An Early Look at the Texas Rangers' Best Trade Bait
With the 2014 season well underway, the Texas Rangers haven't had the start they were hoping for after all the offseason transactions the club made.
Sitting at 15-12, two games back of the AL West-leading Oakland A’s, the Rangers aren’t quite living up to certain expectations. While some players seem to be excelling this season, guys like Prince Fielder and Elvis Andrus have yet to find a groove.
The club’s catchers and bullpen have been the biggest disappointments so far this season. J.P. Arencibia is just 3-for-32 at the plate, and the relievers have a combined 4.45 ERA, the seventh worst in Major League Baseball. And while the season has yet to hit the month of May, those are spots Texas may be already looking to improve.
The following players are the best trade bait the Rangers have to offer. While some trades over the past few years have drained the farm system, like those of Cliff Lee and Matt Garza, there is still talent available to offer if the occasion arose.
Scott Baker, RHP
So far this season, the 32-year-old is 4-1 with a 2.81 ERA and has struck out 26 batters in 32 innings. MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo posted on his Twitter account that Baker has an opt-out date of May 1 and has drawn interest from several teams.
He added that the former Oklahoma State Cowboy would only opt out of his deal with Texas if it led to an opportunity in the big leagues with another club.
While parts of the starting rotation have struggled or dealt with injuries, Baker’s name has yet to be called upon. The Rangers also have guys like Nick Tepesch and Justin Germano who are pitching well at the Triple-A level and have already brought up Nick Martinez from Double-A Frisco.
Considering the interest from other ball clubs and Baker’s opt-out clause, Texas could be quick to pull the trigger.
Nick Tepesch, RHP
As mentioned in the previous slide, Nick Tepesch is another guy who has been pitching well for the Round Rock Express this season.
He struggled during spring training but has really picked it up since, posting a 1.82 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP in 34.2 innings. Tepesch has struck out 27 and walked just six batters while posting a 4-1 record in the five games he has started thus far.
The 25-year-old also has big league experience, starting 17 games in place of the injured Matt Harrison in 2013. And although he ended the season with a 4-6 record and a 4.84 ERA, he did show signs of being an effective back-end rotation starter, as the video above shows.
There are plenty of clubs looking for starting pitching, including 13 that have rotations with a combined 4.00 ERA or higher. Tepesch wouldn’t see a huge return for his talents but could be a solid piece for another club in need of a starter.
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Mitch Moreland has shown promise of being a left-handed power threat at the plate but has struggled to stay consistent.
The 28-year-old had career highs in homers (23), RBI (60) and doubles (24) in his longest season as a pro in 2013 (147 games). But his slash line of .232/.299/.437 was one of the worst among major league first basemen and he struck out 117 times, also a career high.
Moreland can provide the left-handed power that the Rangers lack. However, he is limited to being Michael Choice’s platoon partner this season at designated hitter with Prince Fielder playing first base. Unless Choice is a bust this season, Moreland’s playing time is going to be limited.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the Padres are currently in trade discussions for their catcher Nick Hundley. This could be a possible destination for Moreland with the Rangers catchers struggling at the plate, and it would be an improvement for the Padres at first base.
Luis Sardinas, SS
Luis Sardinas has become a victim of the talent the Rangers organization has at the middle-infield positions.
However, the Venezuelan doesn’t turn 21 until May 16 and continues to show signs of being a solid shortstop defensively. He resembles San Diego’s Everth Cabrera: He lacks the power and the ability to find the gaps but has a good glove, plenty of speed and puts the ball in play.
Sardinas is off to a slow start this season but holds a slash line of .289/.342/.348 in his minor league career. He doesn’t strike out often and has swiped at least 32 bags in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
He is still one of the top prospects in baseball, ranking No. 71 in MLB.com’s Top 100. And although unlikely, he could be an important piece of any package deal the Rangers are looking to make.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, MLB.com and MiLB.com
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