25 July 2011
Without fail, as late July comes around names of players are tossed around as “trade rumors.” Often times teams have no intention of trading such players, but sometimes they do in fact pull the trigger. Two fantastic pitchers are victim of that this year- as Ubaldo Jimenez and James Shields are reportedly on the trading block. Whether either of these pitchers actually does get traded remains to be seen, but it remains an interesting thought to think of either of them wearing the Old English D. But which one should the Tigers pursue more aggressively?
Let’s start with Jimenez. Last year for the Colorado Rockies Jimenez finished the season with 19-8 with an ERA of 2.88 with 214 SO in 221.2 innings. That was good enough for 3rd in the NL CY Young Award voting, behind Roy Halladay and Adam Wainwright. This year however, he started very slowly, losing on Opening Day then landing on the DL. His return was not spectacular- through his first 9 games (Opening Day included), he was 0-5 with a 5.86 ERA. Yuck. In his last 11 games he has turned his season around, going 6-4 with a 3.03 ERA. Unfortunately for Jimenez the Rockies are underperforming, and underperforming teams trade away players. And because Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez both signed outrageous contracts before the season, Jimenez is the one on the chopping block. Teams are looking at Jimenez’s track record and realize that this may just be a down year and that demolishing the farm for him may not be such a bad idea.
The Tigers have been connected with Jimenez, and reportedly had scouts at yesterday’s start in Arizona. Now so did 19 other teams, and the Tigers may just be paying their due diligence, but what if they were serious? Let’s think of the implications that Ubaldo Jimenez would have on the Tigers’ postseason hopes. As I stated in an earlier article, the Tigers are going to need a number two pitcher to get past the Rangers, Yankees, or (as it appears they match up against in the division series) Red Sox*. Justin Verlander is an ace among aces, so no concern there. Just think of how good a playoff rotation featuring Verlander, Jimenez, and Max Scherzer could be. Not much as far as contrasting styles (which will be addressed with Shields), but those three could more than hold their own against Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholtz.
But what would it take to acquire a pitcher of Jimenez’s caliber? A lot. The Rockies would undoubtedly ask for young, power pitching to replace their star hurler. Luckily, the Tigers have a lot of that. Here’s a list of what the Rockies may want- Jacob Turner, Rick Porcello, Andy Oliver, Charlie Furbush, and a lower level pitching prospect to be included in any deal. Now as Tigers fan, I am a little apprehensive about this. I think Turner will be better than Jimenez so I don’t like the idea of including him, especially considering Jimenez’s shaky start, there’s no guarantee of productivity. Remember his second half collapse last year. I really don’t like trading Porcello either, as even though he hasn’t done much since his rookie year, his upside his still there. So basically- don’t trade for Jimenez. Go get Shields.
James Anthony Shields of the Tampa Bay Rays is currently experiencing a breakout year. I listed him as the 6th best pitcher in baseball, and I am firm in that ranking. Shields is a tremendous pitcher. And within the last few weeks I have been hoping the Rays would experience a Seattle Mariners type slide, so they would be more inclined to trade him. 9-8, 2.53 ERA, 7 CG and 3 shutouts, and 151 SO in 156.1 innings. I broke him down in an earlier article so I’ll save you the time and link you to it here. As with Jimenez, the Rays have little incentive to move him. He is very cheap for the next few years, as he is controlled by three team options for 2012-2014, totaling $28M over those three years. If Shields is indeed available, the Tigers should not get off the phone with the Rays until; a deal is made, and here’s why.
The Tigers need a number two pitcher. I’ve mentioned this a few times and still consider it their glaring weakness. No offense Mr. Scherzer, as I am elated to have you has a number three in a playoff series, but just imagine Shields in that mix. In addition to the terrific pitcher that Shields is, you get a different style. Verlander and Scherzer both overpower hitters with a blazing upper 90’s fastball. Verlander then goes to a changeup or curveball, where Scherzer goes with an electric slider. Shields is a more methodical starter (not to say that JV and Max aren’t, but bear with me). The average speed on Shields’ fastball is 91 MPH, and then he goes to a curveball. The finesse style of Shields bookended by fireballers would help to keep opposing hitters from getting into a rhythm in a short series.
What would it take to get Shields? Honestly if I would pay more for Shields than Jimenez. Once again Jacob Turner would most likely be the head of any deal, which may be a sticking point for Detroit. But if the Tigers were willing to trade the crown jewel of their farm system, a deal could be worked out. I’d call the Rays and offer Turner, Oliver, and Furbush. They may be more interested in a position player like Francisco Martinez or Avisail Garcia, but I’m not the GM, so I’ll leave it to Dave Dombrowski to make this work. But he needs to make it work.
ALDS Gm 1- Verlander vs. Lester
Gm 2- Shields vs. Beckett
Gm 3- Buchholtz vs. Scherzer
I like our odds.
*As it stands the 4 playoff teams are Rangers, Tigers, Red Sox, and Yankees (WC). The wild card team faces the tem with the best record unless they are in the same division in which case they would face the team with the second best record. That would mean the Yankees go to Arlington to face the Rangers and the Tigers to the Fenway for the Red Sox.
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