It’s almost incomprehensible to imagine the Rays without James Shields. Shields has been a dependable starter for the Rays as far back as 2006 and is the franchise leader in wins, innings pitched, strikeouts, complete games, shutouts, and so many other categories. And the past two years, he has been even better, blossoming into one of the best pitchers in baseball to lead the Rays to a magical playoff run in 2011 and a 90-win season in 2012. But now, he’s gone. Last night, Shields was traded along with Wade Davis to the Kansas City Royals for three of the Royals top prospects, outfielder Wil Myers, right-hander Jake Odorizzi, and lefty Mike Montgomery, and also promising Rookie ball third baseman Patrick Leonard. Myers has clear superstar potential and Odorizzi and Montgomery are also very talented, so the Rays look to improve in the long-term with this move (more analysis on the trade later today). But it still hasn’t sunk in that the Rays will move on without a pitcher who has been a franchise cornerstone and everyone’s first reaction was disbelief.
Even almost 12 hours later, the news is only starting to register. But everyone realizes that what’s done is done, and that they will have to move on without Shields.
Shields is ready to start a new chapter in his career, but still can’t believe it’s over for him in Tampa Bay.
Rays Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and president Matthew Silverman talked about the trade to Marc Topkin.
"“We’re always trying to thread the needle,” executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. “As an organization, we rely more on contributions of our young players than basically anyone else in baseball. And with this trade, we’re hoping to replenish our system and add a lot of players we feel like can help us sustain this run of success that we’ve had for the last five years.”“Personally I think this is the most difficult trade we’ve made to date,” he said. “Both guys were drafted and developed here, they’ve been key players in this organization’s turnaround and they’re both really high-quality people. It’s a painful loss for our club, but I’m confident in our resilience and the talent that will be returning to the field next season.” “As you know we’re always cognizant of our financial situation and we’re managing it with every transaction we make, whether it s a trade like this or it’s signing a player to a contract like we did with Evan (Longoria) just a little bit ago,’’ team president Matt Silverman said. “We run this team as if we’re balanced on the head of a pin, and there’s very little margin for error. I’d say zero margin for error. We’ve accepted that, we understand that and it factors into all the decisions we make. As Andrew said, this isn’t an easy one. None of them are easy, but when you’re talking about two guys who have the history with this franchise, two guys who are so additive to our current club, it’s a tough decision to make. But it’s one that we feel that we have to make as we look ahead for the next several years trying to sustain the success that we’ve had.’’"
The are so many conflicting emotions going on with this trade. Rays fans have to be excited to acquire an extremely talented player in Myers who Friedman said had the ability to hit “in the middle of a lineup” and three other talented prospects, but there is certainly plenty of risk involved and it seems even worse when you think about how the Rays are losing Shields, who has been a constant for them, tossing 200 innings each of the last six years and also a great reliever for them last season in Davis. Early reports are that the Rays clearly won the trade, but only time will tell how things turn out. The reaction in the wake of the trade has to be nervous excitement, trusting Friedman and Co. that everything is going to work out with Myers and the other prospects but wondering how the Rays are going to field a rotation without Shields for the first time in eight years.