Texas Rangers' Trade Deadline Strategy Blueprint
With the trade deadline approaching, the Texas Rangers find themselves in the thick of not one, but two playoff races. As of Tuesday night, the Rangers currently trail the Oakland Athletics by half a game in the American League West, while maintaining a four-and-a-half game lead in the AL Wild Card over third place Baltimore.
The Rangers have consistently been one of the better teams in the American League all season but are not without faults. With five teams within six games of the Rangers for the top wild-card spot, the Rangers will certainly be looking to improve their team in any way possible.
With the Rangers ranking in the bottom third of the league in quality starts, they could afford to add another starting pitcher from the trade market. With pitchers like Matt Garza and Yovani Gallardo still available, the Rangers could add another arm if general manager Jon Daniels is willing to part with some prospects.
What the Rangers Will Do
You can guarantee that GM Jon Daniels is going to be looking at every option available come the trade deadline. Daniels has a long history of being aggressive at the trade deadline in order to improve his club, but not each trade has worked out the way the Rangers have wanted.
Last season, Daniels felt that the Rangers needed a boost in the rotation. As a result, the Rangers acquired pitcher Ryan Dempster from the Chicago Cubs for minor leaguers Christian Villanueva and Kyle Hendricks. Dempster wound up being an okay move for Daniels, as he went 7-3 in 12 starts—despite his 5.09 ERA over those starts.
In 2011, the Rangers wanted to bolster their bullpen for the stretch run and made three separate moves. In what is now a wildly one-sided trade, the Rangers sent first baseman Chris Davis and pitcher Tommy Hunter to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Koji Uehara. Uehara was one of the best relievers in the game that season, as he held batters to a .152/.191/.287 slash line against him. But he struggled down the stretch for the Rangers, posting a 4.00 ERA over 18 innings pitched.
Now, obviously, the Rangers didn't think Chris Davis was going to turn into an MVP candidate two seasons later, nor did they think Tommy Hunter would turn into one of the best relievers in the American League, but that has become the reality in 2013. This may wind up being one trade that could haunt the Rangers for years.
Besides the trade for Uehara, Daniels acquired Mike Adams from the San Diego Padres and Mike Gonzalez from the Baltimore Orioles at the end of August after the deadline. So as you can see, Jon Daniels is more than willing to make moves that he thinks will help improve his ballclub for the short-term.
So what will Jon Daniels and the Texas Rangers do in 2013?
Well for starters, you can expect that Daniels will be on the phone with any team willing to deal quality starting pitching for the remainder of the season. Martin Perez has been able to add some depth to the rotation since his return at the end of May, but with Nick Tepesch being placed on the designated list with elbow inflammation earlier this week, the Rangers are right back to where they were before Perez's return.
With a relatively thin market after Gallardo and Garza, the Rangers may be forced to wait for the return of Alexi Ogando from the disabled list. Ogando made his first rehab start on Sunday at Triple-A Round Rock but needed 41 pitches to get through two innings of work. Ogando's line wasn't very encouraging either, as he allowed three runs on four hits—two of which were home runs.
When it comes down to it, Daniels' aggressiveness will lead to him overpaying for either Garza or Gallardo. Expect that player to be Garza, as Jon Morosi reported that the Rangers had a pair of scouts at Monday night's Cubs-White Sox game to see Garza in action.
But as Morosi goes on to point out, the Rangers weren't the only ones with their eyes on Garza:
The Texas Rangers had two scouts at Monday’s game. The Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays and San Diego Padres had one each. They watched Garza work deliberately, but effectively over seven innings on a muggy night.
With Daniels track record, expect Daniels and the Rangers to pony up a rather hefty price of prospects in order to pry Garza away from the Cubs.
What the Rangers Should Do
Wait it out.
The problem with trading for someone like Matt Garza is the amount it is going to take to get him away from Chicago. Jon Morosi makes the case that the Rangers can afford to do it and could indeed be the best landing spot for Garza:
The Rangers probably present the best fit. With four starters on the disabled list and urgency to win the World Series, they have an obvious need for Garza. They also possess one of the deepest farm systems in baseball. It’s unclear whether Texas would part with 22-year-old lefty Martin Perez, who’s 2-1 with a 1.85 ERA in four big league starts in 2013. But the Rangers can afford to part with a third-base prospect — Joey Gallo or Mike Olt — since they have Adrian Beltre under contract for at least two more seasons.
If the Rangers need to give up Perez in order to get Garza, it would be a massive risk considering Garza is in a contract year. By acquiring Garza midseason, the Rangers would not be eligible to give Garza a qualifying offer at the end of the season due to the collective bargaining agreement.
Perez would be a big piece for the Rangers to give up. He has been impressive since returning from the disabled list, going 3-1 over five starts with a 2.08 ERA in 30.1 innings pitched.
So besides losing Perez, Jon Daniels and company could lose Garza this offseason as well, which would make the trade a colossal mistake unless the Rangers win the World Series this year.
With that in mind, does adding Garza give the Rangers the best shot to win the World Series this year?
Sure, adding Garza to Yu Darvish and Derek Holland gives the Rangers a formidable top-of-the-rotation. But does that give the Rangers the best trio in the baseball? Or even the American League?
Again, no. That distinction lies with the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers.
The problem here is, I truly don't see a way that the Rangers can acquire Garza without giving up Perez in the deal. Call me crazy, but trading an above-average young starting pitcher for a potential rental player isn't my idea of a good deal, unless that rental player is a pennant-changer. Garza is good—but he's no pennant-changer.
For those of you who think the Rangers won't need to pay an arm and a leg for Garza, Morosi goes on to remind us that the Cubs don't need to trade Garza:
The Cubs could keep Garza through the end of the season, make him a qualifying offer and collect a compensatory draft pick if he signs elsewhere. But let’s be honest: They don’t want that. They want to get another organization’s best prospect — a player who will deliver superior performance, at a low salary, for the Cubs’ next contender.
Sure, Morosi says that the Cubs don't want to bring it to a qualifying offer, but if Theo Epstein doesn't get the exact deal he wants, there is no strong reason for him to move Garza.
Summing It All Up
The Rangers are not one piece away from being World Series favorites this deadline, no matter how you slice it.
Jon Daniels may want to do everything he can to fortify his rotation, even if it means giving up a king's ransom for someone like Matt Garza.
Though this isn't a move I would support; there is a reason Jon Daniels is general manager and I am not. Personally, with Garza becoming a free agent at the end of the season, I think the Rangers are better suited pursuing Garza in the offseason—even if it means surrendering a first-round pick to the Cubs.
But then again, if the Cubs trade Garza to any other team, the Rangers could theoretically sign Garza this offseason and not have to give up anything other than a contract.
In the end, Daniels will do what he thinks is best for the Rangers now and in the future.
But whether or not that means making a big splash at the trade deadline remains to be seen.
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