MLB Trade Rumors: Red Sox Should Aggressively Pursue Rays' James Shields

Benjamin Klein@BenjaminJKleinContributor IIIJuly 17, 2012

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 8: Starting pitcher James Shields #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts after giving up two runs during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on July 8, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Boston Red Sox are in full pursuit of another starting pitcher to bolster their rotation, and James Shields should be near the top of their wish list.

Shields is having a so-so year with the Tampa Bay Rays, who could be willing to deal him whether they’re in the playoff hunt or not, according to CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler. Knobler writes that Shields is an inexpensive asset that needs a change of scenery.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports believes that the Rays would only look to trade Shields if they felt they wouldn’t make the playoffs, whereas they’d be willing to trade other pitchers if they were still in the hunt.

Regardless of the Rays’ playoff hopes, it seems that they will be fielding offers for Shields as the trade deadline nears.

The Red Sox have had a lot of interest in acquiring Ryan Dempster, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney, and Matt Garza, according to Rosenthal, among others. Shields, however, should also be very high on their list.

Boston is very familiar with Shields, as he plays for the division-rival Rays and has pitched against the Red Sox 23 times over the course of his seven-year career.

Last season, Shields was as good as can be, winning 16 games with a sub-3.00 ERA and finishing third in the AL Cy Young voting. This season has been much different, as his ERA is 4.44 through 19 starts and he only has eight wins. He’s also allowed at least four earned runs in each of his last five starts.

Even though Shield’s win column and ERA don’t show it, he’s still a workhorse on the mound. He’s thrown at least 100 pitches in all but one of his starts this season and walks have only been an issue a couple of times.

Although the Rays average 4.27 runs per game when Shields starts, he still can’t find a way to win, which is a little concerning. He also has faced the most batters in the league and has allowed the most hits. Hopefully a trade would somehow lower those numbers and settle him down.

Knobler writes that the Rays will definitely seek a catcher, a position where they have gotten inconsistent performance the last few years. A player that could interest Tampa Bay is Ryan Lavarnway, who currently plays in Triple-A Pawtucket. Lavarnway’s power numbers are down from last season, but he should still make a big impact at the plate once he gets promoted.

One reason that the Red Sox would be willing to deal Lavarnway is that Jarrod Saltalamacchia is having a career year and, despite a recent slump, has been much better than expected. However, the only Boston catcher that has been rumored to be drawing interest is Kelly Shoppach, according to’s Peter Gammons.

The Rays have plenty of great young pitchers in their organization, so in order to make the deal more appealing Boston would likely have to include an impact bat in a deal. This could either be a major leaguer or a prospect from the minors.

Some interesting names to consider would be Daniel Nava, Ryan Sweeney, Jackie Bradley and Bryce Brentz. By throwing in one of these players along with Lavarnway, they could create a nice package that Tampa Bay would accept in exchange for Shields.

Should the Red Sox fail to acquire Dempster or Garza, they’re in severe trouble. Adding another starting pitcher would ensure that they are at least doing their best to make the postseason for the first time since 2009. Trading for Shields would add a strong arm to their rotation and improve their playoff chances.

Trading impact players to another team within the division is a rare occurrence, but if the Red Sox are desperate enough, they’ll find a way to acquire Shields from the Rays.