Texas Rangers land Matt Garza; Alex Rios next?


Scooping the Texas Rangers banner

Matt Garza throws a pitch.
Matt Garza is a Texas Ranger. Who’s next? (Howard Smith/US Presswire)

Landing Matt Garza was nice, but the Texas Rangers aren’t done — not by a longshot.

Yesterday afternoon, just before 4 p.m. CDT, news broke quickly that the Rangers were on the verge of landing the guy they had been chasing for the better part of three or four years – Matt Garza. They sent pitchers Justin Grimm and C.J. Edwards along with third baseman Mike Olt and one to two players to be named later, depending on who the Chicago Cubs select, in return for a right-hander who will strengthen the top of a rotation that already boasts Yu Darvish and Derek Holland.

Not only that, but if Matt Harrison comes back and looks anything like the 18-game winner he was in 2012 and Alexi Ogando can stay healthy, the Rangers just might have the strongest rotation in the American League.

But one pitcher isn’t going to make the biggest difference in overcoming a three-game deficit to the Oakland Athletics in the American League West. They need a bat and they need one quickly.

The Matt Garza trade wasn’t the only news that affected the Texas Rangers yesterday afternoon. The biggest news was Ryan Braun being suspended for the remainder of the season without pay.

Why does that affect the Rangers? Because they have their own concern with outfielder Nelson Cruz especially since his name showed up among a list of players who had been sold performance enhancing drugs from the Biogenesis lab. The only thing Major League Baseball doesn’t have against him is a positive test. At least not one we know of.

The Rangers have every reason to be nervous where Cruz is concerned and every reason to do even more research on not just one bat, but perhaps two, just in case their home-run leader is suspended for the remainder of the regular season.

While no one is saying Cruz is about to be suspended, you won’t find anyone who is feeling 100 percent confident that he won’t be.

There isn’t a long list of names available to the Rangers, but there are a few who could make the kind of impact the Rangers need for the rest of this season and perhaps into next season depending on who they select.

One of the names, a guy I’ve talked about extensively over the last month, is Chicago White Sox outfielder Alex Rios. Mark Gonzales, who covers the team for the Chicago Tribune, told Buster Olney on the ESPN Baseball Tonight podcast late last week, the Rangers have had three of their top scouts watching Rios for some time.

That alone should tell you just how interested the Rangers are in Rios, especially with him being under contract for one more season with an option year for 2015. It gives the Rangers the rest of the 2013 season, all of 2014 and a decision for 2015 if he’s everything they hope he could be over the next season and a half.

Another name on the Rangers’ radar, though a lot more unlikely, is Colorado Rockies’ outfielder Michael Cuddyer. The Rockies are only four games out of the NL West race in what has, and will remain, a very winnable division for the rest of the season. The Dodgers, who lead the division, are only four games above .500 (51-47) and got there by winning each of their last four games. See what I mean by a winnable division?

Cuddyer is having an incredible season for the Rockies, hitting .331 with 16 HR and 56 RBI, not to mention hitting .362 at Coors Field and .304 away from home. Want a few more stats on his incredible season? How about killing right-handed pitching to the tune of a .349 batting average, .343 with runners on and.338 with runners in scoring position?

Those numbers alone are more than enough for Colorado to say one of two things: 1) We’re not going to trade Michael Cuddyer or 2) if you want him, you’re going to have to put together a solid package of prospects for us to consider it.

If you’re willing to do the latter, then maybe you can pry Cuddyer out of Colorado. However, I don’t see the Rockies waiving the white flag on the NL West race – yet.

With Mitch Moreland struggling to the tune of a .071 average post All-Star break, the Texas Rangers could look at replacing him at first base with Minnesota Twins’ first baseman, Justin Morneau. I’ve had him on my trade list a time or two and, while I wasn’t sure where he would fit, I now wonder if he wouldn’t make a bigger impact at first than Moreland is making right now. Not only that, but would Minnesota take Moreland back in a deal for their first baseman?

Morneau is hitting .270 with 7 HR and 52 RBI so he’s not going to give you a ton of power but he’s a guy who can give you the situational hitting that has been lacking with this team of late. You don’t need home run hitters up and down your lineup, just hitters that will get the job done when they’re called upon.

In his post game thoughts piece posted on July 19, Twins’ insider La Velle E. Neal said “Morneau twice has reached out to the Twins about a contract, only to be turned down.” Not only that but Neal says the Twins are trying to decide between young prospects Chris Parmelee and Trevor Plouffe for the first base job next season. With Morneau set to hit free agency at the end of this season, it sounds as if the Twins are ready to deal with life without him.

Two other names that have come up recently are Kendrys Morales of the Seattle Mariners and former Texas Ranger, and current New York Mets outfielder, Marlon Byrd.

But here are the problems with the guys like Morneau, Morales and Byrd – all three are free agents at the end of this season. It brings up the same concern most had with the Rangers acquiring right-hander Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs. Would Texas give up too much for a guy you may not be able to sign long term after this season? Not to mention Texas would no longer get draft compensation for making a qualifying offer to any of these players.

They already have Garza, so I don’t see Texas giving up even more prospects, or anyone from their major-league roster, for another rental or two.

If Texas wants to get a bat, they’re going to have to land a guy who will be under team control past the 2013 season.

Landing Matt Garza, especially for the players they gave up, was good for this team going forward, but general manager Jon Daniels has to keep working because he needs to improve this offense. There doesn’t seem to be much panic around outfielder Nelson Cruz just yet, but one has to wonder if a plan is in place for a “just in case” scenario.

Do the Rangers really want Jeff Baker as an everyday outfielder going forward? That certainly hasn’t worked with David Murphy, and I’m not certain it’ll work with Baker either.

That being said, does Daniels go out and acquire a guy like Alex Rios and possibly one other because he knows Cruz may, in fact, be part of the PED suspensions by Major League Baseball? Or do they just acquire a guy like Rios, cross their fingers and hope the suspensions pass them by?

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