Former New York Mets general manager Jim Duquette just tweeted out an interesting bit of news:
"I was just told by a top major league exec that the #Tigers were heavily involved in discussions for Shields before #Royals landed him."
If the Detroit Tigers were “heavily” involved then there must have been some actual, serious talks taking place with the Tampa Bay Rays. And if it eventually took a package of Wil Myers plus other not-insignificant prospects to land James Shields (and Wade Davis), then one could conclude (speculatively) that the Tigers were willing (or in the process of contemplating their willingness) to offer up top prospect Nick Castellanos.
Of course, Casty may not have been involved, but I find it hard to imagine that the Detroit Tigers could have constructed a package around anyone else – even Avisail Garcia – that would have satisfied the demands of the Rays. Castellanos was the only Tigers prospect to be named to Baseball America’s Top 100 list a year ago (as was Myers). I know many folks (me being one of them) consider Castellanos’ best long-term value to come as a third baseman – not as an outfielder – so he may not have been a fit with the Rays who recently locked up Evan Longoria through the end of the century (or very nearly).
Obviously the reaction about Kansas City sending Myers for two years of Shields has been mostly negative, but Castellanos isn’t quite as close to being major league ready, so there’s more risk involved with him. The package would have been Castellanos plus, so ultimately I probably wouldn’t have liked the deal in the end. Then again, the Tigers are certainly in “win now” mode, and another top-flight starter would have probably made them head-and-shoulders favorites in the American League. Still, I hate for the future to be mortgaged for a small percentage increase in World Series likelihood.
Especially for a team like the Tigers, who don’t have a deep system and seemingly can afford a bloated payroll, the better route to go (if they’re set on improving the rotation) is probably simply signing Anibal Sanchez. If the Tigers have hopes of retaining Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Doug Fister for the long-term, then they’re going to need to hold onto pre-arb guys like Castellanos and Garcia (and hope for excellent production) to offset some of that cost.
[UPDATE:] Danny Knobler of CBS Sports confirmed the report that the Tigers were trying to get Shields from the Rays, but he says the centerpiece of the deal would have been Garcia:
"The Tigers made a late bid for Shields, according to sources, offering outfielder Avisail Garcia and other prospects. The Rays like Garcia, but the Tigers weren’t able to match the overall package the Royals offered."
I would have been hugely in favor of this deal (depending on who the other prospects were), but it’s not surprising that the Rays opted for Myers.