Shields allowed one run and two hits with a career-high and team-record 15 strikeouts
While Baltimore remained in contention for the American League East title by edging the Rays, 1-0, Shields allowed one run and two hits with a career-high and team-record 15 strikeouts during a complete game. He finished the season at 15-10 with a 3.52 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and a .246 opponent’s batting average. The 30-year-old right-hander recorded 223 strikeouts in 227.2 innings.
This off-season, the Rays must decide whether to pick up Shields’ $9 million club option or exercise the $1.5 million buyout. Marc Topkin, who covers the Rays for the Tampa Bay Times, believes the team will bring Shields back. There is speculation the traditionally penny-pinching Rays could also pick up the option and then trade him for some badly needed to bats to upgrade what is one of the worst lineups in the majors.
Since Tampa Bay will not be retaining Carlos Pena and Luke Scott, and B.J. Upton is a free agent, the team might also pick up Shields’ option and trade another starting pitcher for offense. Potential American League Cy Young Award winner David Price and Shields form one of the best 1-2 rotation punches in baseball. The Rays have names like Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Jeff Niemann who other teams would find appealing, though it appears the Rays would like to keep Moore long term.
There is no doubt that, without an improved lineup, the Rays are likely to repeat this season’s non-playoff performance regardless of how well the rotation pitches. To bolster the lineup, they will have to sacrifice a starting pitcher or two. After Shields’ 15 strikeout gem on Tuesday, the club might feel the need to unload another arm to get a bat.