The Texas Rangers are within striking distance in the American League West division and in the wild-card race, but there is still ample time to make improvements before Wednesday's non-waiver trade deadline runs out.
However, general manager Jon Daniels is indicating that he will mostly stay pat, if not completely, and attempt to move forward contending with the current roster.
Run scoring in Arlington has been a bit more difficult than in recent years, and it could become more so if Nelson Cruz is suspended for his alleged involvement in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drugs scandal.
In that context, it wouldn't be too surprising to see Daniels swing a deal after all and provide the Rangers with more pop in the lineup. Let's examine the latest chatter surrounding the team and what it could mean as the deadline draws nearer.
Pressure to Replace Nelson Cruz's Production?
Considering the star right fielder holds the team lead with 24 home runs and 72 RBI in 2013, it's going to be a massive void in the everyday order if Cruz misses out on the rest of the season.
Making matters more complicated is the fact that Cruz is undecided as to whether he will serve the 50-game suspension if it's placed upon him or if he'll appeal (h/t The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jeff Wilson):
Nelson Cruz also said that he hasn't decided if he will serve a possible suspension or appeal it.— Jeff Wilson (@JeffWilson_FWST) July 31, 2013
Joel Sherman of The New York Post documented the chatter amongst AL executives and how the sentiment is that Texas has to make a move to absorb the possible imminent loss of its top power hitter:
Common theme when talk to execs early today: Pressure on #Rangers to mimic Tigers/Iglesias and find replacement for Cruz if he is suspended— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) July 31, 2013
AL exec on #Rangers: "They need offense anyway, and they are really going to need it if leading HR hitter (Cruz) gets suspended."— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) July 31, 2013
However, one encouraging sign is that the Rangers have stepped up in a huge way in the past two games against the Los Angeles Angels.
With the season becoming increasingly at stake, Texas has looked up to the task. After rallying for three runs in the final two innings of a 4-3 victory, the Rangers exploded for 14 runs in an extra-innings victory on Tuesday evening.
It's that type of elevation of play and clutch ability that gets a team deep in the postseason; it may not require any adjustments outside of in-house tweaks.
Joe Nathan to Be Dealt for an Established Bat?
One player in particular that the Rangers could almost certainly get an offensive boost in exchange for is the closer in Nathan.
Possessing a top-notch closer is no small commodity, and it wouldn't make too much sense for a non-contending team to do business with Daniels and Co. Thus, this could wind up being one of the most interesting deadline transactions if it does go down.
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com cited major league sources who said the Rangers have discussed trading Nathan internally, but ESPN's Buster Olney reported that Texas has engaged other teams about the hurler:
Joe Nathan is being shopped by the Rangers for an established hitter, other teams say. More than just internal talks.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 28, 2013
Now that the Rangers have acquired another viable starter in Matt Garza to put with Yu Darvish and Derek Holland in a fairly solid rotation, they apparently feel the need to prioritize offense.
The 38-year-old Nathan has converted 32 of 34 save chances and has a 1.69 ERA, and his likely replacement would be Joakim Soria, who's 160-for-180 on save opportunities in his career.
Michael Young Will Only Approve Trade to Rangers?
The current Philadelphia Phillies third baseman is a career .300 hitter who's known more for contact than power, but is nevertheless a massive asset. Rosenthal tweeted recently that Young would only waive his full no-trade clause if he were returning to Arlington:
Young racked up 200-plus hits in a whopping six of his seasons with the Rangers, but what's also nice is that he can shift over to his old position of shortstop so as not to conflict with star 3B Adrian Beltre.
Elvis Andrus is currently the starter on that spot in the diamond, though, so it may be more feasible for Young to serve as a designated hitter.
MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reports Lance Berkman is attempting to return this season to that spot, though it's far from a guarantee that he will. In the event of Berkman continuing to be out of action, it makes sense to bring someone familiar with the organization in.
Philadelphia's recent call-up of top prospect and third baseman Cody Asche suggests that Young may indeed be leaving (h/t ESPN via AP). If his only preferred destination is Texas, as Rosenthal reports, then it could be heavily beneficial for both sides to get this deal done.