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.

Kris Bryant on Joey Votto: “He’s the best player ever … He’s a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

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The Cubs wrapped up a four-game series against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 13-10 loss to split the set. They’ll match up again against the Reds next week for a three-game series in Cincinnati. That’s good news for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, because that means he’ll get to see Reds first baseman Joey Votto some more.

As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Bryant has grown quite fond of Votto. Bryant has already won a World Series ring, a Rookie of the Year Award, and an MVP Award, but he still looks up to Votto. According to Bryant, Votto is “the best player ever.” He added, ““He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him, just picking his brain. He gets a lot of (heat) about his walks and working at-bats and some people want him to swing at more pitches. But, gosh, I mean, he does an unbelievable job. You know that he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time he goes up there. It’s definitely a guy that I look up to and I can learn from.”

Bryant said that Votto is “a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

Bryant also explained how his approach changed by watching Votto. He said that in his rookie season, he was “swinging at everything.” Votto, however, is “aggressive, but he’s not going to swing at a pitch until he wants it.”

Indeed, in Bryant’s rookie season, he struck out in nearly 31 percent of his 650 plate appearances. This season, he has struck out in only 19 percent of his PA. His walk rate has also increased by more than 2.5 percent since his rookie campaign. Compared to last year, Bryant is down in HR and RBI, but his average is the same, his on-base percentage is markedly better, and his slugging percentage is only down by a minute amount.

Video: Daniel Descalso hits D-Backs’ third inside-the-park homer of the season

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Diamondbacks second baseman Daniel Descalso hit his team’s third inside-the-park home run of the season during Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Astros. In the top of the fourth inning, with the score 1-0 and the bases empty, Descalso ripped a 1-0, 83 MPH change-up to right-center field. The ball caromed off the wall, heading towards left field, which sent center Jake Marisnick on the chase. Marisnick tried to pick up the ball with his glove, but dropped it, which sealed Descalso’s destiny for an inside-the-parker.

It had only been five days since the Diamondbacks’ last inside-the-park home run. David Peralta hit one against the Cubs on August 12. Ketel Marte legged out his club’s first ITPHR on July 26 against the Braves.

As ESPN Stats & Info notes, the Diamondbacks have three as a team, which is amazing because the other 29 teams have hit seven combined.