Breaking Down How the Texas Rangers Can Solve Their Talent Overload This Winter
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Darn those Texas Rangers. As if having the best record in the American League and two straight American League pennants to show off wasn't already good enough, they also have a problem that every team in baseball would love to have.
The Rangers have too much talent.
Yeah, yeah. We can debate for hours whether or not the phrase "too much talent" has any business being uttered inside or outside of baseball. Teams need as much talent as they can get, and the Rangers don't have "too much" talent so much as they have "more than most."
But let's face it. With guys like much-hyped shortstop prospect Jurickson Profar and third-base prospect Mike Olt ready to contribute, the Rangers are in a bit of a tough spot all of a sudden. Profar and Olt are no use to them as backups going forward, and spots aren't going to open up for them to play every day unless Rangers GM Jon Daniels makes a trade or two.
If he were to make a couple trades to accommodate Profar and Olt, it's true that he would be sacrificing the team's considerable depth. However, he has the kind of tradeable assets that could bring back star players in return, thus making the Rangers an even stronger team even despite their sudden lack of depth.
To this end, it's time to have a talk about the Rangers' options this winter.
Trade Elvis Andrus
Jurickson Profar arrived in the big leagues as the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball America. He proceeded to live up to the hype by homering and doubling in his debut.
There's basically no going back for Profar now. He has little left to prove in the minor leagues, and Anthony Witrado of The Sporting News pointed out that the Rangers wouldn't have called him up in the first place if they didn't have it in mind to make Profar an everyday player in 2013.
In order for them to do that, somebody's going to have to go. And since Elvis Andrus and Profar play the same position, Andrus is the obvious trade candidate.
Many have noted as much, including Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com. He floated the idea of the Rangers trading Andrus and prospects to the Tampa Bay Rays for David Price, who is getting to be too expensive for the Rays.
Price is not too expensive for the Rangers, and he's appealing for them because he's one of the top aces in baseball. The Rangers have been a great team for a few years now, but a true No. 1 starting pitcher is something they've been lacking.
The Rays may not go for Andrus seeing as how he's a Scott Boras client who is scheduled to hit free agency after the 2014 season. That doesn't make him completely untradeable, though, as there are surely a lot of teams that wouldn't mind coughing up pitching for a shortstop who leads all major league shortstops in WAR, according to FanGraphs.
For example, the Arizona Diamondbacks could be willing to do an Andrus-and-prospects swap for Justin Upton (pure speculation on my part).
The obvious hangup here is that Andrus is 24 and still getting better as a player. The Rangers may be better off trying to lock him up, choosing instead to trade someone else.
Or Trade Ian Kinsler
The Rangers and Ian Kinsler just agreed to a five-year extension this past April. The notion of turning around and trading him is pretty silly, right?
Not really, actually.
Inking Kinsler to an extension was the right idea at the time, as he was fresh off a 2011 season in which he posted the sixth-highest WAR among all major league players, according to FanGraphs. The Rangers figured they were locking up a superstar.
Unfortunately for them, Kinsler has regressed to where he was in 2010. His on-base percentage of .336 is not going to cut it seeing as how he's the club's leadoff hitter. He needs to be a lot closer to .400, and that's a mark he's avoided even in his best years.
Trading Kinsler instead of Andrus was an idea that Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News proposed in a recent chat, saying it would make sense to at least explore the possibility.
My guess is that Kinsler's value would be about equal to Andrus' out on the trade market. He may be older and more expensive, but the fact that he's locked up through 2017 with an option for the 2018 season could lead second-base-needy teams to go after him. Star second basemen who are controllable just don't show up on the trade market all that often.
If I had to throw a fit for Kinsler out there, I'd have to go with the Toronto Blue Jays. They have a very deep farm system, they don't have a long-term answer at second base and Kinsler would fit well in the powerful lineup Alex Anthopoulos has put together.
Come to think of it, Daniels should have all AL East teams on speed dial this winter. Things are getting awfully real in that division.
If the Rangers were to trade Andrus, they could put Profar in his place. If they were to trade Kinsler instead, they could move either Andrus or Profar to second base. Either trade would solve the Profar dilemma.
As for the Mike Olt dilemma...
Trade Mitch Moreland and Play Mike Olt at First Base
Olt is a third baseman by trade, but he's played a little first base and a little right field since he got the call to the majors.
Olt probably isn't going to be playing third base for the Rangers on an everyday basis in the near future. That's Adrian Beltre's home, and he's pretty darn good.
Right field is also a tough one, as that's Nelson Cruz's position and he's also pretty good.
That leaves first base, a place where Mitch Moreland has established himself as a solid offensive producer and a decent defensive presence.
The Rangers could go with a Moreland/Olt platoon at first base next season, but that wouldn't be the most efficient way to play things. Moreland has become too good to be a part-time player, and giving Olt part-time duty would make it hard for him to make good on his star-level potential.
Instead of keeping both Moreland and Olt and holding both of them back by stashing them in a platoon situation, why not bolster the team by trading Moreland?
This is another idea that Grant proposed in his chat, and I think it's a good one because the market for Moreland's services could be more demanding than you may think.
Moreland is just now coming into his own as a player, and the timing couldn't be more perfect seeing as how he still has several years of arbitration eligibility before he hits free agency. Plenty of teams out there could use a first baseman like him.
If the Rangers trade Moreland, they could stash Olt at first base and never look back.
If they'd rather keep both Moreland and Olt around—and they just might seeing as how both of them are talented and controllable—they could trade someone else instead.
Or Trade Nelson Cruz and Replace Him in Right Field with Mike Olt
Since 2009, the only right fielders with higher slugging percentages than Nelson Cruz are Jose Bautista and Giancarlo Stanton, according to FanGraphs.
He can definitely hit the ball far, and for that, the Rangers are forever grateful.
The problem with Cruz is that power is really all he brings to the table. He's at best a decent right fielder, and he's neither going to hit for a high average nor post a high on-base percentage.
The Rangers could make Cruz their full-time DH in 2013 in order to pave the way for Olt to play every day in right field, but that would leave Ron Washington with virtually no means to squeeze Michael Young into the lineup every day.
And, you know, that's kind of a problem for Washington, for good or ill (mostly ill).
So one option is for the Rangers to trade Cruz, who has a year to go before he hits free agency. Teams that need power in right field (or at DH) would be interested.
The only issue is that the Rangers wouldn't get as much in a trade for Cruz as they'd get in a trade for Andrus and Kinsler due to Cruz's age, his one-dimensional skill set and his dying contract.
If Daniels would prefer to get a huge return in a trade (and why wouldn't he?), there's someone else besides Andrus and Cruz who he could consider trading.
Or Trade Adrian Beltre and Move Forward with a Very Young Infield
Adrian Beltre was worth every penny for the Rangers in his first season with the team in 2011, and he's once again providing tremendous value in 2012.
In fact, I have him right up there behind Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout in the AL MVP race. This is in no small part thanks to his recent hot stretch, but Beltre deserves due credit for being one of the Rangers' most consistent players all season long.
Since he has another three years and a vesting option for 2016 left on his contract, it's safe to say Beltre isn't going anywhere, right?
Yeah, probably. I haven't seen or heard of any chatter that the Rangers may be considering trading him, nor would I expect to hear any seeing as how Beltre is having an MVP-caliber season for a World Series-caliber team.
So let's be clear: The notion that the Rangers might trade Beltre this offseason to clear some space for their youngsters is pure speculation on my part.
I don't think such speculation is too outlandish, though. Beltre's value on the trade market is going to be sky-high this season, and trading him now before he gets too old could very well work out for the Rangers in the end.
And make no mistake, it won't be long before Beltre gets old. He's already 33 years old, and he has a lot of miles on his body seeing as how he's been in the majors since he was 19 years old. A couple years from now, he could be an albatross.
Other teams will be worried about this, too, but the Rangers would still be able to find a taker for Beltre if they were to dangle him. And if they were to trade him, they'd be able to go with a very young infield.
Olt would be the most obvious fit at third base, but plugging him in there wouldn't solve the Profar/Andrus conundrum. Instead, the Rangers would be better off playing Andrus at third (he played there in the All-Star Game) and stashing Profar at short. They'd then have Kinsler at second and a platoon of Moreland and Olt at first.
If Moreland is also traded, the Rangers could move forward with an infield of Andrus, Profar, Kinsler and Olt. The only one of the four over the age of 24 is Kinsler, and he still has a few years to go before he exits his prime.
That's the hell of it. Even if the Rangers trade off talented players like Beltre and Moreland, they'll still have an infield that the rest of the league will envy.
So there are those ideas. If you have any of your own, by all means share them below in the comments section.
If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter.
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