It's been largely under the radar, but you can add James Shields to the list of high-quality starting pitchers who seem to be available on the trade market, along with Zack Greinke, Ryan Dempster, and Matt Garza.
Here's Jon Heyman:
All three teams have made offers but the Rays are waiting for someone to do better for the former All-Star right-hander.
The Rays have told teams they would listen on three coeveted right-handers, including Jeremy Hellickson and Wade Davis, but Shields is the logical candidate to go since he's 30 and has a $9 million team option for 2013, pricey for the Rays but reasonable for big-market teams.
Let's not miss how good Shields really is. Yes, he seems to have taken a big tumble from last season, when he finished with a 2.82 ERA and led the league in both complete games (11) and shutouts (4). This season, his ERA is 4.39 and he doesn't have a single complete game. And there's this tidbit, from an anonymous scout: "His stuff is still good but he hasn't had Shields-like command.''
Well, okay. But Shields' strikeout rate is up slightly this season, and the difference between his walk rate this season and his career walk rate is ... eight walks.
That's right. Eight walks in 20 starts is the only statistical difference between Shields this season and Shields being Shields-like. Which is why other teams should be attracted to him. Oh, and the reason for the massive difference between last year's and this year's ERAs is simple: last year Shields gave up a .260 batting average on balls in play, and this year he's given up a .339 batting average on balls in play. The TRUTH is almost exactly in the middle of those two figures.
So, again, it's easy to see why teams would want him. And if the Rays do trade him, it doesn't mean they're giving up on the season. Close, though. With Jeff Niemann still recovering from a broken fibula and not expected back until late August, the Rays might turn to rookie Chris Archer, their best pitching prospect. Archer's probably going to be real good, but his performance in Class AAA this season suggests he's not quite there yet.