BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The American League beat the National League 4-2 Tuesday night to give the junior circuit the home field advantage in this year’s World Series. For Ranger fans, this may or may not be good news. Certainly the Rangers would love to have home field advantage if they make it to the World Series, and this team certainly looks capable of getting there as they already have the best record in the league through 90 games. On the other hand, this is the 14th year in which the outcome of the All-Star game has been used to determine home field advantage in the World Series. In that span, the National League has won just three All-Star games, but two of those came in years in which the Rangers played in the World Series. Hopefully, the Rangers can reverse the trend and reach the World Series in a year that the American League won the All-Star game..
With the All-Star game out of the way and the June amateur draft well in the rear view mirror, it is fully trading season. The non-waiver trade deadline is August 1 this year, leaving less than three weeks for teams to complete deals without having to run players through waivers. At this point there is skepticism as to how active the trade market will be. Only four American League teams and seven National League teams are more than five games out in the loss column for a Wild Card berth. That’s not many confirmed sellers, and there are a lot of needy buyers as the trade deadline approaches. Literally every contender could use help in their starting rotation and bullpen, but with the supply and demand figures suggested by the seller/buyer ration, the price for pitching, especially starting pitching, will be enormous.
Almost certainly, the Rangers will acquire a starting pitcher. They currently have Cole Hamels and Martin Perez as their lead starters. The Rangers have announced that Yu Darvish will be activated to start this Saturday against the Cubs. However, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland aren’t close to returning, and the Rangers can’t be sure of what they’ll have when this duo returns. That leaves A. J. Griffin at the head of the heap for the back of the rotation, and he has not fared well since returning from the disabled list. Nick Martinez and Alex Gonzalez have been busts as the top two minor league starters. Kyle Lohse did not distinguish himself in his initial start last weekend and may be headed for the disabled list.
The possibilities become very slim from there in terms of internal candidates. One of the leading names of available starters was Drew Pomeranz, but Boston made a deal for him shortly after his All-Star game appearance. Some of the other leading names of starters that may be available are Tampa Bay’s Jake Odorizzi and Matt Moore, Ervin Santana (Minnesota), Julio Teheran (Atlanta), and Jeremy Hellickson (Philadelphia). Those are the most prominent names being thrown around, and it’s not a particularly distinguished list. There are certainly no Cole Hamels caliber pitchers in the group.
The Rangers undoubtedly will add a reliever or two. The Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman is the most prominent reliever whose name is being mentioned as possibly available. Jim Duquette, a former Major League GM, wrote an article this week that named 12 players he was confident would be traded prior to the non-waiver trade deadline. Chapman was on that list, and the Rangers were one of the interested teams. The Yankees are in a difficult position. They are not close enough to be a sure contender, but they aren’t far enough out to assess their situation as hopeless. A good week could put them squarely in the mix. However, they have a very solid bullpen with Dillon Betances and Andrew Miller joining Chapman. They would still have a very good pen if Chapman was traded.
Last year, the Rangers acquired Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson near the trade deadline. Those two shaped up what had been a shaky bullpen from opening day. This year the Rangers will activate Keone Kela prior to this weekend’s series with the Cubs, which will add a plus to a bullpen that has been pretty darn good at times. However, expect the Rangers to add at least one veteran to the pen in the next couple of weeks.
The other prominent rumor has the Rangers making a deal for Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Lucroy is hitting .304 with 11 home runs and 42 RBIs. It was a good enough first half performance to make the All-Star team. He has made it known that he wants to be part of a contender, which the Brewers aren’t at this time.
There is a question as to how hungry the Rangers are to add Lucroy. The trio of Robinson Chirinos, Bobby Wilson and Bryan Holaday have been very good so far. They all call a good game and are familiar with the Ranger pitchers. Their combined offensive numbers are very good. The one weakness the Ranger catchers have is throwing out baserunners. Lucroy would be a definite upgrade in this area as he is throwing out base stealers at a 39% rate, one of the best in baseball and about double the Rangers’ percentage. There is still a question as to how much the team improves with Lucroy, and consequently, how far the Rangers will stretch to obtain him.
The question then is who the Rangers will trade to make deals. Every team is interested in Jurickson Profar, Joey Gallo and Lewis Brinson. Profar is on the Major League roster as a utility player now, but is blocked long term by Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor. Gallo is seemingly blocked by Adrian Beltre at third base, though there is some thought that the Rangers will say “good-bye” to Mitch Moreland, who will be eligible to be a free agent this winter, and insert Gallo at first base next year. Brinson, an outfielder at AA, has somewhat regressed this season, though injuries are part of the problem. He’s a marvelous athlete who projects to be a top center fielder, and that makes him a top target for teams looking to trade veterans to Texas.
Luis Ortiz is the Rangers’ best looking pitching prospect at this time, though Yohander Mendez is gaining ground fast in this area. Ryan Cordell has been outstanding at Frisco this year, and in some eyes has even surpassed Brinson in the prospect pecking order. Other second tier prospects that are garnering interest are right handers Connor Sadzeck and Ariel Jurado, first baseman Ronald Guzman, and catcher Jose Trevino.
There are definitely arrows in Jon Daniels’ quiver to make non-waiver trade deadline deals. Daniels is usually proactive in July, so there is every reason that he will be again this year.