BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The calendar is down to less than two weeks to the non-waiver trade deadline, and the jury is still out on how acitve the trading activity will be. On one hand, there were 11 American League teams with a record above .500 going into play Monday night, a record for this late in the season. The National League is not so dramatic, but the bottom line is that there are a LOT of teams with a chance to make the playoffs, leaving the question “Who will be selling in this market, and with the dearth of sellers, what will the prices be”?

On the other hand, with so many teams with a chance to make the playoffs, there should be a lot of activity.

Texas is a very good team and will should make the playoffs with or without a trade deadline deal. However, the Rangers are rumored to be in on every high profile player supposedly available. These transactions are frought with danger. They often work out far different than projected at the time of the trade.

One noted trade deadline story is a trade that took place between the Red Sox and Astros in the late 1980′s. Boston was in the pennant race and looking for bullpen help. Houston was going nowhere and had middle reliever Larry Anderson available. Boston’s top minor league prospect was Scott Cooper, a AAA third baseman. He was blocked at the Major League level by future Hall of Fame member Wade Boggs. Cooper was the player the Astros wanted, but Boston said no, and offered their AA third baseman instead. Houston balked and held out for Cooper.

It’s interesting to note that both teams had the same view of Cooper. He was the guy the Astros wanted, and he was the guy Boston wouldn’t give up. Cooper went on to have a decent career He played parts of seven seasons in the Major Leagues and actually twice made the All-Star team. In the end it added up to a .265 batting average with 33 career home runs.

As far as the trade, Houston blinked and took the AA guy. That was how they obtained Jeff Bagwell, who went on to hit almost as many home runs (449) as Cooper had hits (478) in his career. Houston certainly ended up with the better end of the deal, but not because they were smart. They got lucky.

In 2004, the Rangers put together a surprisingly good season, and finished in third place with 89 wins. As the trade deadline approached, they sought an offensive shot in the arm and actually made a deal to send a top prospect to Colorado for Larry Walker. Walker would have helped if he had come, but it’s doubtful that team makes the playoffs with Walker, who had the right to turn down the trade, which he did. The Rangers and their fans were disappointed at the time, but no mas! The prospect that didn’t get away was Ian Kinsler, who has become an integral part of the Rangers’ two American League Championship teams and is for sure a key player on this year’s team. Little did Ranger fans know at the time that Larry Walker had done the Rangers a HUGE favor.

The current rumors have the Rangers particularly interested in starting pitchers Cole Hamels and Zach Greinke, as well as the Cubs Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza, the Twins’ Nelson Liriano, and the Astros Wandy Rodriguez, among others. There is a question whether any of these names afer Hamels and perhaps Greinke are any better than the rotation Texas rolls out currently.

It is interesting that the Ranger rumors focus mainly on pitching, while the Rangers’ pitching has been pretty darn good. By the end of June, the Rangers had fully half of the opening day pitching staff, six of 12 on the disabled list. Despite that spate of injuries, Texas was 19-9 for the month and gained ground on the Angels. So far in July, the Rangers have scored just 24 runs in 10 games, while failing to score more than four runs in any game. 2.4 runs won’t win many games, but the only significant position player even rumored to be of interest is Arizona’s Justin Upton.

Two years ago, Texas made the blockbuster deal for Cliff Lee in July. Last year, Jon Daniels filled a gaping hole in the bullpen with the acquistions of Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez with in-season deals. Undoubtedly, Daniels will again make some sort of deal this year, though the Rangers as constituted are a very good team, and this year this is danger that an in-season trade could backfire. For many fans this time of the season is one of the most exciting of the year. ENJOY!

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