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Tag:James Shields
Posted on: December 21, 2011 1:30 pm
Edited on: December 23, 2011 12:52 pm
 

Darvish is gone, but plenty of starters available

Among teams and agents with starting pitching for sale, there was some hope that the Yu Darvish decision would spur movement in a market that has been slow to develop.

That could still happen. But for now, there is still so much pitching available that it's hard to understand why any team would feel the need to panic.

The free-agent market still offers Hiroki Kuroda, Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt, among others.

On the trade market, Jair Jurrjens, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, Wandy Rodriguez, Matt Garza and more are all believed by other teams to be available, albeit at what buyers still consider to be inflated prices. Even with Mat Latos already having gone to the Reds, John Danks signing an extension with the White Sox and Gio Gonzalez gone to the Nationals, it's a long list (and others such as the Mets' Jon Niese are also out there, along with longer-shot names like James Shields).

Compare that to last July 31, when the Tigers were able to trade for Doug Fister and the Indians got Ubaldo Jimenez, but many teams trying to deal for pitching found no one of real value available.

Now, the question is the high cost in prospects, at least based on what the Padres and A's got for Latos and Gonzalez. Meanwhile, the Red Sox, Marlins, Blue Jays, Royals, Tigers, Mariners, Yankees, Rockies, Orioles and others are hoping to add at least one more starter this winter.

And the market is still so fluid that one person who talked to the Red Sox this week reported back that they are "in on everybody."

In part because so many pitchers are still available, many rival officials continue to think that the Padres did very well in what they got from the Reds for Latos, who is young (24), cheap (not even arbitration-eligible yet), controllable (can't be a free agent until 2016) and talented, but also is regarded as having questionable makeup.

The Reds would no doubt argue that the price for any top pitching remains high, and for now it does.

The question is where the market goes from here, particularly with so many pitchers available.


Posted on: December 6, 2011 3:01 am
Edited on: December 6, 2011 3:23 am
 

Latest on Jurrjens and Prado, and other notes

DALLAS -- More baseball talk from the first full day at the winter meetings:

-- The Braves' duo of Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado continue to be as sought after as any players on the slow-developing trade market. Sources say that 8-10 teams have shown real interest in Jurrjens, while "half the teams in baseball" have talked to the Braves about Prado, most with the idea of playing him at second base. The Braves continue to say that they don't need to move either player, and will only do so if the return helps make them more competitive in 2012 (as opposed to dealing for long-term prospects). The Braves have assured teams that Jurrjens is fully healthy, and that his velocity returned to the mid 90s when he resumed throwing in instructional league.

-- Royals executive J.J. Picollo became the latest to interview with the Astros for their vacant general manager position. The Astros' interest in Picollo and in the Rockies' Bill Geivett would seem to indicate that they want to hire someone with a strong background in scouting and player development. Picollo is Kansas City's assistant GM for scouting and player development, and he previously ran the Braves' minor-league system.

-- The Angels spent Monday night talking to Bob Garber, who represents free-agent pitcher C.J. Wilson. The Angels' interest in Wilson is serious, and has been since last month's general managers meetings in Milwaukee.

-- The Dodgers were considered to have a good day Monday, signing infielder Jerry Hairston and starter Aaron Harang to two-year deals. Rival executives suggest that Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti needs to do whatever he can to try to give his chance a team to play well early in 2012, in hopes of convincing whoever the new owner is that he should keep his job.

-- The A's continue to explore trading closer Andrew Bailey, and are expected to talk to the Red Sox on Tuesday. The Red Sox have not yet been aggressive in pursuit of Bailey.

-- The Tigers are not believed to have shown any significant interest in any of the big names on the free-agent market, and seem content to make smaller improvements to a team that won 95 games in 2011. If the Tigers make a big-money signing this winter, it seems a lot more likely to be Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes than Mark Buehrle, Aramis Ramirez, Coco Crisp or other big names that have been speculated about. It's still not clear how soon Cespedes will be declared a free agent, because of delays in paperwork needed to establish residency in the Dominican Republic. One possibility is that Cespedes could try to establish residency in Mexico, instead.

-- While the White Sox are open to listening to trade proposals for any of John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Carlos Quentin and Gordon Beckham, some club officials insist that they are not "rebuilding," even though general manager Ken Williams used that exact word last month. The Sox insist that they while they are trying to get younger, they would only trade their valuable chips if they get players who are ready to contribute at the big-league level immediately.

-- The Pirates continue to show no interest in trading center fielder Andrew McCutchen, even though early talks on a possible long-term contract showed that the two sides were "not even in the same ballpark," according to sources. McCutchen isn't eligible for free agency for another four years, so the Pirates aren't yet under time pressure to sign him or trade him.

-- The Giants have talked to the representatives for Tim Lincecum, but there doesn't appear to be much progress towards getting Lincecum signed to a long-term contract. Lincecum has two years to go before free agency.

-- A day after some Brewers people expressed a slight hint of optimism at their chances of retaining free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder, others insisted the chances remain very bleak. The Brewers do have real interest in Aramis Ramirez, and have been in contact with every free-agent shortstop.

-- The Rays are open to trading Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis in their quest to improve their offense, but have told teams that they would only listen to overwhelming offers for James Shields. The Rays would also like to trade Reid Brignac, would still like to upgrade their catching, and are once again willing to talk about dealing B.J. Upton.



Posted on: September 21, 2011 1:08 pm
 

Should the Rays trade pitching for hitting?

NEW YORK -- The Rays have a chance in the wild-card race because their rotation is better and deeper than those of the big-money Yankees and Red Sox.

The Rays are at a serious disadvantage in the wild-card race because they aren't nearly as good at scoring runs as they are at preventing them.

The Rays have more pitching coming, including Matt Moore, perhaps the best pitching prospect in baseball. The Rays have some emerging position players (including Desmond Jennings), but not enough.

The answer, to some rival scouts and executives, is clear: This winter, the Rays need to trade pitching for hitting.

Andrew Friedman understands, but the Rays general manager isn't sure he agrees.

"Starting pitching depth is very fleeting," Friedman said. "While we have it right now, we can't wake up one day with [only] three or four starters, where we have to go looking on the market.

"We're absolutely doomed if that happens. We're certainly not going into the winter saying we have too much starting pitching."

Friedman insists he was never close to trading a pitcher at the July 31 deadline, even though opposing teams believed that both Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann were available then. Teams were more interested in James Shields -- the Reds and Tigers had serious interest -- but all agree that the Rays weren't willing to move their ace. It goes almost without saying that the Rays wouldn't trade David Price or Jeremy Hellickson.

The question is whether they would move Shields -- or anyone -- this winter.

While it might be more comfortable to move Davis or Niemann, and put either Moore or Alex Cobb in that spot, it's obvious that Shields would bring a far higher return. Also, Shields' salary goes up to $7 million next year, which is cheap for what he gives but potentially expensive for a team that has real payroll issues.

But trading Shields could hurt the Rays beyond his 15 wins and big-league high 11 complete games. There's no doubt that Shields is the leader of a rotation that is as tight as it is talented.

"Shields is very much a part of the fabric of this team," Friedman admitted. "When we talk in spring training with our prospect pitchers, we often say, 'Go watch James Shields. Go emulate what he does.'"

Would Friedman trade Shields, or one of his other starters? Will Friedman even be the one making the decision, or will he leave the Rays for the Cubs or Astros?

He's not saying, and like his team, he's made a habit of surprising people.

But there is truth to what Friedman said. For the Rays, trading pitching for hitting isn't as simple and clear-cut as it sounds.


Posted on: September 18, 2011 8:56 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2011 10:21 pm
 

3 to Watch: The doubleheader edition

BOSTON -- The Yankees don't have enough pitching. The Red Sox don't have enough pitching.

The low-budget Rays? They have enough pitching.

Crazy, isn't it?

If the Yankees or Red Sox had Matt Moore, you can be sure he'd be starting a game this week, with both teams faced with doubleheaders and cramped schedules.

The Rays have Matt Moore, the top pitching prospect who has scouts buzzing almost Strasburg-style. And while manager Joe Maddon talks about possibly starting him sometime in these final 10 days of the season, he's not yet listed among the Rays' probables.

While the Red Sox go into a doubleheader Monday with Kyle Weiland and John Lackey as their scheduled starters, and while the Yankees hope that Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia aren't running out of gas (or, in Colon's case, stem cells), the Rays have the most solid rotation this side of Philadelphia.

Yes, part of it was drafting high all those years when they were bad (the same way the Yankees got Derek Jeter). David Price was the first player picked in 2007, and Jeff Niemann was the fourth player picked three years earlier.

But the Rays took Wade Davis in the third round, got rookie of the year candidate Jeremy Hellickson in the fourth round and found Moore, the latest phenom, in the eighth round.

Maybe they just make better decisions, or do a better job developing pitchers.

They do it so well that they could afford to trade Matt Garza last winter, and could deal Niemann or Davis -- or even Shields -- this winter. Shields would be the toughest to let go (far tougher than Garza), but he would also bring by far the most back to a team that needs offense and has little money to pay for it.

First, though, the great rotation has brought the Rays back into the wild-card race, and gives them a chance of winning it.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. When the Red Sox were rained out on May 17 against the Orioles and rescheduled it as part of a doubleheader this week, they probably figured it would be simply an annoyance as they prepared for the playoffs. Instead, it's a major headache for a Red Sox team struggling desperately to hold onto a wild-card ticket to the playoffs. And this doubleheader, Orioles at Red Sox, Monday afternoon (1:05 ET) and night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park, doesn't help. The worst part: The Red Sox are stuck starting rookie Kyle Weiland, who has yet to win and has made it past the fourth inning in just one of his four big-league starts. In the other game, they'll go with John Lackey, has the worst ERA of any regular big-league starter.

2. The Giants have won eight in a row, to put off elimination and put a little heat on the first-place Diamondbacks. The Giants are still five games out, but they go to Phoenix this weekend for three games with the D-Backs, so the race isn't over yet. But the Giants, who can't afford to lose, face Clayton Kershaw in Giants at Dodgers, Tuesday night (10:10 ET) at Dodger Stadium. In five starts against the Giants this year, Kershaw is 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA. He'll be going for his 20th win, so he'll be even more motivated. But his opponent, Tim Lincecum, will be pitching to keep the Giants' season alive.

3. While the Red Sox go with Weiland and Lackey in their doubleheader, the Rays will start Shields and Hellickson in Rays at Yankees, Wednesday afternoon (1:05) and night (7:05) at Yankee Stadium. Shields leads the majors with 11 complete games, which makes him perfect for a doubleheader. Wednesday should be interesting for the Yankees, too, if not nearly as crucial. Ace CC Sabathia, who is just 3-3 with a 4.56 ERA in his last eight starts, goes against Shields, while inconsistent Phil Hughes faces Hellickson.

Posted on: September 16, 2011 1:58 am
 

3 to Watch: The Beckett edition

BOSTON -- If Josh Beckett loses Friday night, maybe the Red Sox don't get to the playoffs.

But if Josh Beckett doesn't look healthy Friday night, maybe it doesn't matter whether the Red Sox get to the playoffs.

Not to put too much on Beckett, but there might not be a more important player in baseball to watch this weekend. At this point, there's no way there's a more important player on the Red Sox.

The Sox already have a wounded starting rotation, with Daisuke Matsuzaka out for the year, Clay Buchholz still not certain to return (and unlikely to start), and John Lackey owning the worst ERA in the big leagues (6.19) for anyone allowed to make 16 or more starts.

Lackey is still Boston's third starter, and the Red Sox really don't have a fourth or fifth starter. They may be in trouble in October (if they get there), anyway.

But with a healthy Beckett to team with Jon Lester atop the rotation, and a lineup that can still be very dangerous, they'd have a chance.

There's a reason the Red Sox are 19-8 in games Beckett has started this year. There's a reason that Beckett is the one Boston starter that the Rays worry about (they have no runs and two hits in 17 innings against him this year).

There's a reason I wrote, barely two weeks ago, that Beckett was the biggest difference between the Red Sox and the Yankees.

Just six days after I wrote that, Beckett sprained his right ankle in a Sept. 5 start in Toronto. He hasn't pitched since.

The Red Sox say he's healthy now. They say he should be fine, and under no real limitations, for Friday's start against the Rays.

The Red Sox also have a habit of not always being entirely truthful about injuries.

Is Beckett healthy? For Boston's sake, he'd better be.

Without him, they don't stand much chance in October. Without him, they may not even need to worry about October.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. No matter how good or how healthy Beckett is, there's no guarantee he wins, in Rays at Red Sox, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. That's because James Shields is pitching for the Rays, and Shields has two (of his 11) complete games, and one (of his four) shutouts against Boston. Shields hasn't lost to anyone since Aug. 16, when he gave up just three runs on three hits in a complete-game 3-1 loss to Lester at Fenway. As Shields pointed out Thursday, his six final regular-season starts will be Texas, Texas, Boston, Boston, New York, New York. He's halfway through that tough six-game stretch, and so far he's 3-0 with a 0.71 ERA.  The 29-year-old Shields is the oldest of the Rays' starters. In fact, if he's still around next year (they could trade him), Shields would be the guy who ends Tampa Bay's major-league record streak of consecutive starts by pitchers under 30 (currently at 751 games).

2. The first team to clinch a playoff spot was the Phillies, who did it earlier this week. But they didn't celebrate, waiting to clinch the division first. So the first team to spray champagne could be the Phillies, whose magic number is two going into Cardinals at Phillies, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park (they'd also need a Braves loss to the Mets); or the Tigers, whose magic number is one going into Tigers at A's, Friday night (10:07 ET) at the Coliseum (they could also clinch with an Indians loss in Minnesota). The Phillies starter is Vance Worley, who might not make the playoff rotation but would be second or third for the Yankees or Red Sox. The Tigers starter is Doug Fister, who the Yankees and Red Sox probably should have tried harder to trade for in July.

3. Like the Rays, the Angels aren't done yet. They're 3 1/2 games behind the Rangers in the American League West, and four games back of the Red Sox in the wild card. Unlike the Rays, the Angels don't have five dependable starters. That's why the Angels will bring ace Jered Weaver back on three days' rest to start in Angels at Orioles, Sunday afternoon (1:35 ET) at Camden Yards. By starting Weaver on short rest now, the Angels will be able to start him on normal rest in their final series of the season, against the Rangers.


Posted on: September 15, 2011 10:36 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2011 12:25 am
 

Do the Rays have a chance? Sure they do

BOSTON -- Do they have a chance?

Yeah, they have a chance.

Do they have a good chance?

Ask again tomorrow.

The Rays looked great Thursday night in winning the opener of their four-game must-win series in Boston, holding the Red Sox to six hits in a 9-2 rout. Boston's lead in the American League wild-card race, which was nine games on the morning of Sept. 3, is now down to three games just 13 days later.

With 13 games remaining in the season -- including three more games this weekend -- of course the Rays have a chance.

And if they beat Josh Beckett on Friday night -- and especially if Beckett doesn't look fully recovered from the ankle injury that cost him a start last week -- then you might say the Rays have a good chance in their improbable run at a playoff spot.

A run, by the way, that they don't consider that improbable.

"I think this is what we expected from the first day of spring training, to be in this race," Rays designated hitter Johnny Damon said Thursday afternoon.

They believe they can win, and they believe they can beat the Red Sox head-to-head, at Fenway Park.

They should. The Rays have won 18 of their last 29 games at Fenway, dating back to 2008 and including the American League Championship Series that year.

This season, the Rays have beaten the Red Sox 10 times in 15 games, and they've now won six in a row.

"Against us, their pitchers have a plan, and they follow through on it," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "They're a hard team to play."

The Red Sox are something of a mess right now. Their lineup is beat up, to the point where Francona said Thursday night that third baseman Kevin Youkilis (hip and sports hernia) won't play Friday.

The starting rotation is worse. The Red Sox had to start rookie Kyle Weiland on Thursday, and he didn't make it out of the third inning. They'll start struggling Tim Wakefield in the final game of the series Sunday.

Compare that to the Rays, who are able to run a solid starter out there every night. Thursday, it was Jeremy Hellickson, a 13-game winner who may well be the American League rookie of the year. Friday, against Beckett, it will be James Shields, who leads the majors with 11 complete games and gave up one run in 8 1/3 innings against the Red Sox last weekend in Florida.

But that's what the Rays are, and that's how they've managed to get this far, after losing Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and their entire bullpen off last year's division winners. They pitch, they play defense, and sometimes, they hit enough.


Posted on: September 8, 2011 8:55 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 11:48 pm
 

3 to Watch: The 'Discourage them' edition

The Phillies' goals for the rest of the season would seem to be simple.

Stay healthy (or get healthy). Get rested. Figure out a playoff rotation. Try to break the club record for wins (it's 101, and after a win Thursday the Phillies need just a 10-10 finish to break it).

This week, as the Phillies have faced two potential playoff opponents, manager Charlie Manuel threw another goal out there:

Intimidate the opposition. Look as unbeatable as possible.

"If you play really well, it could discourage them," Manuel said, in advance of this weekend's series in Milwaukee.

The Phillies will likely open the playoffs against the Diamondbacks, who were 2 1/2 games behind the Brewers entering play Thursday. In that case, their second-round opponent would be either the Braves or the Brewers.

The Phillies swept the Braves in a three-game series. They opened a four-game series against the Brewers with a 7-2 win Thursday night.

The games barely matter in the standings, with both teams far ahead in their divisions. Manuel thinks they could matter in the minds of the players, especially if one team dominates the other.

"When I managed in the minor leagues, I had some big hitting teams," he said. "I always liked it when the other team watched us take batting practice. It scared them."

So Charlie, someone asked, does that mean you don't want your pitchers watching when Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder take BP?

"My pitchers can," he said, laughing. "My starting rotation can watch them."

Nothing will scare Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee et al, Manuel figures, probably correctly.

But there is some thought in Philadelphia that the one team that would really concern the Phillies would be the Giants, who knocked them out of the playoffs last year and also won two of three in Philadelphia in July (although the Phillies then won three of four in San Francisco).

The Phillies lost two of three to the Brewers in April, but the Phillies don't look at the Brewers the way they look at the Giants.

Not yet, anyway.

If the Brewers play really well this weekend, maybe the Phillies could be the team that gets discouraged.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. With Josh Beckett's ankle injury, the Red Sox have reason to worry about their starting rotation. They don't have to worry about making it to the playoffs. Right? Uh, I think that's right, but I also noticed that Boston's wild-card lead over the Rays shrunk to 6 1/2 games on Thursday night. And I noticed that the two teams have seven remaining head-to-head meetings, starting with Red Sox at Rays, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Tropicana Field. Great pitching matchup Sunday, with Jon Lester going against James Shields, but especially with Beckett out, the Red Sox might be more focused on what happens Friday, when John Lackey faces Wade Davis. Of the 140 pitchers that have started at least 15 games in the majors this year, Lackey (6.11) is the only one with an ERA over 6.00.

2. For the last three weeks, the Angels have had an easier schedule than the Rangers, and that's no doubt one reason why the Rangers' lead in the American League West shrunk from seven games to 2 1/2 games. But the schedule turns starting this weekend, when the Rangers begin a homestand against the A's and Indians, followed by a trip to Seattle and Oakland. Meanwhile, in Anaheim, it gets tougher, including Yankees at Angels, Saturday night (9:05 ET) at Angel Stadium. At least the Angels have their top three starters set for the series, with Jered Weaver facing Bartolo Colon on Friday, Dan Haren against CC Sabathia on Saturday and Ervin Santana against Freddy Garcia on Sunday.

3. When someone asked Manuel the other day if there's any way Vance Worley could find his way into the postseason rotation, the Phillies manager said: "I think that's a question that should be asked." While the Yankees and Red Sox wonder if they have enough pitchers they would want to start in October, the Phillies seem to have too many. Worley has been outstanding, but it's still hard to see Manuel using him ahead of Roy Oswalt, especially since the manager is on record saying he expects Oswalt's velocity to pick up in October. Worley gets another chance to make his case in Phillies at Brewers, Sunday afternoon (2:10 ET) at Miller Park. It's an interesting case, as the Phillies have won each of Worley's last 14 starts. If the Phillies win Sunday, Worley will tie the Philadelphia club record of 15, set by Steve Carlton in 1972, his 27-win season. The last longer streak in the big leagues was by the 2005 Cardinals, who won 17 straight Chris Carpenter starts.

Posted on: July 25, 2011 7:44 pm
Edited on: July 25, 2011 8:59 pm
 

Rays won't deal Shields, would talk others

In the ever-evolving trade market for starting pitchers, quite a few teams were holding out hope last week that the Rays would make All-Star James Shields available.

No such luck.

The Rays have now told teams that they won't discuss Shields, and also that David Price and Jeremy Hellickson are off-limits. At the same time, according to sources, they would be willing to talk about Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis, their other two starting pitchers. And, of course, the Rays are willing to discuss outfielder B.J. Upton.

The Rays have continued to hold out hope they could stay alive in the wild-card race, but after losing two of three to the Royals, they began play Monday 6 1/2 games behind the Yankees.

The Tigers, Reds, Cardinals and other teams had shown interest in Shields, with the Tigers sending two scouts to see his start against the Yankees last Thursday. It doesn't appear that the Tigers are nearly as interested in either Niemann or Davis.

The Tigers continue to follow almost every starting pitcher available. They scouted Seattle's Doug Fister and Jason Vargas last week in Toronto, and have a scout watching the Mariners again this week in New York. They have had scouts present at least the last two times that Aaron Harang started for the Padres, and they've also watched Hiroki Kuroda, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Marquis, John Lannan and Derek Lowe, in addition to Shields and Ubaldo Jimenez.

The Tigers don't match up well with the Rockies on Jimenez, and Guthrie and Lowe seem to be further down the list for them. It's believed that they have strong interest in Kuroda, but it's still uncertain whether he would consider waiving his no-trade clause for them (or for anyone else).



 
 
 
 
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