Fake trade: James Shields to Cincinnati for Yonder Alonso

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(The following is not a done deal or even a valid rumor and should not be treated as such.)

Reds acquire RHP James Shields and RHP Kyle Farnsworth from the Rays for first baseman Yonder Alonso and catcher Yasmani Grandal.

Courtesy of Yahoo’s Tim Brown comes the rumor that the Reds have started shopping top prospect Yonder Alonso in their hunt for a closer or a No. 2 starter. He lists Tampa Bay as one of the teams that GM Walt Jocketty has talked to.

The Rays have six major league starters. Neither Wade Davis nor Jeff Niemann is worth Alonso alone, while Matt Moore, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson and Shields all appear to be too valuable to trade straight up for Alonso. That’s where Grandal comes in. The 2010 first-round pick is one of the game’s top five catching prospects, but he has an even better young catcher ahead of him in Devin Mesoraco. The Reds still aren’t going to be in any hurry to give him up, but it would make some sense to part with both of their blocked youngsters for a big-time starter like Shields.

Why it works for the Rays: Moore could very well turn into one of the AL’s best starters next year, giving Tampa Bay one of the game’s top rotations even without Shields in the fold. Alonso immediately steps into the vacancy at first base left by Casey Kotchman’s departure. He probably won’t turn into an All-Star at such a loaded position, but he shouldn’t be too far off with his strong bat. Grandal isn’t quite ready yet, but he’ll likely be ready to overtake John Jaso in 2013.

I have the Rays giving up Farnsworth, too. While he was an excellent closer last season, it’s hardly a given that he’ll keep it up and the Rays should be able to replace him easily in a deep relief market.

Why it works for the Reds: It’s painful giving up 12 years of Alonso and Grandal for three of Shields and one of Farnsworth, but they don’t have a lot of use for either youngster right now and it’d be quite a blow to trade one of the game’s best players in Votto to make room for Alonso. The trade certainly has the potential to make the Reds a whole lot better if Shields and Farnsworth come close to duplicating their 2011 success. Also, the money isn’t bad at all. The Reds would get their ace and their closer for a combined $10.8 million in 2012, which should still leave them with some financial flexibility going forward. Shields’ contract is also reasonable beyond that: there are team options worth $9 million-$10 million for 2013 and $12 million-$14 million in 2014.

Why it won’t happen: One factor the Reds would have to be awfully nervous about: while Shields and Farnsworth combined for a 2.70 ERA in 307 innings last season, they came in at 4.74 in 268 innings during 2010. The Reds might want to hold out for Shields for Alonso straight up.

Mets to move Matt Harvey to the bullpen

Matt Harvey
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Mets right-hander Matt Harvey is heading to the bullpen, according to comments made by club manager Mickey Callaway on Saturday. As predicted, Harvey doesn’t appear to be taking the news particularly well, going so far as to tell Callaway that the decision has him “at a 10 with being pissed off” and that he’s motivated to prove himself as a starter.

It’s been rough going for Harvey this spring. After missing significant time to a shoulder injury last season, the 29-year-old righty returned to the mound with a lot left to prove. He pitched to an 0-2 record in four starts, issuing 14 runs, four home runs and 17 strikeouts in 21 innings. It’s been a while since the Mets have seen anything better out of their starter — he hasn’t turned in a sub-4.00 ERA since 2015 and hasn’t pitched well enough to earn an All-Star berth since 2013 — and now it appears they’re at the end of their rope.

At this point, the Mets insist that the shift is a temporary one. While Callaway has helped successfully convert several starters to the bullpen, including Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco, that’s not the plan for this veteran right-hander. Instead, both the team and Harvey seem to view the change as a way to clear up any mental blocks Harvey may be encountering on the mound. “We know he’s healthy,” assistant GM John Ricco told reporters. “He’s feeling good. Then you get to, is this a little bit of a mental thing, a confidence thing? One of the things we talk about is getting him into the ‘pen, where he can have success in short spurts, get that confidence back and really let it go and get back to being a guy who can dominate the way he’s shown in the past.”

Harvey will be eligible to pitch out of the bullpen on Tuesday, when the Mets are scheduled to kick off their next road series against the Cardinals. As for his replacement, left-hander Jason Vargas will resume his role in the rotation when he comes off the disabled list next Saturday.