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MLB Trade Rumors: Why Shields, Zobrist to the Angels Would Seal AL West Title

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MLB Trade Rumors: Why Shields, Zobrist to the Angels Would Seal AL West Title
J. Meric/Getty Images
James Shields has allowed 150 hits, the most in baseball.

Evidently, a starting rotation with Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Dan Haren making up the top three isn't enough for the Los Angeles Angels.

The Halos want more starting pitching, as they not only attempt to catch the Texas Rangers for the AL West lead, but hold off the surging Oakland Athletics, who are now just a game behind. Obviously, this is too close for comfort.

One pitcher that Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto has been eying, according to several reports (such as this one from CBS Sports' Jon Heyman), is the Tampa Bay Rays' James Shields.

ESPN.com's Jim Bowden followed that up by tweeting a rumor that the Angels are putting together a package including Howie Kendrick, Garrett Richards and Double-A pitcher John Hellweg to trade for Shields and infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist. Bowden qualified the rumor by saying the Angels and Rays were only having "conversation," presumably meaning that a formal offer hasn't been made.

However, with the news that Colby Lewis is out for the season with a torn ligament in his elbow and the likelihood of getting a top starting pitcher like Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke appearing increasingly unlikely, the Texas Rangers' hold on first place in the AL West looks rather slippery. 

If the Angels add another starting pitcher, along with a 20-homer, 100-RBI infielder, that could be a knockout blow to a wobbly, vulnerable Rangers team. 

 

Stronger Starting Rotation

Shields is a 200-inning workhorse, also capable of reaching 200 strikeouts in a season, and he would be an excellent No. 4 starter for the Angels.

Acquiring Shields would also be insurance against Haren's back injury recurring and could push Ervin Santana to the No. 5 spot. His struggles wouldn't hurt the team quite as much from the back end of the Angels' rotation. He could even be skipped over, depending on how the schedule and rotation worked out. 

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
For how many teams would James Shields be a No. 4 starter?

Without adding an ace-type starter such as Hamels or Greinke, the Rangers still have a good starting rotation. But is it really good enough to stay ahead of the Angels, let alone get back to the World Series?

Matt Harrison and Derek Holland aren't No. 1 starters. Yu Darvish could be someday, but will he begin to tire out toward the end of his first season in the major leagues? Roy Oswalt gives the Rangers a strong No. 4 if he continues to pitch well, but he missed Monday night's start after taking a cortisone injection to his back. And the fifth spot in the rotation is a question mark.

How does that compare to a potential starting five of Weaver, Wilson, Haren, Shields and Santana? One of those starting rotations is not like the other.

 

Boosting the Infield

It's a bit curious that the Rays would be interested in taking Kendrick, if Bowden's report is correct. He has almost $28 million remaining on the final three years of his contract. Zobrist, meanwhile, is owed up to $20 million if the Rays pick up options for 2014 and 2015. Do the Rays think they can eventually flip Kendrick? 

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Ben Zobrist's .834 OPS would be a boost to the Angels' infield.

Zobrist is having a down year in terms of batting average and RBI. He's batting .252 with only 39 RBI. Yet his .834 OPS is far more impressive than Kendrick's .699.

As a switch-hitter, Zobrist would also fit in nicely with the Angels' batting order as a left-handed bat behind Mark Trumbo in the No. 5 spot. He's also shown more power than Kendrick during his career, with two seasons of 20 or more homers and 90-plus RBI. He appears to be an upgrade at second base. 

Playing the outfield in Anaheim seems doubtful for Zobrist, even though he has plenty of experience in right field. With Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos, Torii Hunter and the spectre of Vernon Wells lurking, the Angels are stocked at that position. 

 

For a team that signed Wilson and Albert Pujols, it's mind-boggling to consider that the Angels could improve their team even further through a trade. But that's the kind of operation Arte Moreno has put together. (Credit should also go to former GM Tony Reagins, who drafted the minor league talent that will allow the Angels to make such a deal.)

There's plenty of money to spend with the team's new TV contract. And if Dipoto proves to be more savvy in making trades than Reagins (who made the deal for Wells), the Rangers' reign over the American League could be ending sooner than may have been expected. 

 

Follow @iancass on Twitter.

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