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James Shields Helps Tampa Bay Rays in 2015 MLB Draft

By Robbie Knopf

James Shields gave the Tampa Bay Rays everything he had during his seven-year tenure with the team. Then, as he departed to the Kansas City Royals via trade, he returned Jake Odorizzi and Wil Myers to the team. Odorizzi has a chance to become a mainstay in the rotation while Myers was able to bring back Steven Souza, Rene Rivera, Burch Smith, and more when he was dealt with Ryan Hanigan.

Now Shields is two teams removed from the Rays after signing as a free agent with the San Diego Padres. His contributions to the team will be remembered for a long time, but now he won’t even be in the same league anymore. However, Shields had one last contribution to the Rays to wrap up his story with the franchise for good.

When the Padres signed Shields, it cost them $75 million guaranteed and that wasn’t all. They also gave up the 13th overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft and in the process, he moved the Rays up to that same 13th overall slot. Not only will the Rays have the opportunity to pick a player that may not have fallen to them, but they will also gain $120,300 in slot money according to MLB.com.

It can’t be a surprise when I tell you that the Rays’ selection at 13th overall in 2015 will mark their earliest pick since they picked Tim Beckham first overall in 2008. We know how that turned out–although at least Beckham still has a chance for a productive big league career–and the Rays arrived at this point in large part because of their streak of bad draft picks that began with Beckham.

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Now that the Rays’ magic has run out for at least a season, it is all the more important that they take advantage of the opportunity they will get to receive 13th overall. There are a few possible silver linings from the team’s poor season, particularly this pick and the Rays’ realization that they could no longer stick with their status quo. It remains to be seen who the Rays will select and how Matt Silverman’s moves will turn out, but at least the hope exists that this rough 2014 will help the Rays in the long-term.

13th overall picks in the MLB Draft from the last 25 years include Manny Ramirez, Chris Sale, and Paul Konerko. 14th overall picks include Jason Heyward and ex-Rays Tino Martinez and Cliff Floyd–moving back one selection is unlikely to make or break the Rays’ franchise. However, the extra slot money could get them not just a slightly better player, but also a late-round sleeper who also has the ability to make an impact.

There are plenty of misses among 13th and 14th overall picks as well, but the Tampa Bay Rays have a solid chance of selecting a franchise cornerstone and that counts for a lot. Especially if the player turns out as hoped, Rays fans will have a little more reason to thank James Shields even years and years down the line.

Next: Nine Rays That Need To Step Up in 2015