The Texas Rangers may decide to mix things up in the back of their bullpen.
In what would surely be a shocking move, Texas is considering trading closer Joe Nathan, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Rosenthal notes that the Rangers could do it since the market for closers is thin and the team already has a few options who could take over in the ninth inning.
Texas has the third-best bullpen in baseball this season in terms of WAR, according to FanGraphs. Most of the credit goes to Nathan, who has been successful in 32 of his 34 save opportunities and has only allowed eight earned runs in 41.2 innings of work in 2013. He’s been good this year no matter how you look at it.
Nathan has been the 10th-best reliever in the game this season in terms of WAR, per FanGraphs. Only Jim Johnson and Mariano Rivera have more saves than Texas’ top reliever. Nathan’s ERA also puts him in the top 10 in baseball. He has a ton of value and would be a great fit for a contender looking for a closer.
The Rangers are basically being forced to deal Nathan, as they have really been struggling lately. They have won just eight of their 22 games in July and have lost eight of their last 10. Texas is quickly falling out of contention in the AL West. Entering Sunday, it's five games back of Oakland in the division. The team needs a change.
Texas could go with Joakim Soria in the ninth inning if it were to trade Nathan. The former closer for the Royals has 160 career saves on his resume, but he missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He’s made six appearances for the Rangers this season and hasn’t allowed a run.
Rosenthal notes that the Tigers, Red Sox and Dodgers are all teams that are looking to boost their bullpens at the trade deadline. While it’s still unknown as to where Nathan will wind up—if anywhere—here’s a look at some rumors surrounding a few other stars who could be dealt before July 31.
Michael Young, Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies have to be willing to sell considering how poorly the team has played as of late. Philadelphia has dropped its last seven games and is now 10 games behind Atlanta in the NL East. That likely means that versatile infielder Michael Young will be on the move in the coming days.
Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston reports the teams with interest in Young:
Young is hitting .277/.342/.402 with seven home runs and 32 RBI through 97 games this season. He’d likely be the designated hitter with the Rangers and Orioles, whereas he’d be the third baseman for the Red Sox. But which of the three teams interested in him needs his services the most?
We already discussed Texas’ recent struggles, and the Rangers really need to add a bat at the deadline. The team’s production from its designated hitter spot in the lineup has been the ninth best in the AL this season in terms of WAR, per FanGraphs. With Lance Berkman on the disabled list, Texas could really use Young.
The Orioles need a new designated hitter even more. In comparison to the other teams in the Junior Circuit, Baltimore ranks 13th in WAR, per FanGraphs. It had been using Nolan Reimold, but he wasn’t very productive and now he’s injured. Henry Urrutia is currently trying to fill the void in the Baltimore offense.
Boston has done a good job at third base without Will Middlebrooks, who wasn’t hitting well at all to start the year and had been injured. Jose Iglesias is hitting .337/.383/.418 on the season, but he has slumped lately. He’s batting just .211/.256/.224 in July. The Red Sox need to make a move quickly to stay toward the top of the AL East.
Edes thinks that the Orioles are the best landing spot for Young, but in reality, all three teams need him equally as much. The Phillies should be able to get a good amount of talent in return since the need for a player like Young is so high.
Jeff Samardzija, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs have already traded a pair of starting pitchers this season. Chicago dealt Scott Feldman to the Orioles and, more recently, Matt Garza to the Rangers. It appears that Jeff Samardzija could be the third Cubbie starter on the move, as Rosenthal reports the team will listen on him:
The right-hander is 6-9 on the season through 21 starts and has a 3.94 ERA in 137 innings of work. He’s averaging 9.13 strikeouts and 3.42 walks per nine innings. While Samardzija’s win-loss record may not be too pretty, he is still one of the better pitchers in the NL and could be a top-of-the-rotation starter with a contender.
Rosenthal notes that the price to acquire Samardzija is sure to be high. The Cubs just got a bunch of young talent from the Ranges in exchange for Garza. Lawr Michaels of USA Today thinks the team got a nice haul in the deal. Chicago could probably get just as much—if not even more—if it traded Samardzija.
One of the teams that may be willing to pay a lot to land Samardzija is Arizona. Rosenthal reported back in June that the Diamondbacks had interest in trading for the righty, but at the time, there was no indication that he was available. Times have changed, and the Snakes now have the opportunity to make a move for him.
Arizona has the 17th-best rotation in baseball this season in terms of WAR, according to FanGraphs. The Diamondbacks have a pair of key starters on the disabled list, but they do have a couple of young pitchers who could come up and solve the current problems. Or, Arizona could trade for a top starter like Samardzija.
It’s unknown what the Diamondbacks would be willing to give up if they were able to land Samardzija, but one would presume that either Tyler Skaggs or Randall Delgado would have to be included. They are two of the team’s top young pitchers and each has a lot of value. Getting Samardzija may be worth trading one of them.
All statistics in this article were obtained via FanGraphs unless otherwise noted and are current through July 27. All injury information was obtained via Baseball Prospectus, and all contract information was obtained via Cot’s Contracts.