Rays Trade Rumors: BJ Upton and James Shields Among Players They Could Deal

Jamal Wilburg@JWilburgCorrespondent IJuly 27, 2011

Rays Trade Rumors: BJ Upton and James Shields Among Players They Could Deal

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    B.J. Upton and James Shields remain at the top of Tampa Bay Rays rumors as the MLB Trade Deadline approaches.

    It continues to be debated whether the Rays will be sellers at the trade deadline. The team's recent lackluster performances against the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, and Oakland A's has taken them off the market as potential buyers.

    They are also drifting further from the possibility of the franchise's first back-to-back postseason appearances.

    Here's a look at the probability of the six most common players associated with trade rumors for the Rays.

    Jamal Wilburg is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

    You can follow him on Twitter @JWilburg

David Price

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    Any rumors of the Tampa Bay Rays trading David Price are just rumors, period.

    The team is listening to probably every offer being made but that doesn't mean they are planning on taking any action.

    There are better odds of winning the lottery three times in a row than the Rays trading Price.

Casey Kotchman

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    Casey Kotchman is currently having the best season of his career with the Tampa Bay Rays. He has been a rare bright spot in the lineup, batting .325 with an on-base percentage of .388 and 29 RBI.

    Coming into the season, Kotchman was invited to training camp on a minor league contract. Saying that he is performing beyond expectation is an understatement. Although he is playing great baseball, the Rays may not be interested in trading Kotchman at the deadline.

    Teams may also not be interested in Kotchman for a variety of reasons. He will be a free agent at the end of the season and he will certainly garner more interest than he did this previous offseason. Teams will be able to potentially sign him without giving up anything to get him.

    Kotchman will most likely remain in Tampa Bay since the team is likely to want some good prospects in return. Also, the Rays may not be interested in shopping him, since his 2011 salary is only $750,000.

Johnny Damon

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    Johnny Damon is another Tampa Bay Rays player who will most likely remain on the team past the deadline. Although there is speculation about him being shopped as available, there are few possible suitors.

    Damon is having a decent season at the plate hitting .275 with a .323 on-base percentage but he is a huge liability in the field. The only teams likely to make a move for his talents would have to be in the American League.

    The Yankees and Red Sox will likely take two of the four American League playoff spots. Damon has already played for both teams and the Rays are not likely to negotiate with divisional rivals.

    That leaves the Rangers as the most likely landing spot for a potential deal.

    Although the Rays may be motivated to deal Damon, unfortunately the demand may not be present.

Kyle Farnsworth

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    Kyle Farnsworth wouldn't be a surprising trade for the Tampa Bay Rays to make. Teams looking for late-inning help could find him to be a cheaper alternative to other options like Heath Bell.

    Although the Rays have a depleted and less than talented bullpen, it makes sense to trade Farnsworth.

    The team is hanging onto slim chances of making the postseason in 2011. The need for him for the remainder of this season is meaningless if they are out of the playoff hunt.

    However, the Rays could decide to keep Farnsworth thinking that they can make another run in 2012. He will still be under contract and could always be dealt at the deadline next season if the team finds itself in a similar position in the standings.

    Two teams that the Rays will not be dealing Farnsworth to are the Yankees and Red Sox for obvious reasons.

    At the end of the day, Farnsworth will likely be traded if an attractive offer is made.

James Shields

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    James Shields is by far the most valuable asset the Tampa Bay Rays could move before the trading deadline, unless the New York Yankees call.

    The 29-year-old pitcher has a 2.53 ERA so far this season and was named to the American League All-Star team. Most impressive are his seven complete games this season, including three shutouts.

    His ability to eat innings (156.1 innings pitched so far) this season has saved the Rays bargain basement bullpen from having to take the mound in critical situations.

    It would take a top 25 prospect for the Rays to move Shields. Even if an offer of that caliber were on the table, he could still not be dealt before the deadline.

    The Rays' success under Joe Maddon is built around starting pitching and defense. Although the bats have not been there this season, there is still enough talent on the roster for the team to be competitive in 2012.

    Shields and David Price at the top of the rotation is essential for that potential to have any hopes of being reached.

B.J. Upton

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    B.J. Upton is the most likely member of the Tampa Bay Rays to be traded prior to the trade deadline. The 26-year-old outfielder has been rumored to be wanted by teams including the Braves, Pirates, Reds and Cardinals.

    The interesting thing about Upton's value is the fact that the team trading him will likely grossly overpay if he is dealt. Teams still in the postseason hunt are more interested in his defense and base-running abilities over his weaknesses.

    Also, his .310 on-base percentage, combined with his speed, may be enough for teams to find value for him offensively.

    Adding to his value is the fact that there aren't that many center fielders on the market at the deadline and he has more upside than some of the other names rumored to be on the move.

    There is still the possibility that Upton remains on the Rays through the deadline. The fact that he will be a free agent after 2012 may keep some teams from trading top prospects for a player who could be a short-term solution.

    At the end of the day, the most likely landing place for Upton is a trade to a team in the National League.