Many feel that it is a forgone conclusion that the Rays will trade either James Shields or Matt Garza this off-season. The logic is simple: the Rays need a spot for Jeremy Hellickson and Shields and Garza are the Rays’ two highest paid pitchers and are the closest to free agency.

But Ken Rosenthal suggests what we have been saying for a while. The Rays are more likely to hold on to all six starting pitchers until after the 2011 season (Ed. note: actually we have said they will hold on to all 6 until at least the trading deadline)…

Matt Garza, for different reasons, also is unlikely to be moved…Hellickson is ready to join the Rays’ rotation. But a potential surplus quickly could become a shortage if the team traded Garza or another starter…At that point, the Rays would be one injury away from rushing a prospect or employing a six-year minor-league free agent to pitch in the AL East…Garza, who is earning $3.35 million this season and has three years of arbitration remaining, already is drawing long looks from clubs with potential interest….The Rays, however, are more likely to trade a starter after next season, when their next wave of pitching prospects will be closer to the majors…Left-hander Matt Moore and righties Alex Colome, Nick Barnese and Joe Cruz all ended the season at High Class A, and one or more of them could reach Triple A next season.

While Garza (~$5.25M) and Shields ($4.25M) will make a lot of money in 2011, their salaries are still cheap for what their talents bring to the Rays. And with players like Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano unlikely to be back next season, we have already shown that the Rays can easily afford to keep both Shields and Garza (with room to spare).

Let’s face it. The Rays love to hoard players. And their favorite type of players are underpaid starting pitchers.

While it will pain many to read this, we wouldn’t be surprised if Jeremy Hellickson starts the 2011 season back in triple-A just as David Price did in 2009. Only Hellickson’s stay could be considerably longer (July?). The only other option would be to move Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis to the bullpen. But in doing that, the Rays risk losing value from those pitchers to perform a job that could easily be performed by a cheap reliever from the free agent market.

While not ideal, the Rays would much prefer the problem of too many starting pitchers than a scenario in which they don’t have enough.

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15 Comments

  1. So you are saying it is a foregone conclusion that Sonny is gone? I think he could be a successful starter in the National League - preferrably in a bigger park (San Diego, NY Mets, Florida?). If you move Hellickson to the Sonny role in 2011 he is contributing at the big league level and you have leverage to make a deal and then slide Hellboy in the rotation.

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  2. david says:

    complete garbage and an utter waste of time reading this. there is absolutely no possibility that Hellickson is not in the starting rotation to begin the season. it makes no sense to wait until you have to trade a pitcher to trade him, and get reduced value. it also does not matter if the rays have a "top" prospect like Moore, Colome, or Cruz to take over for the injured starter, you would only expect this rookie to be your 5th starter, and the rotation is deep enough to absorb a drop off. besides, who is to say that mcgee is not almost major league ready? the conclusion that the rays will wait to trade a starter is dubious and has no merit whatsoever. they will get optimal value this summer, shields will be gone, as will bartlett.

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    • Mike says:

      First of all, if you weren't so angry, you might have taken a moment to notice that McGee is now a relief pitcher. That's what he was most of the year in the minors and it was move the Rays had openly talked about for a while.

      And the funny thing about your rant is I remember hearing the exact same rants about Price and Longoria, both of whom started their seasons in the minors.

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      • Monte says:

        McGee was at Montgomery the majority of the year and he was a starter all year....They started working him as a reliever at Durham for the last month of the season.

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    • Cornholio says:

      How are they supposed to get "optimal value" for Shields "this summer"? This was by far the worst year of his career and his contract is going up. If they do trade somebody it will be Garza, but I'm with Prof, seems unlikely to me.

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      • John S says:

        While Shields value dropped off this year, he will still fetch a very good return. The matter of the fact is he is still in his prime, relatively cheap for all teams with top 20 payrolls and would be a 1 or 2 for any NL team (sans Philly, STL and SF). He is very durable and eats innnings.

        He has had flashes of brillance (vs. Yankees 3 weeks ago) to go with this head scratching performances.

        Additionally the fact that the Rays produce good young starters is another factor. Our bullpen guys like Talbot and Hammell all produced fairly well for their teams. Other teams notice how pitchers from one club do, especially if they were not given a chance with the club that traded them away. The pitcher's success speaks to the depth of the Rays pitching organization which is widely considered one of the best, if not the best.

        Shields even now would fetch either a first class closer and prospect, 2 blue chip prospects or a very good everyday player who is affordable and young (First base; left field; and/or catcher)

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  3. Sam W says:

    Isn't Hellickson a Boras client now? That means it is a longshot to ever get him to sign an extension. So the Rays would be smart to keep Hellboy in Durham for a while to delay his free agency and arbitration clocks and get an extra year in the backend.

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  4. Gus says:

    I'm guessing Hellickson is the Sunday starter? How crazy would that be if the division and in many ways the season is in the hands of a guy who won't be on the post-season roster.

    That said, I have complete confidence that he'll throw a fine game in KC.

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  5. John S says:

    Additionally.. you know when we are deep.. If we are transitioning an undisputed, overall (pitchers and position players) Top 100 prospect into a relief pitcher.

    I mean can you imagine how many teams would just be estatic to have a couple starting pitchers on the list.

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  6. John says:

    The Rays already have a 6th starter in Andy Sonnanstine. Andy is more than capable of stepping up should an injury befall someone on the staff. Personally, I'd like to see them move Shields, but Garza would probably bring more in return.

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  7. bob says:

    Wosrt post I have ever seen. I would expect it from him to. So lets say we trade Shields and Niemann goes down with an injury. The Rays have four options. Option 1 is Sonny, who can easily take starts. Potion 2 is the forgotten Torres from the Kazmir trade, as he will start at AAA next year. Option 3 is Cobb, who has dominated every year and will be in AAA next year. Option 4 would be McGee, who could start, although not for many.

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      "the needs of the prospect outweigh the needs of the team"

      those are Friedman's words on more than one occasion. And the Rays want all of their starting pitchers to have at least 1 year in AAA, so that eliminates options 2 and 3. And option 4 is now a RP. That is move the Rays have been planning for a while. They are not going back now. and if somebody gets hurt and Sonny is getting regular starts, the Rays are screwed.

      Meanwhile, Evan Longoria, who was extremely "polished" in '08 and was the clearly the best player in the '08 spring training (his teammates words), wasn't promoted until the Rays knew they were getting an extension out of him. And Price started '09 in the minors despite putting up filthy "polished" numbers at every minor league level.

      Am I saying the Rays won't trade Shields or Garza? Nope. But they aren't moving one just because they have 6 starting pitchers. It will take a very good offer from another team, otherwise they will be perfectly content to keep all 6.

      The Rays do not trade starting pitchers until the HAVE to. Look back at Friedman's trades of Jackson and Hammel. Jackson and Hammel were only traded because the Rays HAD to trade them when they did. they had pitchers that were out of minor league options. but as long as one or more starting pitchers at the back end of the rotation have minor league options, it will take a HUGE offer from another team to get the deal done.

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      • bob says:

        Cork, I love your site and everything, so don't take this the wrong way. I consider myself a very good observer for prospects and I contirbute for them at the Rays Republic and Son of a Pitch blog. In 2008, Longoria started the year off at Durham. There were several reaosns for this. The Rays are careful and because he could use a little more time. Plus, Longoria didn't play for the Rays like Hellickson. Plus, he only had played 31 games for the Bulls. You also mentioned Price. Price was a very raw pitcher when we drafted him till mid-way last year. He survived on a dominant fastball, a great slider, and a show-me changeup. That is not a lot of stuff for a starting pitcher. Price also lacked control. How did he dominate levels? He did this by using his fastball/slider combo, which hitters in college and in the minors couldn't face. The Rays sent him back down in the beginning of 2009 to work on the changeup and potentially a curve (he didn't get it till Hickey taught him about it). Those two moves payed off. Now we have the case of Hellickson. Hellickson could have started this year, but we wisely kept him down. Unlike Price and Longoria, who have had very little time in AAA, Hellickson has pitched a combined 2009-2010 30 games in the minors. That is roughly a whole season (a little more for the minors). Hellickson is also a very polished pitcher, as scouting reports and results will tell you. He uses different pitches and controls them. He probably will not get much better, except for geting used to the majors. Putting a pitcher like Hellickson in the minors again is abuse. The case should be brought to Bud Selig. Hellickson is the number 1 propsect in baseball, and Ken thinks that the Rays can keep him there when he has nothing to do because of personal and financial reasons.

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  8. bob says:

    Another thing. Hellickson is the most polished Rays pitching prospect ever. No way he stays in the minors. Plus the Rays need a bat in a trade for Shields or Garza. If the Rangers don't get Lee, I could see them taking Garza/Shields for Cruz.

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