Rangers' Trade Deadline Strategy Blueprint
With a record of 37-49, the Texas Rangers' 2014 season is all but lost. For all the hype and anticipation following the offseason acquisitions of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, things have gone too far south about as quickly as possible.
That's right. It only took 86 games to completely bury this team that was a legitimate World Series contender on March 31. The day the Rangers acquired Choo and completed a monstrous offseason agenda, you'd be hard-pressed to find one living soul who would honestly tell you that he or she predicted death that quickly.
Right now, the Seattle Mariners are 10 games ahead of Texas. Ten games.
When was the last time you could say that? 2001?
Something like that.
And now with the July 31 trade deadline approaching, it's time for the Rangers to start selling some of the few attractive pieces they have on their roster.
We'll go through each tradeable candidate and discuss how likely they are to be dealt. Since we are still over three weeks away from the deadline—and given general manager Jon Daniels' history of pushing right up against the exact deadline before deals in the past have been completed—I won't speculate too much on what each of these guys could bring back to Texas.
Here we go.
Jason Frasor, 36, has had a fantastic season in the bullpen. He's been one of their most consistent relievers all season and has been worth every penny spent on him last offseason.
He is very tradeable because of his cheap salary—just $1.75 million for this season. At this point in the year, he is owed less than half of that and would be an excellent, economical middle relief option for a contending club.
As far as a return, the Rangers likely won't get much for Frasor. If they are willing to pay the remainder of his 2014 salary, they might be able to pry away a couple of low-level prospects from another team. But that's pretty feasible given the small amount Frasor is owed.
I would say it's highly likely Frasor is dealt. He is a free agent after this season, and the Rangers seem to be looking to their young arms in the minors—particularly Luke Jackson, who was promoted to Triple-A Round Rock recently—to fill bullpen spots in 2015.
If I'm Daniels, I make sure Frasor is not on my roster on August 1. He's very likely attractive to other clubs, and with the Rangers pretty much out of even the wild-card race, it's time to pull the trigger.
Joakim Soria has easily been the Rangers' best reliever this season and one of the American League's top-flight closers.
Take a look at these numbers:
In 27.2 innings, he's only allowed 18 hits while striking out 39 against just four walks. His WHIP is an astounding 0.795, and he has a 2.93 ERA to go along with his 15 saves.
While everything has seemed to crash down around him, Soria is one of the few bright spots of this 2014 season for the Rangers.
He's proved that he can close games for this club, which is why the Rangers should hold on to him. It is indeed tempting to try to deal him since he does have a 2015 team option for $7 million. So any team that might acquire him would be able to use him in direct contention for the rest of this season, and then elect to keep him or let him go next season.
But that team option is exactly why the Rangers need to hang on to Soria, unless some club blows them away with an offer. Very safely assuming that Texas gets back on track next season, Soria can be the established closer for Texas in 2015.
On a side note, Neftali Feliz did return last night against the Mets in New York. But I would guess that he still isn't close to being back to his cold-blooded closer form from 2010 and 2011.
For now and for next season, Soria should be the guy.
Don't trade him, Mr. Daniels.
In my opinion, Alex Rios is the most attractive asset the Rangers have to sell. Given the Rangers' current situation and what they might need to do this offseason, what to do with Rios is probably one of the toughest decisions Daniels and Co. will make this season.
Do they deal him and clear up some salary needed to possibly make a run at another big starting pitcher like Jon Lester in the offseason (pure speculation)? They know that if they deal Rios now, that will force rookie Michael Choice into full-time action in right field for 2015 and beyond. Is he ready for that?
Probably not just yet. Although he has displayed some nice power with eight homers and 28 RBI this season, he's also hitting an anemic .173 while carrying an equally salty .243 OBP.
So then does Daniels keep Rios? From Opening Day all the way through the early part of May, Rios was without a doubt Texas' best hitter. Then Adrian Beltre finally heated up, but Rios still possesses a line of .300/.325/.425 with three homers, 36 RBI and 13 stolen bases.
The power and run production numbers are down, but that's largely due to many regular hitters being out of the lineup for prolonged periods because of injury. Overall, Rios is still having a very nice season.
The Rangers can elect to keep Rios around for 2015 because he has a team option for next season at $13.5 million. But at age 33, is Rios worth that money? That is the biggest question in this whole process. That's money that can go directly toward filling some other need this offseason. But it can also pay to keep a quality, multidimensional outfielder on Texas' roster for one more year.
It's hard to predict what will happen with Rios. But for now, I would guess that Daniels will hold on to Rios as well. Choice just isn't ready to fill right field every day with that low batting average. The prospects Texas would get back probably won't outweigh Choice being a potential liability at the plate full time next season.
But don't be too surprised if Daniels does deal Rios. Remember, he'd be getting return in prospects and would simultaneously be shedding payroll. That may be too attractive to the Rangers' front office to pass up.
Here's a big Clayton Kershaw-caliber 12-to-6 curveball for you.
Should the Rangers look into trading shortstop Elvis Andrus before the deadline? I could write a whole piece on this, but I'll keep it short with this slide.
With second baseman and former top prospect Rougned Odor having a respectable season with Texas, you have to wonder: Can Jurickson Profar return to form and play shortstop next season?
If so, does that make Andrus—who is having a rather underwhelming season—expendable? Andrus is hitting .272 but has only accounted for two long balls and just 19 RBI. That is dramatically off of his six-year career average of 54 RBI.
All I can say is that Daniels would have to cover a significant portion of Andrus' remaining eight-year $118 million contract. Needless to say, that'll be very difficult to move. But if it can be done, it's a massive relief to a payroll that has steadily increased since 2010.
But I have to believe that several teams will be interested in the defensively gifted shortstop who has played in back-to-back World Series.
What can the Rangers get back? Tough to say at this point. However, if Texas ate a good piece of Andrus' salary, it could likely get a very enticing package that may include starting players.
Keep in mind that Luis Sardinas would likely take over full-time duties at short if Andrus were somehow dealt in the next three weeks. He has actually been very solid this season, if he hasn't exceeded his expectations as a utility infielder.
Overall, this is a move that is probably unlikely to happen to this season. But it is definitely a move for Daniels to consider in the future.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.