If you had to trade one starting pitcher, which would you prefer to trade? Here is a case for each pitcher…

James Shields: Has three years and ~$30 million remaining on his contract, so he is getting expensive. However, that is still a good deal for a pitcher of his caliber. He will be 30 in 2012, so he is starting to get a little older. Should still be a dominating pitcher for next three years, but could regress a little in 2012. Value may never be higher than it is right now.

David Price: It doesn’t get much more valuable than a young, hard-throwing lefty. The Rays still have Price under control for four more years, but he is also about to get very expensive. Those four years could cost $50 million. And there is little hope for an extension at this point.

Wade Davis: A nice solid back-of-the-rotation starter that will eat innings. Rays still have Big Dub under control for the next six years for just $34.1 million. That’s a great deal. But Davis may also only be the 7th or 8th best starting pitcher in the organization. Could be attractive for other small- or mid-market teams looking for an affordable starting pitcher.

Jeff Niemann: He is arbitration-eligible for the first time this year and is under team control for three more years. Those three years could cost ~$15 million without an extension. There are also injury risks as The Giraffe tends to need extra rest more often than the other guys. We have long been proponents of moving Niemann to the bullpen, but he has more value as a starting pitcher.

Jeremy Hellickson: The Rays still have Hellboy for five more years. But how good will he be? Since coming to the majors, his strikeouts are way down, and his walks are way up. Worst-case scenario is that he is a rich-man’s Andy Sonnanstine. That is, he lacks the stuff to dominate and gets too cute around the strikezone. Best-case is that he rediscovers his swing-and-miss potential and becomes a solid #2 or #3 starting pitcher. Also consider that his agent is Scott Boras, so there is no hope that he will sign an extension.

Alex Cobb: Cobb reminds a little of Wade Davis. That is, he will probably be a solid back-of-the-rotation innings eater. Some think his changeup will make him better than Davis. We need to see more first.

Alex Torres: We don’t know much about Torres yet. Great stuff, but he reminds us a little of Victor Zambrano. That is, we are not sure that he knows how to harness his stuff. Depending on what you believe his upside is, may only be the 6th best starting pitcher in the system.

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18 Comments

  1. Dustin says:

    I'd certainly rather not lose any of these pitchers, but with this kind of positional depth, and with the Rays' offensive needs, obviously one or more ought to be traded. I love Shields, but I think that he is probably the most likely on this list to command more than one very good player in a trade. That is to say, nobody is likely to get the Rays more in return than Shields. And I don't think Shields is ever going to be more valuable than he is right now. Last season, everything came together for him, and he's probably got several good seasons left in him. But can he replicate the level of consistent success he had in 2011? I doubt it. It'd be sad to see him go, but the quality we might get back for him could ease the pain even as it frees up some extra payroll.

    I'd rather move anybody else (other than Price or Moore), but I doubt any teams will be willing to part with players of high enough quality to make a trade worthwhile for the Rays this winter. By midsummer, 2012, of course, who knows?

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  2. Danny says:

    I am gonna go w/ moving Price and here's why - We've got a really young staff and Shields is the best guy to lead them. Not to mention that he has the best changeup in the majors. His K/BB ratio is more in line with the organization's pitching philosophy and he has better mechanics than Price. Price also doesn't seem to have the same ability to channel his energies to get the big outs and lacks the dominant out pitch (slider) he possessed a couple years ago. Not that he couldn't regain his 2010 form, but right now he's not nearly the pitcher Shields is.

    While Davis may command a decent return, I don't think we can get enough offense for him to give up the cost certainty he provides for the next 6 years. Niemann is too fragile for a decent return and Hellickson has the best cost certainty of the group for the next 3-4 years.

    All that said, I feel Shields is the piece that we end up moving based on current demand and the likelihood that this will be the highest value Shields will ever have. Price is coming off a 'down' year and is likely to be more valuable after next year.

    The biggest thing to remember here is that AF is on top of this stuff and has the long term future of the team in mind every time he makes a trade, pickup or signing. Although it would hurt not to have Shields' leadership/changeup next year, it's probably best to get a boatload of top prospects for him now as his value is astronomical.

    Now if we could just find a shortstop and a DH!!! GO RAYS!!!

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  3. Alex says:

    In order of who I'd trade:

    Price/Davis/Niemann, Shields, Hellickson/Moore.

    I really think Shields should stsy and its going to be for a really strange reason. Through our first 13 seasons the only two players the Rays have had that they can really hang their hats on are Crrawford and Longo. I don't believe Shields is HOF material by any means, but I do believe that his work ethic will allow him to remain durable and good through the next 5-6 years if not more. I believe franchises need staple players even if that's going to be rare for the Rays because of the way they are run. Shields can be one of those staple players for us. Shields will also be an amazing example for the younger guys.

    Maybe that's a stupid reason, but it has also bothered me that we don't have more players like that; Rays for life essentially. Crawford marred his Rays tenure by going to the Sox. Hopefully Longo will want to stay for the rest of his career. Obviously they will have more staple players as they grow as a franchise.

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  4. Sarah says:

    It's hard to answer the question "which pitcher should the Rays trade" without knowing what they are trading for.

    In a vacuum, it's easy to say, trade Davis and/or Niemann.

    The real question is, who to trade in light of who is being offered.

    With that caveat: If there's the opportunity to get a great return in young position players, I'd consider trading Price over Shields. Of course, we have to be cautious reading too much into the 2011 results -- probably Price will adjust and be better, and Shields may not be able to sustain his 2011 level. But Shields is more mature, leads by example, and his ability to go 7-8 innings each outing without ever missing a start is just golden.

    Also, am I the only one who was really impressed by Cobb? His numbers don't look great, but that's because 2 of his 9 starts were subpar -- his first (when there were rumors he may have been tipping his pitches) and his last (when he was removed with an injury). Assuming those were at least partial outliers, he was really effective, with great control. And his injury seems to be one of those freak occurrences, and not a harbinger of future problems.

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  5. Alex says:

    Most people are saying Price not because of his performance but because of his escalating price tag and his lack of a long term deal. Cobb will be a good 3/4/5 pitcher but nothing past that.

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  6. Don says:

    Price has cracks,uncertain future,high costs,but reputation, major trade bait.... Shields is a rock,proven performer, contract signed, the ONLY pitching leader we have, the rest are kids including price

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  7. Michael says:

    Shocked at how little votes on Cobb and how many votes on Shields.

    I picked Price. Still undeveloped, expensive, and strikes me as foolish.

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  8. Greg says:

    I think Price is definitely the one to go if they can get the right deal. He's down to almost exclusively using the fastball but his value is high. He'll be impossible to hold onto in the future and expensive by Rays standards pretty soon. I wouldn't miss Cobb, Niemann or Davis but I don't think you get anything for them. So this question really becomes more about who we get in return, and none of those 3 would bring much. Shields is pretty dependable and I think he really learned a lot about pitching and about himself this past season - I don't know if he can duplicate last year's numbers, but I think he's a smarter pitcher going forward. My bet is that we keep them all though.

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  9. Gary says:

    Price to KC for Eric Hosner.

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    • Danny says:

      First, it's Hosmer and second, a top of the rotation lefty is going to command more than a 1b who has less than a season of experience under his belt. While I really like Hosmer, I think that the Reds have the best package of prospects with Grandal and Alonso.

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  10. angrybuddha says:

    The way I figure it, we need 1B, SS, C... not necessarily in that order. If we're going to get real major-league-ready value at one or more of those positions, we need to trade either Shields or Price. Those are the names that will get other GMs (and other fan bases) excited. And make no mistake - the guys we trade with need to be ready to contribute to making the Rays the 2012 ALE champs.

    Furthermore, I think it's clear that the team won't be able to afford *both* Shields and Price within a couple of years... so one of those guys is leaving, anyway.

    I *love* David Price the person and the Twitter personality. I *love* that he's a walking, talking vision of ADD in the dugout when he's not starting. I *love* having David Price on our team. But I trust James Shields more in Game 7 of the WS.

    So, to get where we want to go (ALE champs, AL champs, WS champs), we trade Price for major-league value and don't look back.

    Or... we trade no-one, put the offense together with duct tape and plastic straws... and win anyway.

    Either way works for me.

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    • pete says:

      We don't need to trade one of our front line starters for a Shortstop , just to bridge a 1 year gap. Advanced metrics suggest we had the best defense of any team from the Shortstop position last year. Pitching wins championships. Trading a known commodity for an unknown prospect is not how to win the AL Beast in 2012.

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  11. David says:

    While I think that Shields is better than his 2010 form, it is most likely that he will not be able to live up to his 2011 benchmarks. His value is at an all time high right now and the Rays are and should be a buy low/sell high team. Trade him to the Reds for Alonso, Grandal, and a mid level prospect.

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  12. Mark says:

    Are you guys CRAZY? Trade David Price? I would never.

    He's a young, power lefty that competes game in, game out (even without his best stuff). Sure, he relies on his fastball, but when you can blow guys away with a 95mph fastball, why not?

    As he gets older, he will have to continue to mix pitches and throw more offspeed, but as of right now, he doesn't have to.

    I wouldn't even entertain the idea of trading Price right now. He's one of the best lefties in the game. He'll earn the money he makes in Arb.

    Trade Niemann, Davis or Cobb. If the right deal presented itself, I can see trading Shields (older, coming off a career year) but ONLY if we receive a really good package (ie. Alonso) in return.

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  13. Amanda says:

    You have to give up talent to get talent. If any one of the pitchers are traded, it wouldn't bother me, especially if the Rays got a quality DH or a bat back. (Ok, I'll admit: Niemann is my favorite pitcher. I just find it fascinating how someone that tall pitches. So that may bother me a bit, but not because it would ruin the team.) If more than one pitcher is traded, then it's a salary dump. If a pitcher goes for farmhands, then it's a salary dump. That would bother me.

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  14. Dave says:

    I would trade Niemann or Shields.
    Preferably Niemann because of his size I just don't think he will ever be fully healthy.
    Shields, however, is at his highest value and they may get ALOT back for him.

    Regardless, it all comes down to what they get in return.

    As for Price, Hellboy, and Moore.... I do not send any of them anywhere. Price is very young and will be absolutely dominate someday. Same for Moore.

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  15. Brianknowsbest says:

    Cork,

    Not very high on hellickson anymore? That seemed like a downgrade summary. Correct me if I am wrong.

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      I'm not as high on him as I was a year ago. The strikeout and walk totals scare me. He was always a dominating pitcher in the minors. If he can't get big league hitters to swing-and-miss, then he is going to have troubles. He will still be a good pitcher, i think. I am just worried that he won't be as good as we hoped. And if that is the case, you can make an argument that his value will never be higher than it is right now.

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