NY Mets Trade Talk: Why James Shields Is Worth Dealing Top Prospects For

Frank GrayCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2012

Shields would be a great fit for a young Mets rotation, but he would be costly.
Shields would be a great fit for a young Mets rotation, but he would be costly.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The New York Mets need a starting pitcher that can go deep into games. Their current rotation has R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Mike Pelfrey all coming back to start the season. In addition, Johan Santana is eyeing a comeback. The problem is that he may not regain his top form.

They added help for the bullpen. Players like Jon Rauch and Frankie Francisco will aid the bullpen in closing out games for the starting staff. The Mets now need to go after a starter to round out the rotation. One option is James Shields. Shields has played his entire career with the Tampa Bay Rays and is currently in the middle of a five-year contract.

He was rumored to be on the trade block as recently as this past November, the Rays say he is not available now. However, with the depth they have in their starting rotation, he would be the pitcher they would get the most back for. If offered the right package, they would be certain to listen. The Mets have several players the Rays could use.

Whether it's a player like Daniel Murphy, Jennry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Fernando Martinez, Wilmer Flores or Reese Havens, the Rays need offense now and for their future. It may take a package that would wow the Rays, but it would be worth it. There are three reasons why.

First, Shields, 29 years old, is an experienced pitcher. He is a guy that has pitched in the playoffs, in meaningful games in September and in October and on the big stage of the World Series.That is all experience he can take and pass onto a younger staff.

He could take on the role of veteran staff ace the Mets have lacked. If Santana does come back healthy and effective, he then would step into a role of the experienced number two starter. How tough could that tandem be in the N.L. East?

Secondly, is entering his prime and will only get better. Shields posted career bests last season. In 249 innings pitched, he earned 16 wins, 225 strikeouts, four shut outs, 11 complete games and a 2.82 ERA. All were career highs for him. He finished third in Cy Young voting and made his first All-Star Game roster.

Prior to this past season, though, his best stats were a 3.56 ERA and an average of 215 innings. He even posted ERAs over 4.00 three different times. This all points to Shields coming of age. A James Shields in his prime that can post numbers close to or better than last season would be worth sending a few prospects that may or may not pan out at the MLB level. He is proven at this plateau.

Finally, the Mets could deal a hefty contract for another one. If the Mets were to add a player that has a massive contract like Jason Bay to the deal with a couple of prospects, the Rays may take it. Shields is not a cheap option. This coming season, he will be owed $7 million. Then, $9 million and $12 million in 2013 and 2014 respectively.  

By contrast, the Mets owe Jason Bay $16 million this year and next year. Then $17 million for 2014. This option to the package would give the Rays a potential bat in the division where Bay earned his best reputation, and it would help the Mets get a solid pitcher.

In closing, it may take a Jason Bay, Daniel Murphy and two top minor league prospects to attain him, but it may be worth it in the end. Losing a top prospect like Wilmer Flores, Fernando Martinez or Jennry Mejia may seem to hurt the future of the ball club, but the Mets are deep in several positions in their farm system.

A Fernando Martinez is replaceable. A Wilmer Flores is too. Even Jennry Mejia can be replaced. The Mets have the talent in their minors to be able to take a hit like that and still be strong enough to replenish the big club for years.

Meanwhile, what the Mets get in return is a pitcher that is experienced and can help anchor the current rotation and that of the next several years. With Shields in the staff with Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler added to Jon Niese and Dillon Gee or Jeurys Familia, the Mets can have an outstanding starting staff.

It all starts by reaching out to Tampa Bay to see what it would take.