2011 Reds / Editorials / Trade Deadline

The Reds should be serious about James Shields

With the trade deadline approaching, the Reds appear to be aggressively looking for anyone who can potentially help them in the last two months of the 2011 season, and Chone Figgins too. That makes a lot of sense (well, not the Figgins part), as the defending N.L. Central champions currently sit at 4.5 games back in the highly competitive division and a whopping 9 games behind the Braves in the wild card standings. And the Reds aren’t shying away from big names either, as reports last week had them talking to the Rockies about acquiring Ubaldo Jimenez. The Rockies asking price for their ace is incredibly high, however, and Ubaldo probably isn’t going anywhere this year.

On the other hand, reports that the Rays are willing to trade starter James Shields are much more interesting, if only because I’m pretty sure the Rays are serious about it, and would like to work out a deal with someone this month. Shields is currently having a career year, putting him at peak value, and the Rays are quickly finding themselves fringe contenders at best as the Yankees and Red Sox pull away from them. The Rays have a talented young rotation and a lot of pitching talent in the minors, including the best pitching prospect in baseball in Matt Moore, but also have a lot of holes offensively they’d like to fill, and trading Shields could go a long way to that.

This is where things get interesting, because the Rays two most obvious holes are at first base and catcher, which makes Cincinnati, with Yonder Alonso and Devin Mesoraco/Yasmani Grandal to dangle, a very attractive trade partner. And the Reds, whose starters currently have the worst FIP and 4th worst xFIP in the National League, could certainly use Shields, who currently boasts a 3.17 FIP in a division that includes two of the best offenses in baseball, and a 3.92 mark for his career. If you assume those numbers will improve at the margins as he moves from the A.L. East to the N.L. Central, there’s no question that Shields could represent a legitimate anchor for the Reds’ rotation.

Additionally, Shields is far from a rental, as he’s currently under team control through 2014, on a series of three club options between now and then. And if that wasn’t enough, the buyouts for those options actually get smaller each year, culminating in a $1 million buyout of a $12 million option after 2013. It’s an absurdly team friendly contract that gives whomever has Shields at the time a ton of flexibility. So rather then trading away top prospects for a rental who may or may not carry you to the 2011 playoffs, whomever lands Shields will be acquiring a durable innings eater with the ability to dominate a game on any given night who will be making a below market value salary for the next 3 seasons.

And while I don’t want to be too much of a downer, the 5 ton elephant in the room for the Reds is Joey Votto’s contract. The Reds only signed the MVP to a 3 year deal last winter, giving them payroll stability through Votto’s arbitration years, but not buying out any of his potential free agent years. To be blunt, with his arbitration year salary guaranteed, there’s no reason for Votto to accept a discount on any of the years in which he’s eligible for free agency, and once he hits the market all bets are off. If I were the GM of the Reds, I would be operating under the assumption that the 2013 season will be Votto’s last in Cincinnati, and doing everything I could to maximize wins between now and then.

A deal for Shields would certainly be pricey. I can’t see the Rays giving him up without at least getting Mesoraco or Alonso and Grandal, and I can even see them demanding Mesoraco and Alonso in return, given his contract. In either case, I still think it’s a good deal for the Reds. It only improves the big league team at the margins over the next few seasons, and in the worst case scenario the Reds would still have Grandal and Ryan Hanigan behind the plate in the organization. That’s not too shabby. It’s a near perfect fit for both teams.

171 thoughts on “The Reds should be serious about James Shields

  1. I think a really neat thing about the deal is that neither team could be considered buyers or sellers. The Rays look like the seller, but they are getting two likely Major League caliber position players that could start soon after the trade passes. The Reds look like the buyer, but with Shields, at his age and level, locked up through 2014, that kind of stability should last long after October 2011.

    The idea of Votto leaving in 2013 gives me the chills. In my dream world, he never leaves the team.
    Also in this world, the Reds are defending their 2010 World Series victory in 2011 and the Reds have enough money that they can wrap a wad of $20 bills and shoot them into the stands, while still paying Votto more than Pujols for the hell of it, and buy Stubbs batting lessons.

  2. @Brien Jackson: Brien, I absolutely agree, but again I point to your comment about 2012-2013 being the window, and Grandal just isn’t going to be able to help in that window. I’m perfectly happy to ship Grandal, who’s a really good prospect in his own right, out, for Shields, and normally I’d be ok with Mesoraco, but they need that right handed bat in the lineup next year (actually, yesterday). If Mesoraco does not pan out—next year—they are in a world of hurt because Scott Rolen sure as hell isn’t going to pan out in the middle of the lineup, and I wouldn’t bet the farm Stubbs is either. This team doesn’t have an option there. They aren’t going to sign one on the free agent market either. I’d much rather convince TB to take Grandal, Alonso, and really try to sweeten it with something of value after that if necessary (i.e., instead of Alonso+Mesoraco, give Alonso+Grandal+Wood, for example). Maybe that won’t get it done, I don’t know. If it takes someone like Hamilton, so be it, or whatever. I’m obviously not privy to the talks. If they demand Alonso+Mesoraco and won’t back off at all, then there’s a standoff.

  3. Riddle me this. How highly rated is Meso within the Reds org if just 13+ months ago they spent the 12th overall pick in the draft on Grandal and ponied up the money to sign him?

    If I am sittting in Tampa Bay or elsewhere doing evaluation, isn’t this probably one of the first questions I ask myself?

    I understand that Meso supposedly had a breakthrough season last year and has continued it this year but still I would be very careful about over valuing him.

    If I am the Reds and somebody insists on Meso for the guy I feel I have to have I let him go and figure a way to bridge the year or so until Grandal is likely to be MLB ready. For one thing Hanigan is already under contract through that period; so it should not be that hard to find a journeyman to catch 2 or 3 days a week to fill the void.

    BTW, under the draft rules, isn’t Grandal still untradable until after the end of the 2011 season or thereabouts?

    • Riddle me this. How highly rated is Meso within the Reds org if just 13+ months ago they spent the 12th overall pick in the draft on Grandal and ponied up the money to sign him?

      If I am sittting in Tampa Bay or elsewhere doing evaluation, isn’t this probably one of the first questions I ask myself?

      I understand that Meso supposedly had a breakthrough season last year and has continued it this year but still I would be very careful about over valuing him.

      If I am the Reds and somebody insists on Meso for the guy I feel I have to have I let him go and figure a way to bridge the year or so until Grandal is likely to be MLB ready. For one thing Hanigan is already under contract through that period; so it should not be that hard to find a journeyman to catch 2 or 3 days a week to fill the void.

      BTW, under the draft rules, isn’t Grandal still untradable until after the end of the 2011 season or thereabouts?

      Because you take the best player and you never have too many good catches just for this reason, you can use one as a trade chip. Just because they took Grandal doesn’t mean they think less of Mesoroco.

  4. @OhioJim: First, Grandal had to have been taken with the idea that one of Grandal/Mesoraco would be traded soon. Which is not a bad strategy. If the Reds, say, get Shields out of Alonso and Grandal, Jocketty should be commended for his drafting.

    Second, Grandal can not be technically traded until 8/16 but he can be listed as a PTBNL in a deal, say, tomorrow. PTBNL’s must be resolved within 6 months. At least that’s my understanding. Grandal would be resolved well within that time frame.

  5. @Dave Lowenthal:

    Well certainly. If I’m walt Jocketty I’m not picking up the phone and offering them Mesoraco, and I’m refusing to even consider it at least until the deadline is breathing down my neck or the Rays have another team on the line. Here’s my reasoning in a nutshell:

    A) I’d never consider giving up a prospect like Mesoraco for a pure rental. But Shields becomes the best pitcher on the team right now, and you’re getting him for 3+ years. That’s some big value.

    B) In the worst case scenario, in the 2011-13 window, I think it becomes a lateral move, but the Reds are acquiring the safer player in Shields, because he’s already proven he can get it done.

    C) I think it’s probably likely that Grandal is ready by 2013, maybe even sometime in 2012. And I think Ryan Hannigan can be a fine bridge to that point. Certainly good enough if I get a pitcher like Shields in return for it.

    D) For full disclosure, though I very much like prospects and fully believe you have to build any team around cheap young talent to some extent, I’m also pretty inclined to be aggressive about using them to acquire commodities like Shields when they come along. I think that’s because I’m somewhat less of a ceiling guy on prospects once they get to the high minors, and start to look at their flaws a bit more than when they’re baby baseballers.

  6. @OhioJim: I really don’t think baseball works that way (that just seems like a very football-type approach to the draft). It may have merit, because Mesoraco was struggling, but a lot of teams take a saturation approach to positions like catcher and pitcher. I remember seeing that the Yankees have 4 catchers in their top 10 prospects, and all the rest were pitchers. The nice thing about the catchers is that they can usually be moved out to third base, first base, corner OF spots because they have good arms and are usually above average heads. Unlike the pitchers.😀

  7. @Brien Jackson: I pretty much agree with all that. I’m certainly trying to keep Mesoraco. I’m a little more aggro about pursuing the trade early though because its so favorable for 3+ years and I’d prefer just to shut teams out. I still have more than a little disbelief the Rays would get rid of him.

  8. @Dave Lowenthal: So the official post draft no trade window is 14 months but functionally it is more like 8?

    I know you are looking at that 2012-13 window of opportunity and deciding hold onto Mesoraco because he seeminly fits it and Grandal doesn’t.

    I’m thinking if one has to go, keep the one with the highest projected ceiling which I am guessing is Grandal who I believe is probably already seen as the better receiver of the 2.

    Given the program he played for and the level of competition it played at, projections on Grandal are likely to be more accurate than projections on; and, based on his progress to date he is unlikely to require as much time as AAA as Meso has.

    I am by no means running down Meso here; and, I wouldn’t trade him unless it was the right deal and would only work with him in it (or Grandal).

    I just believe that top of the heap catchers are probably second only to top of the rotation pitchers when it comes to difficulty in finding one. So of the two, keep the one the org sees with the highest top end and find a way to make that work.

  9. @CP:

    It’s a very good move for the Rays. Shields is very good, yes, but he’s getting expensive to them, and they have some REAL holes in their lineup they just don’t have anyone in the system to fill. On the other hand, they do have some pretty good pitching talent in the system. So they basically just have to hope those guys can make the jump, like they did with Hellickson over the winter, and if they can do that and the Rays can fill their 1B/C holes by dealing Shields, it’s a very good long term move for Tampa. And Tampa always has to be thinking with an eye towards the long term.

  10. @OhioJim: I’m a little curious why you think Grandal has the higher ceiling. Meso is rated higher in probably 9 out of every 10 rankings I’ve seen. The big thing is Grandal is a more polished receiver supposedly but that Meso is more athletic, currents hits better, and is projected to keep improving. Grandal pretty much is topped out at 20 homeruns. Not that the projections are 100% obviously.

  11. You can really tell by my spelling that I’ve been studying for the bar for the last 11 hours.

  12. Its 2 AM, I’m not wafting through 100 + comments to make sure my two cents hasn’t already been said. If it has, I guess this could be disregarded.

    I know we don’t want to give up Mesoraco because he is ML ready. Grandal is just as good of a prospect, but Meso will help us immediately. That is the problem. Meso will help Tampa Bay immediately, which is what they’d want. Grandal would be nice for them, just like he is for us. But, if they’re trading Shields, its just as much for this year as the future, which means they want someone to start tomorrow (Mesoraco). What I think could be ideal would be to shop em Alonso, Grandal AND Hernandez. Hernandez gives them a better hitting catcher than they’ve got for the rest of this year, at least–Grandal in the future. A bit too idealistic, I think, as that would still leave them with a void next year, unless they are as big on the scrap heap as Jockety, and think that Hernandez will be reliable next year too.

    I think if you want Shields, you’ll probably have to give up Mesoraco. I like Shields, I think if we were to get him it would help our playoff rotation. But losing Mesoraco hurts our chances of actually getting to the playoffs. Hate to say that a AAA player would help us get to the playoffs more than a legit ace, but This offense is awful. And not just because of what has happened since the all star break. It was unreliable last year, and its even more unreliable this year. We just used to get lucky.

  13. @Brien Jackson: I’m going to make an educated guess and say that you have never seen Mesoraco play in a game before, because if you had seen him play you would not think for one second about including him in any deal. Go watch him play a few times and you will see that he has a presence on the diamond that is unique unto itself. This guy is the future captain of this team, and I would hate to see him shipped off to St. Pete because we wanted to try and win for the next three years that we are guaranteed to have Votto. We were given a promise by ownership that we were building to have a team that not only would be competitive now, but for many years to come; you can’t do that by trading special talents like Mesoraco.

  14. I wouldn’t trade Mesoraco for Shields unless it was straight-up, which the Rays wouldn’t do. But our surplus matches up real nicely with the Rays’ needs. They need a C + 1B, and we’ve got some nice second-tier prospects to sweeten the deal (Francisco could play DH for TB, for example).

    I don’t see the Rays dealing Shields to a team they’ll be chasing in the standings the next three years, so I think we can rule out the Yankees. The Rangers’ best prospects are mostly pitchers or OF, which the Rays don’t need, so the only other team I could see beating us out would be the Royals, which isn’t as far-fetched as it might seem but still unlikely. I really think this will get done as long as Tampa Bay doesn’t insist on Mesoraco + Alonso.

    At least, I hope we don’t have to do that. Based on what I’ve read about him, Mesoraco seems like he could be a Brian McCann-type of player. That’s awfully valuable.

  15. @Brien Jackson: You do make a very compelling argument.

    Of course, you’re a Yankees fan who wants Shields out of your division, right? :)

  16. @Travis G.: If we knew Mesoraco would be Brian McCann, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. The issue is that Mesoraco isn’t in any way guaranteed to be that good.

    • @Travis G.: If we knew Mesoraco would be Brian McCann, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. The issue is that Mesoraco isn’t in any way guaranteed to be that good.

      Of course there’s no guarantee. That’s why I used the weasel words “could be” and “McCann-type,” because scouting is an inexact science. But based on the information we have available, I would not trade Mesoraco for Shields unless it was a one-for-one deal. Which I’m pretty certain wouldn’t happen.

  17. FWIW: Shields pitched in the 8th last night, out-dueling CC and gave up only 1 run to the Yanks.

  18. Okay so many view our AAA catcher as the next big thing, untradeable and destine for future greatness. So if that is the case, how long do we have to wait?

    • Okay so many view our AAA catcher as the next big thing, untradeable and destine for future greatness.So if that is the case, how long do we have to wait?

      That’s a question for Walt Jocketty. The Reds should have gotten a look at Mesoraco already, but they aren’t trading him, that is a surety.

      • That’s a question for Walt Jocketty. The Reds should have gotten a look at Mesoraco already, but they aren’t trading him, that is a surety.

        I would really hope that Walt would open to trading anyone in the minors for the right major league player.

  19. @Dave Lowenthal: I opine that it won’t happen for the simple reason there has been way too much speculation about it. Not Walt’s style. By the first of August, Hunter Pence will be sporting a Reds’ uni. Just a prediction as I have not been consulted by the Reds’ brain trust. Not a real smart move on their part (to not seek my input).😀

  20. @Dave Lowenthal: The Reds need a catcher of the future, they have one ML ready, potentially middle of the order caliber which is exactly what the Reds are shopping for as we speak, and will have him under their control for years to come. These players come to mind:

    Jay Bruce
    Joey Votto
    Johnny Cueto
    Soon to come: Drew Stubbs

    Edinson isn’t a former Reds prospect but they did offer him a contract at a time when any player’s stock would be low in order to gain control over a pitcher in his prime years before he puts up big numbers and moves on to the American League East. At least that’s what they were thinking when they offered him that small deal this offseason.

    In layman’s terms, no way he gets traded. It will not happen, although I feel Dev is the only obvious untouchable in the system and other touted parts could be shipped out.

  21. New lineup today. Looks like Jay Bruce is benched for overthrowing the cutoff *again* on Wednesday in Pittsburgh. Baker has Heisey in RF and also has him leading off with Stubbs batting lower. Rolen is out again (he did start on Wednesday) with Cairo at 3B.

    1. Heisey RF
    2. Cozart SS
    3. Votto 1B
    4. Phillips 2B
    5. Lewis LF
    6. Stubbs CF
    7. Cairo 3B
    8. Hanigan C
    9. Arroyo P

    • New lineup today. Looks like Jay Bruce is benched for overthrowing the cutoff *again* on Wednesday in Pittsburgh. Baker has Heisey in RF and also has him leading off with Stubbs batting lower. Rolen is out again (he did start on Wednesday) with Cairo at 3B.

      1. Heisey RF
      2. Cozart SS
      3. Votto 1B
      4. Phillips 2B
      5. Lewis LF
      6. Stubbs CF
      7. Cairo 3B
      8. Hanigan C
      9. Arroyo P

      The right lineup (if only):
      Lewis – LF
      Cozart-SS
      Votto-1B
      Phillips- 2B
      Heisey-RF
      Cairo-3B
      Hanigan-C
      Stubbs-CF
      Bailey-P*

      (*) Should skip Arroyo this cycle and let the rest of the starter stay on a 5-day rotation. Can’t afford not to take advantage of any opportunities, for an edge, at this point. But I guess no sense of urgency is necessary at this point – being only 4 games out.🙄

  22. @Steve Mancuso: The Bruce benching is a bit concerning considering he’s 5-9 against Jurgens lifetime. We all know how much Dusty loves to use lifetime ABs against as reasoning for who plays, so this makes me think something’s wrong with Jay.

  23. Reds and Rays fan here who has seen most Shields (and Reds) starts. Shields only weakness (although a pretty major one, esp at GABP) is an average-at-best fastball leading to a high HR/FB%. Other than that he is just awesome: a devastating CH, the best RHP pickoff move in baseball, 7 CG so fewer CoCo-induced heart attacks, super high pitching IQ, and a competitor deserving of Big Game James nickname. He’d be a great addition not only b/c of his game but his ability to take Cueto to next level. By this I mean increasing his SwStr% and K/9 by honing and increasing the use of his change. Even with Cueto’s 54% GB rate paired with our D a BABIP of .217 just isn’t sustainable and his CH has too much potential to only throw it 10% of the time (Shields throws his 28%).

    As for trade terms, Alonso, Grandal, and Hernandez for Shields might work if the $$ is ok. Rays aren’t quite done this season and have a completely useless C in Kelly Shoppach and REALLY need power now and later.

  24. @Steve Mancuso: ESPN is saying he’s out due to a minor injury/illness. If the missed cutoff is the reason, then lol Dusty. I can’t imagine Dusty sitting Bruce when he’s 5-9 against him.

    @secondguessingfanbase: You are really going out on the limb there. There’s probably a < 5% chance of a major trade going down with Cincy involved, then about the same odds for Mesoraco to be involved (probably more actually but even if its like 50% for Mesoraco to be involved in a the big trades, it'd reduce the odds to something like 2.5%).

    I wonder how the Rangers feel about trading Justin Smoak for Cliff Lee? It's an imperfect analysis (because the Reds would hopefully be going after a long-term solution versus a rental), but its a pretty apt comparison too because the Rangers also had Mitch Moreland, a lesser prospect versus the "can't miss" guy. Oh…and what division is Seattle and Texas in again?

  25. @HeiseyOnLife: MLBTR said now Rays want 2 prospects and three ML ready players. I have no idea what that means. I mean, Edgar Renteria is major league ready.

    • MLBTR said now Rays want 2 prospects and three ML ready players.

      Yeah right. That should end any more talks of Shields joining the Legs!

  26. @CP: Dusty would not bench Bruce for overthrowing the cutoff man. I mean, if so, he’d have had to bench Phillips for a week for his escapades on the bases in Philly.

    • @Dave Lowenthal:

      @CP: Dusty would not bench Bruce for overthrowing the cutoff man.I mean, if so, he’d have had to bench Phillips for a week for his escapades on the bases in Philly.

      Agreed. If we start benching guys for bonehead baserunning and fielding, I don’t think we could field 8 players.

  27. I feel like if you have a catcher putting up an OPS of almost .900 at age 23 in triple-a ball you’re very reluctant to deal him. You hold onto him for the same reason other teams want to acquire him, for what he could become.

    In my opinion, using the argument that a prospect might not live up to the hype and is worth dealing for someone who is “proven” is like saying you might not buy a Honda in favor of a porshe because it’s less likely to give you engine problems. The minor chance you might be right is more than offset by the huge cost/money pit you’re potentially investing in.

    Basically, yes shields is more “proven” but if he turns out to be a bum or injury bust once he gets here, we are stuck with a pitcher who we either don’t exercise his options and look like we got fleeced, or paying tenmillion (or about 11% of payroll) for another Bronson. It’s easier to absorb a busted prospect than to absorb a busted multi-millionaire pitcher.

    The drop-off in “known-quantity-ness” from devin to Yasmani is great enough, in my opinion, to pull the trigger however.

  28. If we trade for shields, those options are pretty much no longer options. They way the Reds organization is run, they will pick up each and every one as long as he is healthy. Something about not admitting they made a mistake. See Renteria, Edgar and Gomes, Jonny.

  29. This is only my opinion so dont flip out, but i believe jockety is more likely to trade meso than grandal. Jockety has shown to want to use the players he has aquirred rather than players that were brought in before he was there. Look back at how long it took to get heisey in the line-up while gomes was hitting .180 or so. So I believe he is looking to keep grandal and using meso as his biggest trading chip. And also dont think teams would be considering trading players like ubaldo or shields for anything less. If it was us in selling mode would we want to give up Cueto for anything less than a #1 prospect like meso and more prospects? I think NOT. I dont think it would happen but if we could get shields for meso and a couple other prospects, but keep alonso, grandal, and hamilton, then we should pull the trigger. I just dont want to see meso and alonso in the same deal.

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