James Shields Trade Rumors: Minnesota Twins Have Chips to Pull off Winter Deal

Chris SchadContributor IIINovember 12, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 25: (L-R) Matt Carson #22, Alexi Casilla #12 and Denard Span #2 of the Minnesota Twins celebrate a win against the New York Yankees on September 25, 2012 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Yankees 5-4. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

It's no secret that the Minnesota Twins will be looking to upgrade their pitching staff this offseason. For the second year in a row, the Twins finished last in the American League in team earned run average and often forced their bullpen into action before the fifth inning.

With Twins fans fearing the worst this winter with stingy owner Jim Pohlad and general manager Terry Ryan, there is one big name that the Twins could attempt to get and give them the top-of-the-rotation starter they've lacked since Johan Santana was traded in 2008.

That name would be James Shields, who recently had a $10.5 million option picked up by the Tampa Bay Rays.

While it seems like that option may be a death blow to any chance of the Twins landing the 30-year-old right-hander (who will turn 31 in December), a report by ESPN 1500 AM's Darren Wolfson hinted that the Rays were still interested in moving Shields.

While having [Shields'] $10.25 million option exercised for 2013, he's available. The Twins seem like a good match with the Rays because of their outfield depth. Tampa Bay is expected to lose outfielder B.J. Upton, who's a free agent.

The article brings up a great point that the Twins have tremendous depth in the outfield as they try to rebuild their team. Of course, only three (and maybe four with the designated hitter) can play at a time, so the Twins have some leeway in sending someone away to get a prized pitcher like Shields.

The name that will be at the top of the list in a potential trade demand will be center fielder Denard Span.

Span has been a key cog in the Twins lineup since his debut in 2008, but with the emergence of former first-round pick Ben Revere, the Twins could possibly send Span to Tampa Bay which would in turn help the Rays cope with the expected loss of Upton.

Outside of Span, the Twins could also throw in one of their blossoming outfield prospects to possibly sweeten the pot for the Rays.

Prospects such as Aaron Hicks, Eddie Rosario or even Oswaldo Arcia could all be dangled to entice the Rays to make a deal.

In a best case scenario that could play out, the Rays wouldn't even ask for those prospects and take Span. The Rays are still loaded with young pitching talent that can't crack the roster in Tampa Bay, but could find themselves as a vital cog in the Twins pitching rotation if they were traded.

A James Shield for Denard Span trade would help both sides, but it remains to be seen if the teams will actually pull the trigger and make a deal.