The chorus of rumors that the Cardinals are in pursuit of Tampa Bay Starter James Shields is growing stronger.
And the St. Louis player who seems to be the most tightly linked to the deal is current Redbirds starting pitcher Joe Kelly.
I'm not sure how I feel about that. Shields has been a great starting pitcher at times in his career. He won 16 games last season with a 2.82 ERA and only 195 hits allowed in 241 1/3 innings. But at other times he's been frustratingly bad. In 2010, Shields allowed an American League worst 246 hits in 203 innings of work for a 13-15 record with a 5.18 ERA.
Which James Shields would the Cardinals be getting in return for a promising young hurler with 100 MPH stuff?
Shields has been ridden hard. He's racked up an average of 230 innings pitched from his first full year in 2007 through last season. And this year he leads the American League in batters faced.
He does offer big game experience, which is something the Cardinals are short of with Chris Carpenter on the shelf. Former manager Tony La Russa didn't seem to have much faith in anyone in his rotation besides Carpenter during the 2011 playoffs. Shields has pitched in six post season games including a start in the World Series in which he didn't give up a run over 5 2/3 innings.
Still, this whole situation reminds me in a bad way of the Rebirds giving up a very young Danny Harren in exchange for the formerly great Mark Mulder who was damaged goods and on the downswing of his career.
I have been really impressed with Kelly's adaptation to the major leagues. He's kept the Cardinals in every game he's pitched and he might very well be 4-1 instead of 1-4 if his team helped him out with a few runs. He's got a sparkling 2.95 ERA and it would have been lower had the Cardinals not fallen asleep and allowed themselves to be beaten on a two-out bunt Saturday afternoon.
I really hope if the Birds deal Kelly for Shields that they don't get in too much deeper. While Shields is controllable for the short term, I'd hate to see St. Louis deal away a big chunk of its young talent when the high minor leaguers and the guys who have emerged in the majors this year hold so much promise.