ARLINGTON, TX: James Shields #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers during Game Two of the American League Division Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
In the latest installment of trades that will never happen -- but probably should -- we examine the possibility of some AL East collusion.
There are a lot of teams looking for starting pitching, as there always are. The Rays have a glut of it and they're waiting for Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda, and Roy Oswalt to sign before they jack up their prices. But when you do the same thing with bottled water after a natural disaster, they call you unethical …
Two teams interested in rotation help are the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox. The Jays are dark-horse contenders in the AL East, with a solid lineup but a front-loaded rotation. The Red Sox are still the contenders we thought they were last January, but now we know the caveat is they desperately need pitching depth. Would the Rays consider an intra-division trade?
I'll guess it's a double-edged answer: yes to the Jays, no to the Red Sox. I suppose if the Red Sox offered Dustin Pedroia for a lock of Jason Tyner's hair, the Rays would trade with the Red Sox. Never say never. But there's something of an enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend dynamic between the Rays and Jays. If a trade between the two made baseball sense, I'd wager that the two teams wouldn't be timid about dealing within the division. At least, with each other. Everyone remembers the famous Chad Gaudin/Kevin Cash deal. The Red Sox and Yankees can play their own reindeer games, though.
So in this second installment of Fake Trades, we can picture the Rays acting like Eric Stoltz in Pulp Fiction, shuffling around his disheveled house in a bathrobe, offer his wares.
This is Wade Davis, from Lake Wales. Very good stuff. This is Jeremy Hellickson, from Iowa. Different, but equally good. This is James Shields, from California.
Now, the first two are the same. A couple of B-prospects. These are friend prices. But Shields is a little more expensive. This will take a boatload of talent in a trade, but when you pitch him, you will know where those extra prospects went. Now, there's nothing wrong with these two. These are real, real good pitchers. But this one is a ******* madman. I mean, control artist.
And if the Jays are serious about contending -- and if the Rays would consider trading Shields -- I don't think the Jays go small. There's no reason for Toronto to futz around with second-tier prospects for third-tier pitchers. If they don't want to pay for pitchers like Kuroda or Oswalt, they'll want to get someone better, whose cost in prospects would be mitigated by his team-friendly contract.
Blue Jays trade:
J.P. Arencibia - C
Noah Syndergaard - RHP
James Shields - RHP
Robinson Chirinos - C
What, you thought the Rays were just going to give up Shields for a couple of teenagers who wouldn't even be ready until the team's new stadium in San Antonio was ready? Well, yeah, they could. But with this trade the Rays get five years of a cheap Arencibia for three years of a somewhat-costly Shields. This trade would make the Rays worse -- and a direct competitor better -- in 2012, so the difference in immediate contribution is made up with the inclusion of Syndergaard, who is a mighty fine prospect, but not one of the very best in the Blue Jays' system.
The Jays have Travis d'Arnaud, who should start in AAA in 2012, and he was likely going to push Arencibia off the position anyway. They'll get Chirinos back as cheap immediate depth, though they'd still be free to pursue Jason Varitek or Chris Snyder if either of those players unscrew their pickle jar. But the star of the deal, of course, is Shields. He's signed through 2012, with two team options (for a total of $21 million) that could take him through 2014. He'll cost less than Yu Darvish's posting fee, and he has a pretty good chance of being better in the short term.
In addition to the obvious advantages, this trade would also act as a Mathis bomb for the Rays, with Mathis shrapnel whizzing around the Jays' lineup. You'd think the Jays would be hip to this strategy, but if they're the ones who actually acquired Jeff Mathis, they probably aren't so cynical.
The Rays would get a long-term catcher, and they'd get by with one of the 842 pitchers they have in reserve, like Alex Cobb, Jeff Niemann, or Alex Torres. The Jays would get a pitcher for the front of their rotation to pair with Ricky Romero for the next three years. It makes sense. Now in grand mock-trade tradition, I would like to invite you to the comments section, where you can tell me just how much of an idiot I am.