Keep or Trade? Ryan Rua

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 21: Ryan Rua #16 of the Texas Rangers celebrates after hitting a one run home run against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field on June 21, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

Welcome to the first episode of this SDI “Game” that will continue as long as these fascinating problems present themselves. This game gives you the story behind one Texas Rangers player and then asks YOU, the reader, the all important question of: Keep? Or Trade?

In today’s episode, we look at the stunning resurgence of Left-Fielder/Infielder Ryan Rua.

The Backstory

After earning the spot as the Opening Day left fielder for the 2015 Texas Rangers, Ryan Rua, who had impressed the Rangers at the tail end of 2014, pulled a Derek Holland and injured himself in the home opener last year. After returning from both a right ankle sprain and broken heel, Rua never regained the stride that earned him Opening Day honors. Though he featured flashes of excellence before the stretch run, nothing ever pulled together. On top of that, public (and possibly Front Office) perception soured when he declined to report to Arizona during the playoffs to keep himself fresh, in case he was needed by the team; instead, Rua took that time to get himself ready to be a husband and try to erase the memory of his sour 2015 from his mind.

Keep?

The argument to keep Rua in the organization is a fairly sturdy one. With a chip on his shoulder, the 26-year old came into camp as a potential long shot to be a bench piece for Jeff Banister’s club. He has done everything asked of him by the team – playing left field, playing first base, hitting for power, hitting situationally, hitting the opposite way, playing smart – and has kept a level head and team-first attitude. When Josh Hamilton went down with knee issues and the club signed Ian Desmond to play left field, it appeared that the only way Rua would make the team was at first base, as a right-handed platoon option with Mitch Moreland. Even then, that spot was likely to go to freshly signed Justin Ruggiano, the veteran journeyman who could be serviceable at first, could play all three outfield positions, and was signed to hit lefties. Two things happened over the course of March.

  1. Ryan Rua started to hit everything in sight (okay, 43% of everything in sight).
  2. Ian Desmond revealed he could play some center field.

The first one, by itself, might not have meant much. After all, with Banister treasuring defense out of his bench, the limitations of just being able to handle left field worked against Rua’s favor. Even though Rua can play all infield positions, the team already had Hanser Alberto to do that. When Ian Desmond revealed the ability to play in center field, however, the combination of that with his .432/.457/.682 slash line turned the tide in his favor. Now, an outfield combination of Rua in left, Desmond in center, and Shin-Soo Choo in right once or twice a week, with DeLino DeShields or Drew Stubbs available in the wings for the late innings sounds pretty appealing. Being able to slot Rua in against a lefty (assuming he can keep the Spring production up, always a big IF) with Moreland available as a pinch-hitter/defensive replacement later (Moreland was awesome as a pinch-hitter last year – .417), looks like a winning formula. Even if the opposition keeps a lefty in the game to relieve, consider this extraordinarily important notion from the skipper, as notated by MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan:

The Rangers know Rua can play left. He has also shown he can play first base with defensive ability that Banister said ranks right up there with Mitch Moreland. That could be crucial as the Rangers consider different permutations of their Opening Day roster.

The only thing prohibiting Rua’s placement on the 25-man roster right now is whether Banister wants to have a 7- or 8-man bullpen. Right now, if this SDI Writer had his way, there is no way to ignore the production, drive, and determination of Ryan Rua to make the 25-man roster. Be creative with how you line up your rotation, make one of your other key pieces throw a couple of extra outs, but keep Ryan Rua on your roster.

Trade?

Rua’s white-hot Spring certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed by 29 other Major League teams. With the On top of that, it’s not just Rua that’s standing out. The likes of Ryan CordellDrew RobinsonJosh Morgan, and Brett Nicholas have been having some outstanding camps, as well. Combine that with the plethora of bullpen options and the fact that the fight to be the temporary number 5 starter and potential swing-man has been entirely underwhelming (borderline disappointing), and you have the first ingredients of a late-Spring trade: necessity.

Could Rua alone fetch an sure-fire starter to fill out the rotation? For multiple reasons, probably not – a starter that the Rangers target would probably be desirable for more than a month and a half, Rua’s perceived value may not necessarily be as high as how we local fans view it, or a potential team would ask for far more on top of Rua than would be comfortable. That doesn’t mean the potential isn’t out there.

One glaring trade partner looks to be the Cleveland Indians. After a winter where Carlos Carrasco, the Indians’ homegrown, emerging superstar of a pitcher, or Danny Salazar, or Trevor Bauer were rumored to be on the trading block, the Indians are currently opting to hold on to all of their starting pitching depth. Not only that, they will be going with complete rookie Tyler Naquin as their Opening Day center fielder, flanked by Michael Brantley in left – a great left fielder, except for the fact that he will probably start the Indians’ 2016 season on the disabled list, and a man who fits more comfortably at third base in Lonnie Chisenhall in right – who has also been experiencing some arm issues. Behind them sit Rajai DavisCollin Cowgilland potentially Marlon Byrd. In other words, having Ryan Rua, a healthy, cost controllable, power potential left fielder on their team looks like a great option.

With Bauer, a once highly-touted pitching prospect from Arizona, not having impressed anyone since his debut in 2012, but having a relatively decent Spring (14 innings over three starts and one relief appearance, 3.21 ERA, ten hits, 3:1 K/BB ratio), that might be a more achievable target for Jon Daniels to pursue. Feature Rua and Bauer as centerpieces in a trade, and put another low-to-mid-level name or two around them, and you could have a mutually beneficial deal.

That’s just one scenario. There are several other teams out there that need either an outfielder (Dodgers, Orioles) or first baseman (Yankees, White Sox, Pirates, Cardinals), who could capitalize on Ryan Rua’s perceived value.

What Would You Do?

Remember, the above trade partners are simply nascent possibilities, not surefire fits. Also remember that it takes two to tango (maybe even three!), and a trade has to make sense for everyone involved. On top of that, if you think there’s a spot for Rua on the Texas Rangers, not just in 2016, but for the foreseeable future, then there’s certainly no harm in holding onto him.

One thing you can’t deny: Ryan Rua has certainly rebuilt his value and forced the Texas Rangers to make a difficult decision regarding his future.

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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

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