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.

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

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In late July of 2016, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A. It wasn’t personal. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella had options left so, despite the fact that he had been an effective player to that point of the season, it made sense to send him down.

La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. In fact he refused to report to Iowa and went home to New Jersey instead. It was not until August 17 that he finally reported and then only after prolonged discussions with the Cubs and the assurance that he’d be back in the majors once rosters opened up. Which he was, after spending just over a week down on the farm.

Such a move by a player would, normally speaking, make him persona non-grata. His teammates would shun him and the organization would, eventually, cut bait, with the press characterizing him as a me-first player as he walked out the door. That did not happen with La Stella, however, who remains with the Cubs two years later and, by all accounts, is a popular and important guy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, even if he’s not one of the team’s big stars.

Today Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has an in-depth story about La Stella, what went down in 2016 and how he and the Cubs have proceeded since then. The story is subscription only, but the short version is that there was a lot of understanding and empathy on the part of the Cubs organization and their players about what was going on in La Stella’s head at the time and how everyone allowed everyone else the space to work through it.

I’m happy to read this story, because all too often we only hear about such incidents as they occur, with little followup. To the extent the story is told, most of the time its completely one-sided, with the player who acts out being treated like a bad seed with little if any explanation of his side of things. And, yes, there are always two sides to the story. Sometimes even more.

Kudos to Rosenthal for telling this story. Here’s hoping the next time a player is involved in a controversy that, in the moment, makes him appear to be a bad seed or have a bad attitude, we hear more about it then too.