergoing season-ending surgery, the St. Louis Cardinals may be more interested in bringing in a starting pitcher (h/t R.B. Fallstrom). This could mean that they make a play for James Shields.
Kolten Wong has proven that he can handle Double-A this year and he may be ready for the majors. The Rays could stick him at second base. Additionally, the Rays could get Matt Adams to play first as well as another prospect or two.