Hellickson getting the most interest among Rays starters so far, even more than Shields

Jeremy Hellickson -- not James Shields -- is the most popular Rays starting pitcher in early trade talks so far, sources say.

Interest in Shields has received the bulk of the publicity, as he seems like the most logical one to go -- if the Rays trade a starter, that is. Tampa Bay fielded calls of interest at the deadline, ultimately deciding to hold onto all of their starters, and as one Rays person said, "needed every one of them.''

Trade talks involving their starters are expected to heat up at the GM meetings in Indian Wells, Calif., this week.

The reason Shields is viewed as the more likely to go is his $10.25-million salary in 2013, high for a Ray. Hellickson, the AL Rookie of the Year in 2011 and Gold Glove winner this year, still isn't arbitration eligible, so he'll make more than $9 million less than Shields, assuming no long-term deal is struck with Hellickson.

The Rays have been known to get bargain deals with their young stars, but Hellickson is represented by Scott Boras, who doesn't favor bargain deals.

Hellickson, 25, went 10-11 with a 3.10 ERA, Shields, 15-10 with a 3.52 ERA, has a year to go before free agency.

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