Nelson Cruz misses a play here, David Murphy struggles there, the bullpen and rotation are overworked (and continued to get hit), and multiple players are taking turns on the disabled list. It’s never too early to start thinking about the holes the Texas Rangers can fill when the July trade deadline comes around.
While Cruz isn’t going to be taken out of right field, especially the way he’s been hitting the ball the first two months of the season, but you can do something about the left-field spot, currently occupied by the aforementioned Murphy, as well as Jeff Baker, who rotates in every now and again.
They also can upgrade what will almost certainly become a depleted, and tired, bullpen. Michael Kirkman isn’t pitching well and hasn’t all season, Derek Lowe was designated for assignment, Joe Ortiz has been figured out by most hitters and Joe Nathan hasn’t exactly been automatic in his closing attempts this season.
Here are just a few players to keep your eyes on as the deadline gets closer. It’s only the first version and it is subject to change over the next two months.
Shin-Soo Choo, Cincinnati Reds
- Free agent after this season.
- Career .312 hitter against RHP, .244 against LHP.
- Career .304 hitter with RISP, .400 with RISP and two outs.
- Delivered a 2.4 WAR last season.
My take: He’s at the top of my list for a reason: He’s the most likely player, and the Texas Rangers have been interested in the past. Do the Rangers try to acquire him in July or do they wait for him to become a free agent? If I’m the Texas Rangers, and I know I could use him in the lineup, I don’t wait on this kind of player.
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
- Eligible for arbitration in 2014; one-year contract for 2013 is $537,000.
- Currently on the 15-day DL with strained right hamstring; hitting .227 with three home runs and nine RBIs.
- Career .268 hitter; .266 against RHP, .275 against LHP and .251 with RISP.
My take: This seems to be the guy a lot of Texas Rangers fans want and for good reason. Stanton is coming off back-to-back 30+ home-run seasons and would be under team control for years to come, allowing the Texas Rangers to build a solid foundation of young players in their organization. While he’s off to a slow start this season, it in no way takes away from what this young man can do. With the offseason drama the Marlins went through, there’s little question that Stanton might be able to flourish with a team that cares about its players and the organization as a whole. The lone problem with acquiring the 23-year-old outfielder is what it would cost Texas to make this deal happen. It would need to start with Jurickson Profar along with some of the best prospects the Rangers have to offer. Whether or not Jon Daniels and company are willing to do that will make or break any chance they have of bringing Stanton to Arlington.
Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox
- One year at $12.5 million with a $13.5 million club option, $1 million buyout)
- Career .277 hitter against RHP, .284 against LHP.
- Career .278 hitter, including .283 with runners on, .281 with RISP.
- Delivered a 4.1 WAR last season.
My take: After a down year in 2011 (.227/13/44) Rios came charging back with a tremendous 2012 season (.304/25/91) and looks well on his way to matching those numbers this season. He’s a veteran outfielder who has American League experience both with the White Sox (currently) as well as with the Toronto Blue Jays. Can bring power to the lineup and give protection in the lineup to guys like Cruz, Adrian Beltre and Lance Berkman, not to mention A.J. Pierzynski, who is familiar with his former White Sox teammate.
Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers
- Four years and $67.5 million left on his deal, plus $17.5 million club option and a $2.5 million buyout).
- Career .309 hitter against RHP, .239 against LHP.
- Career .288 hitter, including .286 with RISP and .296 with runners on.
- Delivered a 3.0 WAR last season.
My take: There have been rumors in the past about the Dodgers being open to trading Ethier. But with the amount of money left on his contract, I don’t think he’s a likely candidate to end up with the Texas Rangers.
At this point in the season, the Texas Rangers are lucky to have the type of lead they have over the rest of the AL West division. Is that mostly because the rest of the division, especially the Los Angeles Angels, is just plain terrible, or are the Rangers playing above anyone’s pre-season expectations?
The outfield should be a concern for this team especially heading toward the trade deadline. They’ve gotten big-time offensive output from Cruz, but his lackluster defense might become a problem when it’s needed the most (see game six of the 2011 World Series). No matter how many home runs he puts up, it’s the one play he doesn’t make that could make the biggest impact. While there’s no way the Rangers take him out of right field, I do believe they have to address the left-field spot, especially offensively.
Murphy isn’t the best defensive player nor is he the fastest. You have Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry currently platooning center field, so that position is plugged up. I think the Texas Rangers need to look outside the organization to acquire a guy they can put in left field who not only makes them better defensively but also gives them another threat in the lineup. As much as I like Murphy, he just isn’t that guy for the remainder of the season, especially heading toward an important pennant run. Not unless his just-over-.200 average skyrockets, though if the last week is any indication, he’s doing just that.
Tyler Clippard, RHP, Washington Nationals
- Arbitration eligible for two more years.
- Currently 2-1 with a 2.81 ERA; one earned run in his last 10.1 innings pitched.
My take: What’s interesting about Clippard are his season splits so far. At home, through eight relief appearances (7.0 IP), he holds a 5.14 ERA. His major problem is walking far too many batters (eight in seven innings). Away from home, through nine relief appearances (9.0 IP), he’s actually been a lot better. He holds a 1.00 ERA and has held opposing batters to a .077 batting average, along with 11 strikeouts to just three walks. Clippard is eligible for arbitration two more times before becoming a free agent, so he may not be the easiest piece for the Texas Rangers to acquire.
Sean Marshall, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
- Signed a three-year contract of $16.5M on 2/27/2012 that pays $4.5 million this season, $5.5 million in 2014 and $6.5 million in 2015, plus $1 million annually based on starts and $1 million annually based on games finished.
- Currently 0-1 with a 2.84 ERA and .174 batting average against.
- Has a career .220 batting average against facing left-handed hitters (703 batters faced).
My take: Marshall is a guy I’ve been watching since he came up with the Chicago Cubs and was transitioned from a starter to a more-than-effective left-hander out of the bullpen. He was traded from the Cubs to the Cincinnati Reds on 12/23/2011. In his first season with the Reds, Marshall held opposing left handed hitters to a .173 average, striking out 34 while walking just four. Ross has been a solid left-hander for the Texas Rangers, but with the struggles of Kirkman, and hitters figuring out young Ortiz, the Rangers need to find a left-hander out of the bullpen they can count on. It doesn’t hurt that Marshall stands 6’-7” which looks more like Randy Johnson standing on the mound.
Bruce Chen, RHP, Kansas City Royals
- Free agent after this season.
- Currently 2-0 1.88 ERA (14.1 IP out of the bullpen).
- Before facing the Yankees on May 10, Chen had not given up a single earned run (11.2 IP).
- Can be a long reliever or spot starter if you need one.
My take: Bruce Chen is not a guy a lot of people would look at, but I think the Royals have found something by moving him into the bullpen. His ERA was over 5.00 as a starter, but he’s been a solid reliever when called upon. He could be a cheap acquisition at the trade deadline, and he would give the Texas Rangers another solid arm in the bullpen, especially if you need a guy for more than just a single inning of work. He might not be high on a lot of lists, but Texas needs more than just three solid guys in the bullpen. Now that Lowe has been designated for assignment, there’s one fewer long reliever for Washington to call on.
When the season first started, the Texas Rangers rotation, as well as their bullpen, was among the best in baseball. Now, almost two months into the season, injuries are starting to take their toll, as well as the amount of work that has been put on guys like left-hander Ortiz, right-hander Scheppers, left-hander Kirkman, left-hander Ross, and closer Nathan. Lowe was designated for assignment by the club to make room for Josh Lindblom who started against the Oakland A’s Monday night in place of Alexi Ogando, who was put on the 15-day disabled list late last week.
The Texas Rangers have been lucky to get big-time run support lately. Even with Derek Holland struggling against the Detroit Tigers, his offense stepped up and put up big runs against the Tigers’ pitching staff, not to mention the beating they threw on Justin Verlander a few days earlier.
But, with Ogando, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz on the disabled list, along with Ian Kinsler who joined the ranks early Sunday afternoon, you wonder how long this run of luck can keep up. Can the Texas Rangers offense continue to put up the kind of runs it’s going to take to keep them in games in case the rotation and bullpen don’t exactly have their best nights?
Can Scheppers and Ross continue their dominance out of the bullpen, or will the amount of work put on them of late finally take its toll?
There are a lot of questions with this team and holes they may need to fill, especially if Harrison, Lewis and Feliz don’t come back at all this season.
This is just the first version I’ll write leading up to the trade deadline in July. There are only a few players on this list for right now, but you expect that list to grow, and change, as July 31 gets closer.