Kevin Shaun Newkirk has outlined the case that James Shields could be a more efficient use of resources for a contending club than David Price in terms of value versus talent given up in a trade. Although the odds of the Royals moving James Shields at the deadline is small because Dayton won't give up on this team, we should at least examine what he could get were he to trade the starting pitcher.
Shaun concludes that Shields will likely net a package somewhere between what the Brewers got for Zack Greinke in 2012 and what the Cubs got for Matt Garza in 2013, and that sounds about right to me. I think what we can expect is:
(1) A borderline Top 100 prospect.
(2) A solid B prospect
(3) A lottery ticket - either (a) a former hot prospect that has fallen; (b) an intriguing player far away from the big leagues, or (c) a competitive balance lottery pick.
With that in mind, let's look at a few of the clubs that will be looking for staring pitching.
The Cardinals seem to be the most active suitors for David Price, and with Jamie Garcia out for the year and Michael Wacha out at least a few weeks, the club could use some starting pitching depth. Shields would slot in perfectly as a #3 behind Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn.
Trade proposal: P Marco Gonzales, OF Randal Grichuk, and a competitive balance draft pick.
I know Shields once netted the best hitting minor league prospect in baseball, but Oscar Taveras is off the table for Shields now. Gonzales is St. Louis' 2013 first round pick and has moved through the system quickly, already making two MLB starts. His ceiling is probably a mid-rotation guy, but he's a cheap arm that can compete for a rotation spot as soon as next year. Grichuk was acquired by the Angels in the David Freese/Peter Bourjos deal and has hit 40 home runs in the minors the last season and a half. His plate discipline is suspect, but the 22-year old right-hander could compete for the right field starting job next year.
Other names to consider: OF Stephen Piscotty, a solid on-base machine whose power has diminished at higher levels but has appeared in top 50 midseason prospect lists, and left-handed pitcher Rob Kaminsky, a very young solid arm in low A would be great gets for the Royals. They would be higher ceiling players but may be out of reach as a return for Shields.
The Blue Jays have called up top prospect Aaron Sanchez to fill in their rotation, but starting pitching is still their biggest need. Shields could join R.A. Dickey and Mark Buerhle for what would be a formidable and experienced playoff rotation. The biggest question is would the Royals be willing to deal with a team they are competing for a Wild Card spot with?
Trade proposal: OF Dalton Pompey, P Roberto Osuna, and P Matt Smoral
Top pitching prospects Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris are probably off-limits for such a trade, and the Jays system is a bit thin after their trade splurge a few winters ago, but there are still some interesting pieces. Pompey has come out of nowhere to be considered a Top 50 Prospect by Baseball America. The toolsy centerfielder has good control of the strike-zone, can swipe some bases, and isn't totally devoid of power. He could be an ideal replacement for Lorenzo Cain once Cain gets too pricey.
I have loved Osuna as a prospect since he signed out of Mexico. He was named a Top 100 prospect before the season by MLB.com, but unfortunately has had Tommy John surgery since then. Osuna is just 19 and has a sturdy wide frame that suggests he could be a solid workhorse someday, although he has yet to pitch above low A ball. Smoral is a former supplemental round pick that strikes out a ton of hitters, but has big control issues.
Other names to consider: If the Blue Jays balk at giving up Pompey, outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. might be a nice alternative. Smith has terrific on-base skills and has finally figured out how to hit left-handers, but his ceiling might be pretty limited.
The Brewers have made a surprising run this year and stand in first place in the National League Central Division. Their rotation has been solid, but not spectacular, and they could use the leadership of James Shields.
Trade proposal: P Jimmy Nelson, C Clint Coulter and P Taylor Williams
The Brewers quite frankly have an awful farm system, so its hard to see how the two teams would match up well for a trade at all. The only crown jewel is Nelson, who may very well be off-limits, especially as he's already in the Brewers rotation. Milwaukee may decide they want someone more experienced for their pennant push, so maybe they swap him for Shields. Nelson is a Top 50 prospect who put up eye-popping numbers in AAA this year, and can probably step into our rotation as a replacement for Shields immediately. Coulter is a 20 year old in the Appalachian League who draws walks and hits home runs and probably won't stay behind the plate. Williams seems like a nice arm who can strike guys out who is also in the Appy League.
Other names: Blergh. I don't know if there's anyone else I'd want. They have a competitive balance draft pick, so maybe that should be on the table as well. Dealing with the Brewers should probably be a last resort, and no deal should exclude Nelson.
The iconic Yankees are throwing pitchers out there named Shane Green and Chase Whitley, so they'd almost certainly be interested in an experienced veteran like James Shields. Shields hasn't fared well in Yankee Stadium however, with a 4.32 ERA in nine starts, which may dissuade the Yankeees.
Trade proposal: OF Aaron Judge, 2B Rob Refsnyder, and P Cesar Vargas
Outfielder Aaron Judge is probably the name the Royals should ask for first, as the 2013 first round pick has excelled in his first pro season, with tremendous plate discipline and good pop in two levels of A ball.
Rob Refsnyder is a second baseman with good control of the strike zone who can hit the ball out of the park on occasion. He's already excelling in AAA, so he could serve as a utility-type next year (he can play some outfield) until Infante is washed up. Vargas is a rail-thin right-handed 22-year old in High A who can strike hitters out.
Other names to consider: First baseman Peter O'Brien doesn't show up any prospect lists but dear god, he has 30 HOME RUNS THIS YEAR SO FAR. The 23-year old first baseman hit 10 dingers in High A Tampa before hitting 20 more when promoted to AA Trenton. Sure, he's another 1B/DH type, and the Royals reportedly want to get away from having a full-time designated hitter, but 30 HOME RUNS! And the season isn't over!
The Seattle Mariners are rumored to be one of the top bidders for David Price, but if they fail to meet Tampa Bay's asking price, they could turn to James Shields. A trio of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, and James Shields would give the Mariners a chance despite their underwhelming offense.
Trade proposal: P James Paxton, OF Austin Wilson, and P Michael Suarez
The Royals were reportedly scouting Paxton a few winters ago. The 25 year-old left-hander is a Top 100 prospect who has excelled in a handful of Major League starts, but has been sidelined since April due to shoulder issues. The Mariners may not want to gamble on his health when he returns, and deal him instead for a more dependable arm. Wilson is a guy I raved about last year for the draft, a huge athlete with pop who I think profiles like fellow Stanford alum Carlos Quentin. Michael Suarez is a 19-year old Venezuelan left-hander.
Others to consider: First baseman D.J. Peterson and pitcher Taijuan Walker are the Mariners top prospects, but will be off-limits for a James Shields deal. Brandon Maurer is a young pitcher who can miss bats and has some Major League experience that might make sense as a return for Shields if they can't get Paxton included in a deal.