(Baseball) Bat signal: How a Gotham dynamic duo could be the heroes Texas needs
It’s not often you look at a team tied for the most wins in their league as of July 19th, who has the lead in their division and go “They need serious help STAT.”
Baseball’s funny like that. The 2016 Rangers are also.
The pitching staff ravaged by injuries. The lineup mauled by mediocrity. Yet through all that, the team to date has been the Little Baseball Team That Could.
Just not sure how much longer betting on that proposition is wise.
Assessing the needs, starting pitcher goes right to the top. Colby Lewis and Derek Holland are looking at August returns optimistically. Yu Darvish made his first start back in the Second City, but as long as the team is relying on A.J. Griffin and *shudders* Kyle Lohse, the team will experience pitching that results in losses more often than not.
Despite the controversy about the effect on the economy, trickle down pitching is real. When your starters are good, the bullpen gets to kick back and relax. When the starting pitching is a billy goat eating a tin can in a straw hat, the relievers get pressed into duty more often which puts undue stress on them. While Texas has one of the better on paper bullpens across the majors, more meltdown performances from replacement level starters will erode that advantage bit by bit.
This cumulative feces storm over the Texas pitching staff makes getting the trade deadline right this year even more imperative than usual. This is a good team; we’ve seen them play too well for too long to believe that’s not true. Even good teams need help though. Without it, the good team Texas is will be swallowed up by the bad team Texas has become as of late.
The problem with problems trying to be solved at the deadline is solutions don’t always exist. Either the player needed isn’t available, or if he is the price would make Martin Shkreli blush. In the Rangers case, a way out of the suck quagmire they’re experiencing does exist. They have the means to pull themselves up and push hard towards the end of the year.
Just a word of warning: It’s going to be nowhere near cheap.
So, how does Texas patch the holes? Like so:
I’ll let you sit on that for a second. Take a breath; maybe grab a drink of water.
Feel better? Less light headed? Good.
Let’s go on then.
Occupying 4th place in the top heavy AL East, the Yankees are looking to sell off for what will be a bright future. Their farm system is improved, but their major league core is aging, waiting for that injection of youth to come. Over the next couple years names like Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and CC Sabathia will be off the books, opening up spots for names like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. GM Brian Cashman has a window of opportunity to sell off his short term good players in the hopes of loading up on cost controlled youth to dominate into the next decade.
Pineda fits that mold. At only 27, the righty starter is striking out over ten guys per 9 innings, with an xFIP in the low 3s. He’s doing all this with a BABIP at .342, which one can attribute equally to a mediocre defensive team and playing in a bandbox of a home stadium. He’s not an ace like say Chris Archer, but in Texas he’d be asked to be a #3 which is more than reasonable. He’d also face less potent lineups on the whole with Oakland and Los Angeles replacing Boston and Baltimore.
Of course the question is why would New York not want to hang onto him if he’s so underrated and cheap?
Pineda doesn’t have long term team control, with only one arbitration season left prior to free agency next winter. He’s got just enough control to prop up his value in trade discussions, but not enough that if you traded him you’d regret it as long as the return was fair. This works for Texas also, as the window is a bit murky past 2017. If Pineda’s good, you can extend him further with the money Darvish was earning before his free agency. If you’re unsure, you tag him with the qualifying offer, and if he leaves take the draft compensation. If he’s bad, well he’s bad and you part friends. No harm, no foul.
Miller has been in a word, sparkling. The lefty began his career as a starter, before converting to a reliever in Boston. Since then he’s been one of the elite southpaw relievers in the game. He signed a $36 million dollar deal with the Bronx Bombers in 2015, making $9 million a year. Miller this season boasts a ridiculous 15.24 K/9 number to pair with a 1.27 xFIP, or if you like more traditional stats a 1.31 ERA. A mid 90s fastball paired with a slider over ten degrees slower has devastated opposing hitters. He’s equally effective versus both righties(.155 average) and lefties(.167 average).
The same question applies for Miller: If he’s so good why would New York want to ship him off? The strange things about relievers are they exist in a constant state of concern perception wise. It only takes a couple of bad outings for fans and coaches alike to doubt a reliever’s previously strong results. Couple that with a large salary, and that adds up to a ticking time bomb. So moving Miller, who is good yet expensive, means Cashman can claim victory. He got a year and a half of good production before flipping the player for a profit.
Baseball is a business after all.
In that vein, quality players like this don’t come cheap.
One thing that benefits Texas is the position that Jurickson Profar wants to play(shortstop) is blocked by Didi Gregorious. The position he is more likely to succeed at(second base) is also blocked, by Starlin Castro. Despite his ventures at corner infielder, Profar’s value isn’t quite as strong if he’s locked into one position. The Yankees already have two cost controlled young infielders, so Jon Daniels can breathe a sigh of relief that his 23 year old super infielder can stay in Arlington. Joey Gallo is also blocked, partially by Chase Headley who is locked in at third base long term. He could play first, but more on that later.
While those two have no easy home, the same can’t be said about Lulu Ortiz. You can never have enough pitching, and Ortiz is Texas’ cream of the pitching crop prospect wise. He’s 20, at double A, with legitimate starter stuff, and did I mention he was 20 at double A? Ortiz represents New York giving up a short term benefit in Pineda for long term security. Lulu’s clock hasn’t started, so they’ll have the full six years whenever he debuts for baseball’s most storied franchise.
Brinson is a guy most people have traded once or twice in their mind. I wrote a whole piece about the idea awhile back. Yes, the Yankees are committed to Jacoby Ellsbury for another *does math* forever years. That doesn’t mean he has to be in center for that time. Beltran is a free agent this winter, assuming he escapes a New York fire sale before August. Brinson lets Joe Giradi shift the aging Ellsbury to right and let the young gazelle roam center.
Many of you are likely hearing Taveras’ name for the first time. You might know his uncle Willy, a journeyman spare part outfielder who spent time in Houston and Colorado. You probably don’t know that Taveras was born in 1998, which makes him an age that will make most of us sad. You likely don’t know that he’s still out at the Arizona complex league. I’m almost sure you don’t know that at a Rangers-Brewers complex league game, 18 scouts were there watching. I imagine most of them had orders to watch the Rangers’ teenaged Phenom. Here’s a scouting report on the young man that goes a bit more in depth. He’s a long term prospect, but he’s a young man that many teams across baseball think will be an outstanding player. He’s at least three years away, which means little for a team like Texas who is contending right now.
The name Jairo Beras likely rings a bell to Rangers and baseball fans alike, but more for off field reasons than on field. It feels safe to say that the young man is under performing at High Desert relative to his $4.5 million bonus(a .286 on base and .438 slug in the hitter friendly Cal League won’t cut it). That doesn’t mean he should be written off. Beras is a project for a team that has a deep system and the time to develop him. The Yankees have that luxury, as they load up for the future. Beras isn’t quite a lottery ticket, but he’s not a sure thing either. That high ceiling possibility will intrigue many teams.
Guzman is saved for last, mainly because he represents a serious choice that the Yankees would have to make. Texas would be willing to send either him or Gallo in any trade, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see either moved in this one. There’s a few reasons I see Guzman being the guy here, the biggest might be that he’s been spectacular this year. He’s slashing .300/.365/.509 at Frisco while being only 21. He’s not much younger than Gallo, who turns 23 in November. Both players are outstanding, but Guzman represents a younger player who hasn’t seen the majors yet.
Guzman, as weird as it is to say, might be a safer bet also. Gallo is a well touted prospect, but one concern is that he will be Adam Dunn version two. He possesses copious amounts of power, but strikes out at an alarming rate. You won’t ever declare Condor a patient hitter, but his strikeout to walk ratio is less hazardous to his future than Gallo’s is. Because of his more all around game, it’s not hard imagining his appeal being higher.
This is also a matter of resources. Joey Gallo has a certain value for Texas that’s quite high. For any team looking to acquire him, he’ll eat up a big chunk of return in any trade. Guzman, despite him being a nice player, doesn’t have that same name brand factor. For a year or so, he fell off the map with people wondering whether he’d ever make it back to prospect status. So the difference in Guzman and Gallo could come down to whether you want just Gallo, or in this case Guzman and say Beras. In this instance both players are good, so there’s no reason not to grab the extra player if you can. Prospects are more valuable in numbers. The more you have, the higher chance you’ve got to hit on them.
This is a steep price to pay for two players, especially for non every day players. A deal like this will deplete the farm at both the top and middle levels. There’s no guarantee these players perform like Texas needs them to despite their season to date. Anyone who remembers Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza knows how that goes. The risk Texas would assume in doing a deal like this is massive.
None of that matters.
This club is in win now mode, and that’s not my opinion. They told the world as much with the Cole Hamels trade. They told us as much by extending Adrian Beltre another two years. They’ve signaled their contender status, and it’s time to take the next step in that process.
This is a win now move for a team needing to make them. Be it this, Archer, or some other front line pitcher the impact needs to be for now. While I’m not someone who loves cashing out the farm for the short term, that’s where Texas is at. I’m cognizant enough to realize the reality, and all that implies.
For the Rangers’ sake I hope JD and company do also. If they’re not, they’ll have a lot of explaining to do, a lot of messes to clean up, and a lot of fans who will be rightly confused by their actions. A sage prophet once said “If you’re not first, you’re last.”
Texas has been closer to first than most teams ever dream of.
The time is now to take that final step.
Either win the whole damn thing, or go down fighting.
Either way though, they have to try.