Buyer or seller?

In the case of the Rays and James Shields, it may not matter.

Only half a game out of the second wild-card spot but in desperate need of an offensive boost, the Rays are suggesting to teams that they'll be willing to trade Shields, even if they still believe they can compete for a playoff spot.

In fact, trading Shields could either bring back a much-needed bat, or give the Rays enough financial flexibility to find a bat elsewhere.

Shields has struggled recently, giving up double-digit hits in each of his last four starts. But some scouts who have watched him recently believe that he'll be a better pitcher if he gets away from Tampa Bay.

"He'll be fine," one scout said. "To me, he just needs a different environment."

The Tigers, who seem to have determined that starting pitching is their biggest need, are one team that could be interested in Shields. The Rays, who have searched for years for a catcher, could look to build a deal around Rob Brantly, who is catching for the Tigers' Triple-A Toledo team.