Is James Shields Available?

The Reds are targeting Rays righty James Shields, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney, which might be why Tampa Bay scouts have been evaluating the Reds' Triple-A team this week.  Baseball Prospectus' John Perrotto says the Rays have "quietly let it be known that right-hander Shields is available for the right price."  The Rays "will listen to just about every trade proposal thrown their way," writes Olney.

With a 2.60 ERA, 8.8 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9, and 46.1% groundball rate, the 29-year-old Shields has the ability to shake up a trade market that is light on starting pitchers aside from perhaps Ubaldo Jimenez.  Shields' contract offers the ultimate in flexibility, with reasonable club options on his 2012, '13, and '14 seasons. 

Shields' ERAs have bounced around plenty over the years, but his skills have always supported sub-4.00 and this year he's pitched like an ace.  Plus, he's never been on the disabled list and averaged over 220 innings from 2008-10.  This year, he leads the Majors with seven complete games and has averaged over 7.4 innings per start.

Shields' suitors probably won't match up directly with those of Jimenez, as I imagine the Rays would prefer not to trade him to the Yankees or Red Sox.  Still, my contender wish list post yesterday shows the Indians, Tigers, Rangers, Cardinals, Reds, Pirates, and Diamondbacks as other clubs seeking starting pitching.

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