I'm going to neglect the Zack Greinke-type trade talk for now, and we all the Pirates aren't going to be in on Jayson Werth or Cliff Lee in free agency. An increase in payroll is inevitable. We don't know how much, but I'm assuming it has to be at least 8-10 million dollars. The speculation from Dejan and most elsewhere is that a power bat in right field or at first base and a good (I use that adjective cautiously) starting pitcher are likely to be sought after from the outside.
I'm going to focus on the pitchers for a minute.
The Tampa Bay Rays are going to be losing payroll. They did it last year with Iwamura, and especially if they're going to try and keep Crawford (which Desmond Jennings may make them not do), they're going to need to move a starting pitcher. They have Jeremy Hellickson ready right now and making peanuts for the next several seasons, so the natural move is to trade some one or both of Matt Garza (3.35 this year going into arb) and James Shields (4.25M with 7M option for 2012).
Garza this year: 6.56 K/9, 2.92 BB/9, 4.01 ERA, 4.47 xFIP, 1.4 WAR,
Shields this year: 8.47 K/9, 2.19 BB/9, 4.86 ERA, 3.69 xFIP, 2.2 WAR.
It needs to be noted that Shields has been extraordinarily unlucky this season. He's giving up 1.54 HR/9 compared to just 1.2 for his career. That can be attributed to 14% of his flyballs allowed going over the fence, which is well over his 11% career average. The xFIP/ERA disparity also reeks of someone who's been wronged by great swings and shoddy defense. He's had a lousy ERA, but I think pitched much better than that. He's been tagged for a .347 BABIP, while his career average is .314. This is all in spite of very little change in his LD/GB/FB rates. It's unexplainable as anything but bad luck.
Garza has a much better ERA than Shields, but a much worse xFIP. I'm not trying to be too much of a saber-oriented stats geek, but I think Shields has actually pitched better. Baseball traditionalists won't agree with me, but unfortunately, Tampa's GM, Andrew Friedman, isn't Ned Colletti and he may not give up pitchers with great stuff for less value just because of a bad ERA. Garza is a nice pitcher, but not as good as Shields. Determining who has more value will be sort of difficult, since none of us know how much Friedman will look into the numbers I've looked at. I'm assuming he's smarter than me and that he will look.
A little more background: Shields has a fastball that gets hit hard and lives on a great changeup. Shields throws a tick over 91 most of the time with his heater. Garza thrives on a 95 mph fastball.
The Rays are going to move a pitcher. Garza and Shields are going to be the most expensive ones on their staff, and Hellickson is probably better than both. Since they're going to need to cut some payroll there to keep Crawford and address first base, one of Garza/Shields, possibly both, is going to be traded. I'm almost certain of it. They won't move Price, and Davis is probably too inexpensive to be considered trade bait. Niemann seems unlikely to go, either, for a lack of service time filled and not being very expensive himself. They have an absurd amount of pitching in their farm system even after Hellickson.
So, I have two questions for you:
a) Who is more valuable in a trade -- Garza or Shields?
b) Who fits the Pirates better from a money viewpoint? Shields is signed for two more years, and Garza's in arbitration. Shields made more this year.
c) What would you give up in the following trades? Garza, Shields, and both of them.