A seemingly interesting rumor floated out recently that the Rays were discussing a trade with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim that would send James Shields and Ben Zobrist to the Angels in exchange for Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick and right-hander Garrett Richards. Here’s how Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman reacted to the rumor.
— JB Long (@JB_Long) July 21, 2012
Why was the trade idea so ridiculous? Let’s explain. For starters, Ben Zobrist may be the most valuable player on the Rays thanks to his offense and defensive versatility, and the Rays have affordable options on him until 2015. He’s not going anywhere. Shields is a player who could definitely be traded, but not in a package like this. If the Rays trade Shields at the deadline, it will only be if they see a perfect fit as they have options on him for 9 million dollars in 2013 and 11 million dollars in 2014. That’s a lot of money by Rays standards, but if Shields pitches anything like he did in 2011, it may be worth it. Shields is a trade candidate, but the Rays are in no rush to deal him.
So what’s wrong with the Angels’ players rumored to be involved in the deal? Kendrick, 29, is signed at a reasonable price for the next four years and like Zobrist has some versatility, able to slide to left field. But his offense simply isn’t very good. In 2012, Kendrick has posted a .275/.312/.380 line with 5 homers and 6 steals. His OPS+ is just 94, 6% below league average (which is 100). For his career, he has a .291/.327/.428 line, a 104 OPS+. Zobrist? Despite a horrific start to 2012, he has managed a .255/.381/.456 line with 11 homers and 12 steals. His OPS+ is 137! OPS+ isn’t everything, but that’s 43% better than Kendrick. Zobrist is an on-base machine. Kendrick rarely walks. Kendrick has shown flashes of power and speed and is a good defensive second baseman. He’s had a tough year, but he’s certainly not a bad player. However, he’s not nearly as good at Zobrist and considering he’s not young and not much cheaper, trading them would be an ill-advised move for the Rays.
Kendrick for Zobrist is at least worth throwing out there. The Rays want nothing to do with Richards in a swap for Shields . Richards, 24, throws a mid-90’s sinker and a pretty good slider. But he has nothing on Shields. This year, Richards has gone 3-1 with a 3.53 ERA in 7 starts, a relief appearance, and 43.1 IP for the Angels. But that tells you none of the story. He has managed just a 6.2 K/9, a bad 4.8 BB/9, and a 1.0 HR/9. Even at Triple-A in 2012, he went just 5-3 with a 5.28 ERA, a 7.7 K/9, a 4.8 BB/9, and a 0.8 HR/9 in 11 starts and 59.2 IP. Richards has good stuff. But this control and command aren’t up to par and he’s not super-young anymore either. Richards has some upside and if he can get some idea where his pitches are going and can add a third pitch such as the changeup that the Rays are so great at teaching, he has the ability to succeed someday. But trading away Shields and acquiring him? Give me a break. Maybe Richards is a player the Rays might have some interest in. But he would be just the start of a potential package. Add in a couple good prospects and the Rays will think about the deal. But this two-for-two trade doesn’t make any sense at all. Neither Kendrick nor Richards would be any sort of upgrade for the Rays or have the potential to be significantly better at some point in the future. This trade isn’t happening. Maybe the Angels and Rays will be involved in a trade. But take Zobrist out of the deal- they’re not trading him, and the Angels will have to put together a legitimate package of players with the ability to help the Rays significantly in the future if they want the Rays to even consider a potential deal for Shields.
In unfortunate injury news, Luke Scott has been placed back on the DL with a strained left oblique revealed by an MRI. Scott was recently mired in an 0 for 42 slump, but he had rebounded to a .385/.415/769 line in his last 10 games with 3 homers, 4 doubles, and 9 RBI, and it will be a big loss for the Rays to lose his bat in the lineup. The Rays do hope he’ll be on the DL for just the prerequisite two weeks, but with oblique injuries, you never know.
The Rays were scared that they may be for a similar situation when Alex Cobb had to leave his start on Saturday in the second inning after getting hit in the leg by an Ichiro Suzuki groundball. But while it didn’t look good at the time, Cobb appears to be fine.
Lower Right Leg Contusion for Alex Cobb. X-Rays negative #Rays
— RaysRadio (@RaysRadio) July 22, 2012
Alex Cobb told the media after Saturday’s game that he shouldn’t miss a start.Joe Maddon echoed the statement. #Rays
— Steve Carney (@stevecarney) July 22, 2012
If you’re not familiar with the medical lingo, a contusion is a bruise. Cobb should be fine moving forward and hopefully he can pitch well. Even though Cobb went down, Rays pitchers had a big night on Saturday night.
Rays are only the 3rd AL team since 1918 to strike out 15+ batters in consecutive games.
— Jonathan Gantt (@Jonathan_Gantt) July 22, 2012
Cesar Ramos was right in the center of that, striking out 6 in 4 shutout innings in relief of Cobb. Unfortunately for him though, he was sent down following the game, as JB Long tweeted (from his @RaysGameDay account). Ramos has pitched extremely well for the Rays this season, posting a 1.46 ERA and 3.07 FIP in 24.2 innings across 11 appearances, but the Rays simply need to have arms in their bullpen available to throw, especially after the 14-inning game on Friday, and Ramos won’t be able to pitch for the next couple of days. Ramos was quoted as saying “I want to be here every day” (as Rays PR man Jonathan Gantt tweeted). You have to feel sorry for him at least a little bit. But in the grand scheme of things, the Rays need to maximize every roster spot to continue winning games and in sending Ramos down, they hope to do that. Given how well Ramos has pitched, he will certainly be back. The Rays will make another move to call up a pitcher before Sunday’s game.