In one of the biggest no-brainer calls of the offseason, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays have informed right-hander James Shields that they’ll exercise his $10.25 million option for 2013.
Shields is a tremendous bargain at that price after bouncing back from a rough 2010 season to throw 477 innings with a 3.15 ERA and 448/123 K/BB ratio during the past two years.
He’s cracked 200 innings in six straight seasons, struck out a career-high 8.8 batters per nine innings this year, and because they were smart enough to lock him up to a long-term extension early the Rays also hold an option on Shields for 2014.
The only question now is whether a team that’s always heavy on young pitching and always light on payroll room will shop Shields around this winter.
The Dodgers have pulled off their first blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and cash considerations to the Braves for Matt Kemp, per announcements from both teams. The Braves are set to designate Gonzalez for assignment on Monday, making him a free agent.
Kemp, 33, had a down year with the Braves in 2017, hitting a career-low -0.5 fWAR in 115 games with the club. At the plate, he slashed a modest .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and a .781 OPS through 467 plate appearances, but was hampered by a nagging left hamstring strain through most of the season. This will be his 10th campaign with the Dodgers.
Whether or not Kemp can rebound during his second stint in Los Angeles is almost beside the point, however. The deal is effectively a salary dump to end all salary dumps. Offloading multiple one-year contracts for McCarthy, Kazmir and Gonzalez should bring the Dodgers back under the $197 million luxury tax threshold and position them to make a run at some of the big fish in next year’s free agent pool. It’s also worth noting that they may not keep Kemp around for long — per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the club appears as likely to flip the veteran outfielder as they are to use him. As for the Braves, they not only rid themselves of the $43 million due Kemp through 2020, but added some rotation and infield depth with McCarthy and Culberson and can now give top prospect Ronald Acuna a legitimate tryout in left field.