The Sandbox: Rangers Trade Angles As The Deadline Nears

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WARM-UP

The Rangers held a team meeting following yesterday’s loss to the Astros, which was their 7th straight loss. On the postgame show, Chris Woodward shared with us that players and coaches spoke. The meeting was led by Woody, who declined to give specifics about the content of the meeting but did say one of the messages was the challenge of being in a tough or uncomfortable situation and the work it takes to battle out of it.

LEADING OFF
Are the Rangers buyers or sellers?

I have gotten that question 2923927982099283 times since May and understandably so because the Rangers are in an interesting position. With the deadline bearing down upon us, let’s cover some angles…

1—No matter what, the Rangers are not going to spend on rentals. Would they engage in PTBNL-type deals (give or take)? Sure. But don’t expect them to be players for rentals who would cost a dent among their top prospects.

2—No matter what, they still could be players in conversations for controllable assets. Even if they didn’t win a single game between now and the deadline and even if they made moves that would align more with a “seller,” they could still add guys with control beyond this year.

3—If the Rangers were to make a move involving Mike Minor, I’d imagine the package of prospects in return is more likely to be headlined by a position player than a pitcher. That’s not to say the package could include both, but whereas conventional wisdom suggests you trade a pitcher for a pitching prospect, I think a shift has occurred. I’ll write more about this next week, but suffice it to say that developing pitching is a bit harder than hitting. Also, most contending teams are flush with badass hitters and are thus more willing to part with a top-line hitting prospect than pitching prospect so the overall talent you could pull back in return in the box could be better than on the hill. Again, this plays into a bigger conversation in regards to team building but that’s for next week.

4—The benefit of not trading Mike Minor is that he’s really good and is under contract for next year. The Rangers are trying to open up a window of contention for multiple years and next year certainly isn’t expected to be their best year. Thus, if they can make a deal that they feel like will elevate them better for their target years then it is something they have to consider. But…

5—An extension is also an option. At that point, it would be up to the Rangers to determine how they feel like Mike Minor’s career arc will unfold. Will he get better? Will he remain the same? At what point will he start to dip? Then there’s the assessment of the health side and providing guesses on how he’ll hold up and what the physical risks are. All of that and it doesn’t even include Mike’s side. Would he sign an extension? How many years would he want and for what dollar amount and how does that mesh with what the Rangers would be willing to do? That leads me to another point…

6—People report on this and that but we really have no idea what discussions are had. We always know the offer that gets accepted but for deals that don’t get made, we don’t know what the best offers were. For deals that do get made, we don’t know what the other offers were. That is what makes these conversations both fascinating and difficult.

7—I don’t see the Rangers trading both Minor and Lance Lynn, but it isn’t impossible.

8—I think the Rangers will try and address their outfield logjam before the deadline if the right opportunity presents itself.

9—Remember, active players are bad GMs. It’s their job to worry about winning games and not about understanding the present-day picture in combination with the big picture. If the Rangers make moves the big league players are unhappy about, those thoughts are fleeting and should be a concern. It happens every year to teams. It happened to the Rangers when they traded Teixeira and look how that worked out. Don’t worry about that.

10—The Rangers aren’t going to make moves to cater to a new ballpark. Fans want to win. Winning fills seats. The Rangers will make moves they believe best help them win for a long period, even if the fruits aren’t fully realized immediately.

11—The Rangers will be very active in free agency and I promise you will be contenders for Gerrit Cole. Will they get him? That I can’t guarantee. But they’ll be willing to open the bank.

12—While we all love playing at the top of the market in free agency, let’s not forget how important the rest of free agency is and how good the Rangers have been in that arena. It’s how they got Mike Minor and Lance Lynn and at an even smaller price point how they got Hunter Pence and Danny Santana, among others. Jon Daniels discussed what they look for in pursuing those types of guys.

13—Let’s have fun between now and trade deadline and just know I’ll do my best to help y’all understand the moves that get made, the moves that don’t get made, and everything in between.

(ST)RANGER THINGS
*Shawn Kelley left after throwing some warmup pitches in the 8th on Sunday after feeling some soreness in the area of his right biceps tendon. He will undergo further evaluation. That was tough to watch. Kelley has been so important to the team as a pitcher and a leader. He has said many times before he has only so many “bullets left in the gun” so-to-speak. Hopefully, he hasn’t used his last bullet.

*I’m not that surprised that Willie was sent down last week when Hunter Pence returned. My expectation is that he’ll be back by August 1st because I get the sense the Rangers’ outfield logjam might be addressed in some way at the deadline. Willie has scuffled a bit at the plate (6-for-last-39) and he has to hit to be of value.

*I was surprised that Chris Woodward indicated that they considered optioning Nomar Mazara. Like Willie, Maz needs to hit to be of value because he doesn’t offer a ton in the field or on the bases. He shows flashes of being a special hitter but for the fourth straight year his offensive numbers are around league average. He’s just 24, but I think the Rangers were hoping for more in his fourth big league season.

*Isiah Kiner-Falefa was activated off the IL and optioned to Double-A Frisco where he’ll get everyday at-bats, something he wouldn’t get with Texas. Izzy will also play some third to better utilize his flexibility. One reason why the Rangers went away from that was to let him focus solely on catching to add that to his bag of tricks. The bar for acceptable offensive production is lower for a catcher and there are those who wonder if Izzy will ever hit “enough” to be an everyday infielder, if not a catcher. Getting everyday at-bats, however, will help him improve at the dish.

*Danny Santana has enormous forearms. I’ll try to get a picture for next week.

*I really like the acquisition of Nick Solak from the Rays. While this blog was among the first to identify Pete Fairbanks as an intriguing option, he is a two-TJ guy and there tends to be a shelf life on that, plus the Rangers have a plethora of guys like Fairbanks coming up through the system. Thus, they turned him into a top 10 prospect and a right-handed bat with success at all levels thus far capable of playing second and the outfield.

*Rangers GM Jon Daniels discussed how the acquisition evolved

…And he also discussed where he sees Nick Solak fitting in with the club

*Jesse Chavez was moved back to the bullpen. Joe Palumbo was supposed to start tonight but knee tendinitis changed those plans. Adrian Sampson will start tonight instead of tomorrow and we’ll see who gets the nod mañana…Pedro Payano is the leading candidate. More on this in the strategy section.

*I don’t think the Rangers trade Lance Lynn, nor am I advocating they do so, but I wonder if pundits covering the trade season are poorly pegging his value. Lance is a victim to “college football ranking syndrome.” Huh? I’ll explain. Pre-season rankings in college football give pardons to better teams and make the climb more challenging for lower-ranked teams because the rankings label teams before a game gets played. Since no one was really labeling Lynn as a “high trade value” guy come July, it seems like those same folks are late to come around on a guy with a sub-3 ERA since April 28 while striking out better than a batter/inning. With two additional years at $10 mil/year, he’d be a great part of a team’s staff…including Texas’s staff.

*One interesting adjustment Rougie made was his bat action before the pitch. He used to waggle his bat in a circular motion but after facing the Tigers in Detroit and watching fellow countryman Miguel Cabrera rock his bat in more of a straight-line back-and-forth motion, Rougie started doing similarly. He said the change helps his timing and also better ensures his hands are in the right position.

STRATEGY NOTE OF THE WEEK

Jesse Chavez was moved to the rotation out of necessity. He earned it, in a sense, because he had been dominant out of the pen, but the Rangers knew that was his ideal role. They didn’t have a lot of options, especially after Joe Palumbo struggled against the Indians. Maintaining starting depth is very difficult when everyone is healthy. What about when everyone is not? It’s near impossible.

The Rangers lost depth options Luke Farrell and Yohander Mendez to injury late in Spring Training. At the end of the Spring Training, Jason Hammel decided to retire. Taylor Hearn has been hurt since his MLB debut. That’s not to mention that neither Drew Smyly nor Shelby Miller are still around and Edinson Volquez is hurt. It’s a miracle that the Rangers still had Adrian Sampson and Ariel Jurado to use as depth options.

Palumbo was initially going to replace Chavez but knee tendinitis is delaying his return.

For Chavez, he can return to his versatile relief role in which he typically doesn’t face guys twice in an outing, but certainly won’t face them a third time. As a starter, opponents hit .360 against Chavez third time through.

MAILBAG
@MatthewWakeland: Do the players get a brand new jersey every game or do they have a handful [of jerseys that people wash>?

The Rangers clubhouse staff, led by Brandon Boyd, do an amazing job. They are responsible for preparing the jerseys for the players on a daily basis. It could vary from player-to-player but typically for each specific jersey color the player will go through 4-6/season.

@BigJonDaniel: Do you think improvement by hitters who seem to more fully embrace the team’s philosophy puts pressure on those who won’t/don’t?

Yeah, I do. To varying degrees, certainly. Each player is evaluated differently. But progress is tracked and at some point, guys who don’t progress get penalized, especially against the backdrop of progression from peers.

@JKowalkowski3: Will we see Scott Heineman in Arlington anytime soon?

So long as he stays healthy, I’d imagine he makes his big league debut at some point this year. He’s now playing some first base so that gives him another path to Arlington because, as you probably know, the Rangers have a bit of an outfield logjam.

ANECDOTE OF THE WEEK
Taylor Guerrieri’s dad first let him throw a curveball when he was 12. His dad gave him the guidance of finding a tight grip that he felt like he could spin. So, Taylor came up with the below unique grip. He’s used it ever since. I have never heard of or seen anyone use this grip. Taylor said he was told Nationals reliever Jesus Suero uses it, but, if true, he’d be the only other player to his knowledge.

Taylor Guerrieri’s curveball grip. Pretty unique. pic.twitter.com/Ax0cgmpMRu

— Jared Sandler (@JaredSandler) July 20, 2019

KT’S “HOLY WOW” GREAT PLAY OF THE WEEK

Not a play, but an awesome ejection featuring Aaron Boone

Here is the full sequence of the Boone ejection. Hot mics galore. pic.twitter.com/R6Vw0qw0qn

— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) July 18, 2019

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

*Hunter Pence mic’d up

Back in the lineup & back on the mic. pic.twitter.com/A4VTyuE1ME

— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) July 16, 2019

“Maybe at some point. You look at our roster construction, we are very heavy on the left side and our corner outfield spots. We said that last year, this offseason and during this season. Everybody has a strong case for being here, including Willie.” -Jon Daniels on perhaps needing to make a move to address the team’s outfield logjam.

“I'm speechless. This caught me off guard, as well. I can't do anything about it. I know I've helped the team win. I've done everything they've asked. But at the end of the day, if me playing in Nashville is helping the team win, then I have to play at Nashville.” -Willie Calhoun

“This is a moment, from a cultural standpoint, teams go one way or the other. It's either inward or outward. I've been on a lot of teams where it went outward, and guys said 'Ok, season's over. Let's fight for ourselves.' This team is too good to let that happen. I don't really believe in (yelling meetings). Unless guys aren't playing hard and they're not preparing, there's no effort, there's no energy, or negative energy. If that's the case, it would be a much different meeting. But they're trying their asses off.” -Chris Woodward on their team meeting after Sunday’s loss

STATS OF THE WEEK
*There have been just SIX different players (Bonds 4x, Ibanez, M. Ramirez, Sheffield, Alou, Walker) this century to play at least 40% of their games in the outfield and finish the season with a qualifying OPS of .875-or-better in an age-36-season or later. In the DH era, there have been just 14 different players to do it. Shin-Soo Choo would be the SEVENTH this century and 15th in the DH era if the season ended today with a .875 OPS. He currently has an .875 OPS
*The Rangers are in the middle of a 7-game losing streak during which they’re slashing .175/.238/.355 (.593) averaging 3.3 runs/game.

ICYMI: Lynn has now delivered 16 straight starts of at least 6 IP, one shy of Clayton Kershaw for the longest active streak in MLB.The last Ranger to deliver 16 straight starts of 6+ IP? Doug Davis in 2001

— Jared Sandler (@JaredSandler) July 22, 2019

*Danny Santana is crushing the fastball

Danny Santana vs. FB, career2014: .356 BA/.524 SLG, (EV N/A)2015: .227 BA/.297 SLG, 86.0 mph EV2016: .217 BA/.304 SLG, 89.2 mph EV2017: .263 BA/.500 SLG, 92.1 mph EV2018: N/A (17 plate appearances)2019: .366 BA/.792 SLG, 95.1 mph EV

— Jared Sandler (@JaredSandler) July 20, 2019

AROUND THE LEAGUE

*The Astros 6 A.M. return home in advance of a game that night against the Rangers is unacceptable. They were coming from Anaheim where the weather is very favorable for a day game in a getaway situation. But, more than that, it stinks that the Rangers and Astros, two centrally located teams, are in the AL West. It makes their travel tough and it also sucks for their fan bases who are exposed to more 9 P.M. starts than necessary. I hope that changes the next time MLB realigns.

Ronald Acuña Jr. is the 8th player to hit 20 HR and steal 20 bases in his age-21 season or younger in MLB history. The last player to do so was Mike Trout in 2013.Acuña Jr. has a SB in 5 straight games, making him the first Brave with a SB in 5 straight since Otis Nixon in 1991 pic.twitter.com/YvEJXLTxZ5

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 20, 2019

Mike Trout did it in both his age-20 and age-21 season. The others who have done it? Justin Upton, Andruw Jones, Alex Rodriguez, Cesar Cedeno, Orlando Cepeda, and Vada Pinson, who, like Trout, did it in his age-20 and age-21 seasons.

*A lot can obviously change but right now the Dodgers are the class of the NL. I do wonder, however, if Kenley Jansen can hold up in the playoffs. He’s faded each of the last two years.

*I’ve never seen a home run land here at Tropicana Field. Wow.

You need to see where this lands. pic.twitter.com/X4eizHcjz3

— MLB (@MLB) July 21, 2019

*The Indians are better than I thought they’d be and what they’ve done with all the injuries to their rotation is quite impressive. I actually picked the White Sox to finish ahead of them, but both teams behind the Twins.

*The Angels designated Matt Harvey for assignment. What a quick fall for Harvey, who at one point was the King of New York .

*The July surge for the Giants is great, but it shouldn’t change their approach at the deadline if they can get value for Bumgarner and Smith. If the market only allows them to pull back marginal prospects, then maybe it isn’t worth it, but methinks they can barter their way into a more favorable return than that.
MINOR LEAGUES

*Frisco came within two outs of a combined no-hitter on Friday, settling instead for a combined one-hit shutout. Not too shabby. Brocke Burke started the game with five perfect innings. Nice to see from the lefty who lost most of the season’s first half due to a lingering blister and shoulder fatigue.

*After starting his Rangers tenure with Triple-A Nashville going 0-for-8, Nick Solak is 7-for-19 with 3 HR and 2 2B.

*Josh Jung tore up Arizona for a few days and has skipped Short-Season Spokane and is at Low-A Hickory. How’s he doing? .381/.435/.429 through 5 games.

*After a really slow start to the season, 20-year-old corner infielder Sherten Apostel was promoted to High-A Down East. He the youngest on that team by 9 months.

*RH reliever Joe Barlow earned another promotion, getting the bump to Triple-A Nashville. Prior to his most recent promotion, Barlow was striking out an unbelievable 47% of opposing batters. Walks have been an issue for Barlow but he improved to an average walk rate over his time with Frisco.

*LH starting pitcher Taylor Hearn threw a live bullpen last weeks and hopes to be on a game field by the end of the month.

*RHP Yerry Rodriguez, who was really emerging with Low-A Hickory, has a right elbow UCL sprain. The Rangers are hopeful that TJ isn’t necessary, but he won’t pitch the rest of the year.

*17-year old Luisangel Acuna, Ronald’s younger brother, is playing in the Dominican Summer League Rangers and is hitting well so far, slashing .353/.457/.456