1) After watching all of Shield’s starts this season I can honestly say that he only has three to four quality innings to give anyway which is pretty much the role of a relief pitcher.
2) Budget constraints and free agency mean that Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, and Rafael Soriano will likely be heading out of Tampa Bay. Although, getting rid of the four horsemen of the apocalypse aka Randy Choate, Dan Wheeler, Chad Qualls and Lance Cormier is actually a blessing. The point is we’re going to need relievers and Shields is cheap and capable of producing two to three quality innings of work.
3) Speaking of the horsemen of the apocalypse, James Shields has screwed up a lot and if he were in the bullpen Rays fans would probably not be as upset with him because with the exception of Balfour, Benoit and Soriano we’re used to seeing the bullpen screw things up.
4) He would fit well in the same role that Andy Sonnanstine performs, specializing in extra inning relief and filling in for injured starters. I believe that together the two of them can combine to form one competent pitcher. (Sonnanstine who had four starts this season, won three of them thus, still posting a better record than James Shields!)
5) Finally, unless the Rays are stupider than I thought (which is high possibility, see Chad Qualls) or that they switch to a six man rotation (which would further confirm that notion), Jeremy Hellickson is too good not to be a starter. It will happen eventually and if things get desperate enough for the Rays it will happen very soon.
The ideal rotation is David Price, Matt Garza, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson. AL Cy Young candidate David Price (19-6) and was just a beast. Matt Garza (15-10) fought against Shields for who was the more reliable veteran and won. Garza posted a career best record and threw a miraculous no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers in July. Garza also helped saved the Rays from being embarrassingly swept by the Rangers in the ALDS and based on his post-season performances it is the Great Garza who has the big games not Shields. In the beginning of the season Jeff Niemann (12-8) was right there with David Price dealing mayhem and strikeouts left and right. He had a stint on the DL in which he was prematurely brought back and it showed with his abysmal performances, but towards the end showed quality work out of the bull pen giving me the notion that there is no reason to believe that he won’t be back in good form. Wade Davis (12-10), what is there to say about the unsung hero of the rotation? After his June of Doom where his rookie struggles seem to overwhelm him, he went on to just demolish every team the rest of the season. He even pulled a Garza when slapped the Rangers in the face with a victory in Arlington to send the ALDS to a decisive game five at the Trop. Jeremy Hellickson (4-0) aka Hell Boy, this kid is the real deal he may not be as revered as Stephen Strasburg, but this kid unleashes hell’s army when he pitches. He just obliterated the Twins, Tigers, and Orioles in his first three starts. He then showed us that his career will be very promising as he just torched the Yankees in that regular season finale giving the Rays a 10-8 lead in head to head match ups going into the final stretch.
After all the previously mentioned accolades of his counterparts, does anyone really believe that James Shield’s performance merits rewards and applause? The answer is no. However, knowing Maddon, budget constraints, and the lack of aggressiveness of the organization I would not be ok, but tolerant of a Price, Garza, Niemann, Davis, and Shields line up. I do not know as a fan how else to express this frustration, but next year with the franchise cutting budgets I have no choice but to watch what Joe Maddon does. I do agree with one thing Maddon stated. Although they will most likely lose a lot of quality players the core of their defense will still be there. If the team is going to rely on that strength than Maddon must play the percentages and must demote Shields in the rotation. He just has too, they cannot afford for their last consistent weapon to be hinder in such a way that will send the team further into obscurity.