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July 26, 2013

Rays' depth allowed trade Sox couldn't make

BOSTON — The Red Sox and Kansas City Royals were rumored this past offseason to be in trade talks involving then-Kansas City prospect slugger Wil Myers and Boston starting pitcher Jon Lester.

But it never actually was too realistic for the Red Sox to trade Lester and another pitcher to KC for Myers because they didn’t have an immediate replacement for Lester within the organization.

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, had not just one but two ready pitchers to replace All-Star starter James Shields. Myers ended up being shipped to Tampa Bay along with three other prospects for Shields and Wade Davis, who was relieving for the Rays but is starting for the Royals.

Shields was a huge part of the Rays’ rotation and success since 2008. He finished third for the AL Cy Young in 2011. But the Rays needed another big bat for their lineup (their offense has been their weakness for years) and they were in need of dumping salary. They were able to part with an All-Star starting pitcher without hindering their team because they had Alex Cobb and Chris Archer in their own system who immediately could provide similar production as Shields did

Losing pitchers such as Shields and Matt Garza hasn’t hurt the Rays at all. Tampa has had a revolving door going from the minors to their mound since 2008.

Tampa’s depth should be envied by everyone, including the Red Sox, although Boston’s pitching depth in the higher levels of the minors has increased this season after three or four down years.

“We have an inventory (of pitchers) that most other teams would envy,” Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey told The Eagle-Tribune. “That certainly is our lifeblood. That’s our strength and we can deal from a position of strength. And when you’re able to allow a guy like James Shields to go ahead and move on and feel pretty comfortable that you can plug that hole, (that’s helpful).

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