At the Midway Point: So, What Exactly Are We Doing Here?

Texas Rangers Leonys Martin, left, reacts to a strike three call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds ending the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, July 12, 2014. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Before this season began, “experts” and those who know baseball had this division shaping up very differently. Even after the shoring up of the Astros’ bullpen, the enigmatic reconstruction of the Athletics’ lineup, and the anticipation of a healthy Rangers’ squad, the American League West was practically figured to be a two-team race between the Angels and Mariners. Well, they got one half of that right as of now, but even that took a little longer than expected to happen.

As for our Rangers, the ride so far has been a very rapidly moving roller coaster. We’ve gone from “Oh, yeah, this team is a dead last team,” to “You know, we could pull this off,” to “This is neither good nor bad, it’s like baseball purgatory.” That’s where we sit right now. At the All-Star Break, the best that the Rangers could end up is right at .500. If that’s where you were expecting the Rangers to be right now, well, good for you. If that’s where you’re expecting them to be at the end of the season…are you that far off track? As we enter that extraordinarily fun time of year approaching the Trade Deadline, what could the Rangers do, and what would the effects be?

Buy, buy, buy! Load the prospects in the tubes and fire away!

This requires optimism on your part as a Rangers fan. At its best, the Rangers are that team from late May to mid June. That sort of run was built largely on timely hitting, total contribution from the lineup, and probably most notably, an impressive streak of starts from the rotation. The timely hitting can be found again, the cylinders can all start firing again…but the rotation? The streak they went on was historic. Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of thing that I believe we’re going to witness again this year.

Even if the Rangers were to acquire the much ballyhoo’ed Cole Hamels, ask yourself this: Is he THE game changer? Think about what you’re going to give up, who will be here in the next few years (specifically, the years Hamels will be here), and whether you’d rather have one pitcher (whose effectiveness might not translate the way you want it to) or several position player prospects (whose effectiveness might not translate the way you want it to) ready to step up. Me? With the injury bug the Rangers seem to have experienced in the last couple of years, along with the continued aging of Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, Josh Hamilton and whoever else decides to be on the team in the next few years, I’ll take the position depth and gamble on Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Martin Perez, Yu Darvish and whoever is still available in the pitching-loaded free agent class after this season.

Buying doesn’t just mean the acquisition of Cole Hamels though. The deals I would make, if I were of this mindset, involve relievers. As I said above, I’ll take my chances with the bats in this lineup eventually getting back on the same page, but if I’m not going to go take Hamels, I have to get some better bullpen arms to back up that paltry rotation. Find me effective left and right handed relievers, and then let’s talk about what the price is. As long as it’s nothing numerous in, say, the top 10 prospect field, let’s get some paperwork going.

WARNING: HOT SPORTS TAKE/QUESTION: With DeLino DeShields performing the way he is, what do you think Leonys Martin could pull in? If there ever was a better candidate than Neftali Feliz for a “change of scenery” trade, I think it’s Martin. We all love his arm cannon and believe that there should be a state-wide holiday to honor it, but is the cannon alone enough to warrant keeping him here? Offensively, Martin is giving you nothing. Even if you consider him to be the left-handed part of a center field platoon, he just hasn’t realized his potential with a bat. You still question some of his routes in center field. Look, I like Leonys Martin, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like DeLino DeShields way more.

Sell, Sell, Sell! It’s 4th down and we’re punting!

I’m not a fan of this mindset. From a revenue standpoint, as fickle as the casual Rangers fan base is right now, this would be a disastrous move. From a team standpoint, you’re going directly against the phrase that has become so much more than a hashtag – Never Ever Quit. What does that do for the morale of the rest of the organization? How is the rest of the team that remains going to play? Sure, you could use that time to see how those prospects might perform at this level, but remember that playing with nothing on the line is a lot different than playing meaningful games. Even last year, when the Rangers were out of it, they were still playing against contending teams, and that’s where we discovered Ryan Rua.

Right now, scuttlebutt seems to dictate that the most valuable trade asset on the big league team is Yovani Gallardo. With Holland and Perez on their way back, it is very conceivable that we could see the hometown Gallardo finish his season with someone else. With his recent scoreless streak, snapped on Tuesday, the haul that Texas could get would be considerable. It wouldn’t be Cole Hamels big, but putting a few more prospects into the system wouldn’t be a terrible thing. As things are currently going, the Rangers might trade Gallardo to a contender and then try to re-sign him in the Winter, depending on how the returning “Lefty Brigade” performs.

Shin-Soo Choo has been another name tossed about in the early trade rumors. His trade value would not be based off of results, but rather off of potential and history. Choo’s on base percentage this season is currently the lowest it’s been in eight years (.310 now, .350 in 2007), and that’s his calling card. His defense has never been superb, and he’s got a lot of contract and dollars left. The talk of trading Choo is big, but given his age and his performance since signing with Texas, what team is going to take another five years and $102 million on?

Let’s just…do nothing…

Oh, come on. This is a crossroads year for the organization. With the return of Josh Hamilton, the impending returns of Holland and Perez, along with the closely-monitored return of Harrison, do you really think Jon Daniels is going to stand pat at this deadline? One way or another, and I’ll be you can guess which way I think he’s thinking, JD and company will be making a move or two. I wouldn’t count on them to go crazy, unless this team starts working some magic after the All-Star game, but moving for a reliever with a potential Wild Card spot up for grabs is a very real possibility.

But what do you think? If Texas goes into the break at an even .500, is that where you think they end up? Who are you moving and for whom? What are your realistic expectations for this team, and how do you think they should get there?

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Matt Fisher
Matt Fisher is an Editor/Staff Writer for ShutdownInning. He is a baseball lifer, preferring to use the eye test and rely on the knowledge and analysis of baseball minds greater than his, while using relevant stats to encourage situational discussions. He is also co-host of The Most Valuable Podcast on the NextWave Radio Network, talking sports, entertainment, and sports entertainment.

While Matt's favorite team will always be his hometown Texas Rangers, he knows the ongoing story lines of every team in Major League Baseball. If you sit next to him at a game, be prepared to hear him try and do play-by-play. If you're famous and reading this, just know that he's not afraid to drop names.

Matt Fisher. ShutdownInning Editor/Staff Writer

One comment

  • I’m buying. I want a reliever and a dependable right-handed bat.

    And here’s something I wonder: What would it take to move Choo? How much would they have to “pay” another team to take on that contract?

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