December 2012

Looking at the Rays Starters

As it has seemed for the past several years, one of the most talked about subjects at the Winter Meetings is the Rays starting pitching. Will any one from this coveted group get traded? Based on the team’s history, it’s not likely. However, there is some feeling in the Rays’ camp that they don’t want to get caught holding onto a pitcher until he’s past his prime.

James Shields’ name has been the most mentioned. Initially, speculation had Shields heading to the Nationals in a deal that would have included infielder Danny Espinosa and outfielder Michael Morse. That possibility was wiped off the board Tuesday morning when the Nationals signed right-hander Dan Heren.

The Royals also are interested in Shields and Minor League outfielder Wil Myers has been the key Royals player mentioned in that deal. Wonder here is what might happen if the Royals sent the Rays right-fielder Jeff Francoeur and prospects for Shields. While that would be more expensive since Francour will make $6.7 million this season–and he’s only signed through this season, he would bring the Rays a solid right-handed power threat and a Gold Glove type outfielder. Myers would be cheaper and the Rays could keep him longer, there always is risk when a player is a prospect–no matter how good, and not a proven Major Leaguer.  Such a deal would also seem to appeal to the Royals, who would acquire Shields while creating a place in their outfield for their top prospect.

In all probability, if the Rays indeed are going to trade Shields, they’ll likely wait until after Zack Grienke signs. Both Los Angeles teams want Greinke, so the loser would seemingly be interested in Shields as a second choice.

Talk of Shields aside, other Rays pitchers are of interest to many teams and their names and what is, or is not, attractive about those pitchers is being talked about by scouts and management types in the lobby of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel.

Most feel like the Rays will have to trade David Price at some point because of the team’s perceived unlikelihood of signing him once he’s eligible to become a free agent.

Jeff Niemann’s name brings skepticism based on the shoulder problem he experienced at the end of the season, so he’ll likely have to prove he’s healthy before he can be traded.

Jeremy Hellickson is well regarded and one scout noted that Alex Cobb showed more toughness, pitching acumen and an ability to adjust while disproving that scout’s belief that hitters would quickly figure out the right-hander.

A lot of scouts like Wade Davis.  While the flexibility he showed pitching in the bullpen in 2012 caught their attention, most consider Davis a starter.

Matt Moore’s name will bring a lot of shoulder shrugging and head scratching. One scout even evoked Scott Kazmir’s name when talking about the left-hander (that could be construed as a compliment or an insult depending on what vintage of Kazmir you’re talking about).

As for Chris Archer, his stuff has clearly impressed scouts. But most feel like he’s not as polished as he needs to be.

–Bill Chastain