September 3, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher James Shields (33) throws a pitch in the first inning against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Rays Notes: James Shields- His Suitors, Value, and Thoughts on Potentially Leaving the Rays

Will the Rays trade James Shields this offseason? That is the question that will be asked again and again from now until the start of Spring Training 2013. Here’s the latest Shields news.

Nick Cafardo talked about Shields in his Sunday column, mentioning the Dodgers as a possible suitor especially with former Rays special advisor Gerry Hunsicker now in their front office. Cafardo wonders what such a trade would look like, asking if Andre Ethier could be an option to headline the deal but cautioning that the Dodgers might not be willing to trade him and that the Rays might not be able to take on his contract even if they were. Ethier, 30, is due 82.5 million dollars over the next five years, certainly an amount that the Rays would have trouble taking on. We talked about a possible Shields to the Dodgers trade scenario on  Saturday that does not include Ethier.

Cafardo also mentioned that the Twins have inquired on Shields. A potential Shields to the Twins trade scenario is something that has to be discussed further, but Tampa native Denard Span could be the centerpiece in such a trade. Span is owed a reasonable 10.25 million dollars over the next two years with an option for a third year.

Jonah Keri of Grantland talked about Shields’ trade value, saying that the two years and 22.25 million dollars that Shields has left on his contract (counting his option for 2014) could be much more enticing for teams searching for pitching than signing Zack Greinke or Kyle Lohse to a long-term deal. The Rays could use offensive help, but the question, Keri says, is whether the Rays could get a Matt Garza-esque package for Shields that would make a deal worth it. If teams perceive Shields the way Keri does, there could be a bidding war for his services, exactly what the Rays want in order to get peak value if they do decide to trade Shields.

What does Shields think about all the trade rumors swirling around him? Shields gave his thoughts on the situation to Marc Topkin.

“Obviously my name’s been thrown around a lot. I’m just going to go about my business and not really worry about it. Obviously I want to be a Ray. I’ve been here 12 years, this is my home. If it does happen, it’ll be a sad day.”

James Shields has been the best pitcher the Rays have ever had, ranking first in franchise history in wins, games started, strikeouts, innings pitched, complete games, and shutouts, and he has by far been the most dependable, giving the Rays six straight 200-inning seasons. It would be next to impossible to find a Rays fan who doesn’t appreciate everything that Shields has given the Rays since arriving in the big leagues in 2006. No wants to see Shields traded. But the Rays can ill afford to be sentimental. They have to find a way to continue winning games even as their best players get too expensive and have to be let go, whether through trades or free agency. Hopefully the Rays can find a way to keep Shields as long as possible while still making the necessary improvements to their team this offseason. Andrew Friedman believes that such a scenario is possible. However, if the right package of players comes along, Shields will be traded and Rays fans will be forced to lament his departure and move on. It’s not something Rays fans want to think about, but it may just become reality.

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