I've wanted to write this article since the Rangers climbed back to .500 a few weeks ago, but I wanted to see something out of this team first. I saw it last night when the Rangers beat the Angels at their own game.
They were fearless on the basepaths, pressing the Angels' pitchers with their running game. When Josh Hamilton's ninth-inning home run sailed over the right-field wall, the Rangers hadn't just won a baseball game; they had given notice to both the Angels and the rest of the American League. This team is ready to win, right now.
Will they win the American League West this season? No one knows, but you can't rule them out. This is an improvement over earlier in this season when everyone, including yours truly, gave them little to no chance to beat the Angels.
This team has received a bounce from the pipeline between AA Frisco, AAA Oklahoma, and Arlington that anyone following the Rangers consistently can't really believe. The Rangers have suddenly discovered how to develop both pitching and hitting, and their learning curve has been most impressive, which brings us to the important question every contender faces in July: whether to buy or sell.
The Rangers are in a very unique position to accomplish their goals of winning this season and set-up the team for the future by doing both. With that in mind, I'll run down a list of moves the Rangers can make to do this.
Clearly the best trading chip the Rangers have this season, but trading him now would be a mistake. Bradley is very happy in Texas and feels at home for probably the first time in his career. He's a force in the middle of the lineup behind Kinsler, Young, and Hamilton, making the Rangers' offense the best in baseball to this point.
The Rangers should simply say he's unavailable and sign him to a multi-year deal this offseason. This gives the Rangers a potential top four in the lineup that I would put against anyone in baseball for the next three to four years.
Some have suggested the Rangers trade him now and sign him in the offseason to a multi-year deal. Ask Jon Daniels how that worked out with Gagne last season.
Verdict: Unavailable, try to sign long term in the offseason.
This is by far the toughest call the Rangers have to make this season, thanks to Chris Davis. Hank Blalock should absolutely not take playing time away from Davis, who has earned a spot in the lineup the rest of the season. However, his trade value is at rock bottom right now.
The Rangers need to find a spot for him and hope he produces enough to net a reliever or young position-player at the deadline. If not, spot start him the rest of the season and decline the option in the offseason.
Verdict: Available, decline option after the season if not traded.
His trade value will never be as high as it is right now. The way he has pitched and improved his relationship with his teammates makes him attractive, so the Rangers should strike while the iron is hot and make a deal.
CC Sabathia and Rich Harden are both off the market, making the middle-tier pitchers like Padilla more valuable to other teams.
Considering what Jon Daniels got for Eric Gagne last year, he could land some much needed bullpen help.
At some point in the future, the Rangers are going to move a couple of catchers, but now is not the best time to make a deal. Laird's coming off a hamstring injury, Salty isn't hitting, and the Rangers don't know what they have in Max Ramirez and Taylor Teagarden.
Verdict: Wait until next year.
The Rangers might be able to get something for Millwood, but his value as a mentor to the young pitchers is much higher than his trade value.
Verdict: Unavailable, unless the Rangers are overwhelmed with an offer.
The most consistent member of the bullpen, and the best trading chip in the pitching staff. The Rangers have a variety of options, both in Arlington and at AAA Oklahoma, but Guardado is still very important to the Rangers this season.
He should be available, but only for the right price. Unlike Blalock, the Rangers should stick to their guns with Guardado, and only move him if it brings a good return. He's a mentor to C.J. Wilson, which must be taken into consideration if the Rangers are approached by another team.
An easy call for Jon Daniels. With the youth movement the Rangers have going on, there just isn't any playing time for Cat. He's hitting a shade under .300 and is valuable to any National League contender with his pinch-hitting skills. He could also be a fit for the Rays who need another bat in their lineup and have a quality farm system to deal from.
Verdict: Available. It's the right thing to do for a veteran like Catalanotto.
For the most part, the Rangers don't have many trading chips on the major-league squad. For additions to the team, the Rangers are going to have to try and trade some veterans for bullpen pieces, the one spot on the team that needs some outside help.
The position players in place are the reason this team is in contention. Add a bullpen arm or two, and the Rangers have what it takes to make a run at both the Angels and the American League wild-card spot.