On the Trade Block: Jurickson Profar

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 PerezDerek 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.

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Joseph Pytleski
I'm a proud husband and father of three future Rangers' fans. I write about baseball at BaseballHQ and SDI, and my work has been featured on the SB Network, Fan Rag Sports, ROTOscouting.com, and USA Today.

9 comments

  • Steve,

    Thanks man. I feel like you truly got the essence of the article. This was not me being down on Profar; to the contrary, I think he will be a phenomenal player. This is about winning a championship. I think if you look at Profar’s value to this organization right now (relative to the trade market and what other clubs need) then his best asset is as a trade chip — unless of course we’re all wrong and they decide to trade Elvis or Odor. I’m assuming that if they are staying put, then Profar could fetch a good to great SP.

    And here’s where you really get it, Steve. Texas will not go far in the playoffs as the SP rotation is currently constructed. Yu going DL again just puts an exclamation point on this. Hamels’ underlying stats are worrisome. The back three are, despite their ERAs, not able to go up against any of those you’ve listed above. People see what they want to see, and right now they see shiny ERAs, they see a club that has unbelievable defense. What you don’t do — and I’m sure JD is aware of this — is leverage your defense to the point where they have to be error-free night in and night out.

    No, what history has proven over and over is that good SP, good bullpen, and good defense can win championships. So, defense (check), bullpen (verdict out — I think when Kela gets back, Bush Diekman, and Dyson will be a formidable unit 2nd half), and SP (big question mark). It’s been glossed over because of the great defense the win-loss record, etc. The advanced metrics will bear out, in my opinion. And the old adage, “You can never have enough SP” is always true.

    Profar could fetch a cost-controlled pitcher, IMO. I think Gallo is of more value to the organization on their roster. If it also costs a Sadczek or a Cordell, so be it. Anybody gonna care when we roll out Yu, Hamels, and Quintana or Matz in a five-game series?

    Thanks for reading, Steve.

  • Frankly, I would urge patience. I would sit tight, wait for A.J. Griffin, then see what I had.

    If the Rangers did go into the pitching market now, I think they’d be in a similar position as last summer when they dealt for Hamels. The Phillies knew they had the leverage and set the price extraordinarily high, because they knew J.D. needed to do the deal. This year’s not much different, I think – any team that has a valuable arm it is willing to trade (see Tampa) will expect to back up the truck for the Rangers’ farm system. For a No. 2 or 3, we could expect to say so long to Brinson and Cordell/Guzman for sure, probably Sadzeck and maybe even Gallo. If Texas says no, there will be someone in line right behind them. Pitching today is a seller’s market.

    I agree that an offensive cool-down or a balky shoulder would diminish Profar’s value to another team. But what if any pitcher they acquire comes here and his elbow starts barking? Here’s my fundamental bias: position players are less risky than pitchers. I’d hang on to Profar, wait for Griffin and see where I am on July 29.

    • Hey Joe,

      I think your comment is relevant now that Yu is on the DL, but provided that he comes back clean (a big IF) then I’m not necessarily sure that there is a leverage issue. It’s just as likely that JD is getting calls on Profar as the other way around. We do have five starters right now, and I’m sure he could play it coy and keep his cards close. There’s always risk in a trade, and your point about pitcher’s arms is well-taken, but I still maintain that–barring unforeseen injuries elsewhere in the infield (Beltre comes to mind)–Profar should be wearing another uniform by the trade deadline. End of the day, three above average to elite starters could be the single best weapon to going on a long playoff run, IMO. Great feedback.

  • Profar is a winning piece on a winning club. That would/could be any club. He happens to play for this one. As such, he’s becoming more valuable for his impact to this lineup than he would be as a trade piece in July.

    I don’t believe in, and I don’t believe John Daniels believes in, making/not making deals based on fear. In this case fear that a repaired shoulder will regress. I understand your premise but this staff specifically took a conservative approach with his recovery and with his playing assignments so that once he was back, he’d be back for good. Yes, nothing in life is assured but I see no reason/rationale for moving this player on a supposition.

    .380/.392/.620,.. Unsustainable? Sure, okay. But regress to what, .315/.350/.500? That’s a winning contribution from a switch hitter in the 1 hole. And realistic in my view. Particularly from a guy who finds a way to cross the plate over 2 time every 3 games.

    “the fact that Profar has no defensive home on the Rangers presently”. Qualifier alert, I was not on board with the idea of Profar being a “utility” guy. Because he needs to play. Having seen how he’s being used, and how that’s impacting the lineup, I’ve had to reassess. This is working in ways that for all my self glorification of my own baseball acumen, I couldn’t have envisioned. Yes mom, John Daniels IS smarter than me.

    “23 Million Dollars on the Line”,.. It’s July, that money ain’t going anywhere. Concerning myself with Fielder/Moreland reviving their trade value over the next 6 weeks is absolutely, unequivocally, unabashedly, secondary to winning. And the winning has picked up with Profar in the lineup.

    Joey Gallo. Yeah, love him. But he ain’t beatin down the door to get here just yet. Let him continue to grow and progress. And to be honest, he may actually be the lottery ticket when it’s all said and done. But that’s another post for another day.

    Finally, if I sound like some starry eyed dreamer with baseball puppy love for my rehabilitated former #1 in all of baseball, prospect, well offer me Thor, Chris Archer, Sonny Gray, or Jose Fernandez, for Jurickson and others and let’s see. Yeah, c’mon do it. Fact is, that’s not likely to happen and those names, and only those names or someone in that sphere is going to move me to move him. I honestly think John Daniels is thinking the same thing, -Win the World Series and well sort all this out in November/December.

    Sorry for the length. I love baseball. I love to talk. I love this site. Thanks.

    • Hey A.,

      Great comments, all. I appreciate the feedback and I agree on some points and disagree on others. The fact is I’m no GM and only JD and Co. know what they will do. I will say that with the Yu DL-stint now, the need is that much more acute for SP. All it takes is one Profar injury or a stagnate couple of weeks with the bat for the sheen to wear off. So, I’m going to still maintain a “sell-high-while-we-can” approach. Thanks for reading.

  • Christian Wulfsberg

    You only need 4 starters in the playoffs, so barring a rotation upgrade, one of Colby, Perez, or Holland goes to the bullpen, which allows Banister to have a shorter leash for the other two. And don’t forget Griffin…

    I think Profar could be something special, and would rather see what the rest of the season brings, then make a decision in the off-season. There’s almost zero chance the Rangers go to Surprise next year still paying Prince, Choo, and Elvis, and of those three, I think Elvis would draw the most interest from other teams.

    • Joseph Pytleski

      Your scenario is certainly possible, but realize that most of the SP I mentioned are cost-controlled for awhile. If Profar, for any reason, goes down with injury then we’re back to square one. I’d cash in while the gettins good.

  • Good article, Joe, well-reasoned and sensible, which is exactly what I would have expected from an SDI writer with such an excellent first name.

    However, for me, this sentence – “Profar has plus-plus makeup and could be a cornerstone piece for a franchise.” – is exactly why I want Team JD to find a way to keep him. I know fans always overvalue their team’s prospects, but I think it would be extremely difficult to overvalue Profar. Keith Law has said he would not trade Profar straight up for Teheran. I saw someone else (can’t recall who) write that he would not trade Profar straight up for anyone on your list except one of the Mets’ front 3.

    I can’t fault your basic premise – that he would bring back a significant, helpful return – but based on our Small Sample Size, I’d love to see him remain a Ranger.

    • Great comment, Joe. I certainly wouldn’t fault the Rangers for keeping him, except for the following: (1) Profar’s underlying numbers suggest a real “cooling” off period is coming, (2) there is reason to believe his shoulder (which has been hurt for awhile now) could flare up again (and POOF!), there goes any trade value he had, and (3) I just can’t see that a back end of Perez, Holland, and Lewis will be able to get us far in the playoffs. So, I hurdle this back to you: if not Profar, then who, given the team needs and current personnel? I can’t think of a better candidate than Profar.

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