On the Trade Block: Jurickson Profar
Jurickson Profar is finally producing for the Rangers. The former #1 prospect is posting an unsustainable yet eye-popping, .380/.392/.620 (.415 BABIP and 2% BB rate) line. His isolated power (ISO, .240) is approaching Prince Fielder’s weight (275) all while providing an undeniable spark atop the Rangers lineup. This prompted the fan base, and even some SDI staff, to begin to use the word “untouchable” with regards to Profar. However, there are several good reasons why the Arlington faithful shouldn’t get used to seeing the Curacao native in red and blue much longer.
Profar is blocked.
One of the reasons that Profar was such a highly-touted prospect was his projected long term future at shortstop. Baseball America rated Profar as the South Atlantic League’s Best Infield Arm and Best Defensive SS in 2011, and Best Defensive SS in the Texas League in 2012. Shoulder injuries the past two seasons have tempered expectations. While the Rangers’ brass is happy to have him healthy again, it remains to be seen if the shoulder can hold up to the season-long grind at shortstop. Some early rumblings from scouts have suggested he could call second base his future home.
This is all peripheral to the fact that Profar has no defensive home on the Rangers presently. Sure, he’s filled in for the struggling Fielder/Mitch Moreland duo at DH and 1B. However the Rangers, and the league at large, know that Profar’s true value doesn’t reside at either of those offensive positions. Meanwhile, Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor are locking down the middle infield for the foreseeable future. In fact, the Rangers recently reached out to Odor’s camp to continue contract extension talks. Moreover, Andrus is in the midst of a mini-resurgence, posting the best ISO rate of his career and a positive 0.5 WAR thus far. While an argument can be made that this would allow the Rangers to deal him, it is difficult to see the Rangers getting a better return for him than Profar considering he is owed another $103M over the next seven years.
The Rangers could use starting pitching.
Speaking of returns, Profar’s recent hot streak coupled with showing off his versatility and work ethic playing first and third base isn’t lost on GMs across the league in need of middle infield help. Profar has plus-plus makeup and could be a cornerstone piece for a franchise. Fortunately for the Rangers, Profar’s rising stock does nothing but increase the possible return for him before the July trade deadline.
The second part of the equation relates to the Rangers’ starting five. To date they’ve earned 3.9 WAR (14th overall), but despite posting a top 4 ERA (3.40) they’ve posted the second worst strikeout rate in the league (only the Reds are worse) and the 24th overall expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) metric. In laymen’s terms, the starters have relied upon the Rangers’ league-leading defense while overachieving on their actual pitching performances. The return of Yu Darvish should help, but the addition of a young, controllable arm would help before the shoe drops in the second half.
Here are some possible suitors:
Tampa Bay Rays: There’s no question about the pitching talent and depth in this organization. They are also quite cost-conscious, so parlaying their depth to get 4 years of cost-control over a talented middle infielder makes a ton of sense. The Rays are already eight games out of first in the AL East, with Fangraphs giving them less than a 10% chance of reaching the playoffs. Drew Smyly, Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore, or rookie Blake Snell would be a welcome addition to the Rangers rotation. An argument could be made that any of these arms have more upside than Martin Perez, Derek Holland, or Colby Lewis.
New York Mets: The Mets’ cast of young starters is well documented. Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, or Steven Matz could slot behind Darvish and Cole Hamels as a top trio of pitchers in the American League. The Metropolians are in disarray at the corner infield positions with injuries to David Wright and Lucas Duda. Asdrubal Cabrera has been mediocre, and while Neil Walker has filled in nicely at the keystone, there is room for Profar’s bat both in the short and long term for this organization.
Some other possible landing spots could include the Chicago White Sox (Jose Quintana), Atlanta Braves (Julio Teheran), San Diego Padres (Tyson Ross), or Philadelphia Phillies (pick a young starter). In some of these scenarios, it may take more than Profar to get a deal done. Count on Jon Daniels to get creative to make a deal happen nonetheless.
23 million dollars on the line.
This number represents how much money that Fielder and Moreland are making this year. While it’s true that they have hindered the club’s success so far this season, Daniels and Jeff Banister have incentive to let Fielder (4 years/$72MM left on his contract) and Moreland (free agent and trade candidate) break their season-long slumps. It’s the only way to recoup any value in the trade market. Once relegated to bench duty, neither player will fetch anything.They might not either way, but at this point it’s the only answer. Barring a miraculous trade, Profar isn’t the best candidate to take over at either position.
Free Joey Gallo.
The best power hitter in the minor leagues is awaiting his call up from Round Rock. Currently sporting a strong .287/.428/.626 line in 145 plate appearances, Gallo is also rocking a .339 ISO rate with a 36:29 K:BB ratio. There are multiple roads to get him in defensively, but third base (should Beltre need time on the disabled list), left field, first base, and designated hitter are all suited to his talents. While some wonder about Gallo’s ability to man first, he’s starting to get some time there in the minors. With the Rangers not having a 30-HR power threat on their roster, it behooves them to get Gallo up for the second half of the season. His service clock is ticking, so it’s just a matter of when, not if, he contributes at the big league level.
Profar was once the Rangers’ most coveted prospect. If he hadn’t gotten hurt, it could’ve been a linear path to stardom for the talented infielder. That’s not what has played out. The Rangers didn’t panic and now have a viable trade chip with renewed value. Their best play at this point is to cash in their chips and see what kind of starting pitcher they can get in the hopes of making a run at a second straight division title … while not leaving the fans one strike away this time.