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Tuesday Rockpile: Colorado Rockies Trade Target - Tampa Bay Rays SP James Shields?

Now that Hiroki Kuroda has officially been signed by the Dodgers and the Cardinals are growing more optimistic in inking Jake Westbrook, there appears to be only one free agent starting pitcher with the potential to make a big impact:  Jorge de la Rosa.  Of course, it is highly probably the Mexican lefty will cash in his chance at a payday, leaving the Rockies looking elsewhere for a starter.  Troy Renck has suggested repeatedly in articles and tweets that Dan O'Dowd may pursue a starter via trade, and the most popular name Renck has floated is Tampa Bay Ray James Shields.  Is this a good idea?



If you want to have a potential top of rotation starter for cheap, Shields is your guy.  The 29-year-old right hander has been the Opening Day starter for Tampa Bay for three consecutive seasons and was awarded Game 2 of the ALDS for Rays, who finished 2010 with the best record in the American League.

He's very affordable, having just finished his third year of a four year, $11.25mil contract signed in January 2008.  His salary in 2011 is just $4.25million, which makes him an incredibly attractive option that would allow O'Dowd to utilize a larger portion of the budget on an impact bat.  Moreover, he has three option years after 2011, effectively keeping him under team control through 2014.

His 8.28 K/9 in 2010 represents a career high and truthfully isn't far behind Ubaldo Jimenez (8.69), and while his walk rate in 2010 was the highest since his 2006 rookie campaign, it would still have ranked #1 on the Rockies' staff.  His 2010 K/BB would have obliterated the Rockies' franchise record for a starter.  Striking out a lot of batters and walking few is always a good recipe for success.  Prior to 2010, he averaged 4.2 WAR on fangraphs and 3.7 WAR on Baseball Reference annually from 2007-09.  

Despite those credentials, Shields just might be available.  David Price, Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis are guaranteed spots in the Rays' rotation in 2011, and super prospect Jeremy Hellickson is ready to burst on the scene.  That means Matt Garza or James Shields must be dealt this offseason.

Sounding good, right?  Take the jump.

Off-topic here.


Unfortunately, walks and strikeouts aren't the only way to measure a pitcher's success.  There has to be some reason why his traditional statistics graded out so poorly.

2010 - James Shields 13-15 34 33 0 0 0 0 203.1 246 128 117 34 51 187 5.18 1.46

See below:

  2010   Stat MLB Rank
BABIP  .354    Worst
BA All.  .300 2nd Worst
HR/FB 13.80%    Worst
HR/9  1.50 2nd Worst
LD% 20.30%  9th Worst

That suggests either a criminally unlucky pitcher (9 of his 34 home runs allowed were classified as "Just Enough" by hittrackeronline), or you are dealing with a frighteningly hittable pitcher.  Add in that his career ground ball rate is just 43% and Shields might be a horrible fit for Coors Field.  To answer whether Shields was hittable or unlucky, I turned to Steve Slowinski, the current lead blogger at DRays Bay.  His response:

He had many great starts ruined by one or two bad pitches. He'd be pitching great for the entire game, striking out batters and looking good, but then he'd miss on a couple pitches and let up 4 ER in a hurry. He definitely did seem to have a "failure to execute" and his fastball in particular is very straight and hittable.

Suddenly, Shields looks like another Jason Hammel, only slightly worse, which is incredibly ironic.  Ryan Glass, another staff member at DRays Bay, chimed in with this:

I think he loses concentration or control at times and when his fastball control lapses, the ball flies. He has to be more on his game than some others due to his underwhelming fastball. Another issue may be the terrible cutter that NEEDS to be scrapped.

Then consider that Shields' contact rate has crept up every year of his career and his swing-and-miss rate has a career downslope, and yet, the Rays might have too high of an asking price.  Slowinski again:

The Rays still like Shields (it helps that he's signed for only $4M in 2011) and they seem ready to shop Garza. I'm sure the Rays would trade Shields if they got the right offer, but I think you'd have to be ready to give up more for him than you would for Garza. The Rays are looking for major-league ready prospects at either 1B / DH / OF, or high upside prospects. They love toolsy players.

The Rockies don't seem to have a good fit prospect-wise if that indeed is the asking price.  Maybe this article should have been about Matt Garza instead, who the Rays seem to prefer to trade due to a large raise due in arbitration.  I asked Troy Renck if he knew of any interest in Garza from the Rockies.  He confirmed they liked Garza but were unwilling to offer two top prospects in trade for him, which would likely be the requisite package.



So we are left with dealing top prospects from positions of weakness (Nolan Arenado and Rafael Ortega might not get it done) for a pitcher who has a pretty K/BB but is ill-suited for Coors Field and appears to be one of the more hittable pitchers in the league.  Bob Apodaca has certainly done more with less, and Shields very much has the potential to be a decent #2 or solid #3 if things turn right, but that is no guarantee.  I very much liked Shields initially, but I have surprised myself with how unenthused I am with acquiring him.  But if the Rays lower their asking price (because they WILL have to trade someone), the Rockies could do a lot worse than a 2-3 WAR pitcher with 4 WAR potential and a $4mil salary.



Rockies' humidor likely to be discussed in meetings - The Denver Post  The GM and owner meetings begin today in Orlando, and Troy Renck reports that league business is prioritized.  That means the humidor will be discussed today.  Renck also named Tampa Bay FA reliever Joaquin Benoit as a pitcher the Rockies are interested in signing.

Rockies, D-backs announce spring ticket prices | News
They will be available to the general public on December 6, with the cheapest tickets going for $8/ea to sit in the outfield lawn area, a personal favorite.

November farm report: Arenado’s jump start | Inside the Colorado Rockies
Jack Etkin's farm report came out yesterday, focusing on the Rockies best corner infield prospect.  Donate to receive access.

Ramon Hernandez Signs 1-Year Deal to Stay in Cincinnati -- MLB FanHouse  One of the Rockies' potential back-up plans for the catching position was taken off the table, as the Reds retained the veteran backstop.

Red Sox claim Taylor Buchholz off waivers | News
Taylor has been reunited with Clay, who he has never met in his life.

Bartolo Colon Back On The Radar: MLB Rumors -  Once upon a time, Colon was the ace for the organization Dan O'Dowd worked for.  In October, he claimed to be in consistent communication with the Rockies, and he just finished off a very good pitching performance.  But don't worry.  There couldn't be much, if any, guaranteed money if a deal is somehow consummated.

Adrian Beltre and Carl Crawford compare well with all time greats - MLB News | FOX Sports on MSN  Ken Rosenthal reports that the Rockies are getting a lot of interest in Clint Barmes.  Reading into that, it is possible the Rockies could leverage multiple team interest into a trade instead of a straight non-tender.  Of course, in the very same sentence, Rosenthal adds Barmes would be let go if "they're unable to sign him to a multi-year deal."  What?



  Scouting Report v2.0: Delta Cleary, OF, Colorado Rockies : Scouting the Sally - Mike Newman's latest scouting report was on Delta Cleary, the toolsy young CF for the Low-A Asheville Tourists and the #30 PuRP.  His first line tells you most of what you need to know:

Colorado Rockies outfield prospect Delta Cleary is one of the most frustrating prospects I have had the opportunity to scout extensively over the past couple of years.

Matt Muzia, writer for SBNation Denver and PR community member, traveled to Asheville this summer and watched Cleary play.  Here is his video from Youtube.

Colorado Rockies Prospect Delta Cleary (via muzia02)