Ranking The Top Trade Targets For The Texas Rangers

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2013 will be the fourth year in a row that the Rangers will be buyers at the MLB trade deadline. It also marks the fourth year in a row that the Rangers have had among the most assets in terms of prospects to trade. Which of those statements is more remarkable is up for debate, but to this Rangers fan, they’re both fantastic. 

In 2010, Texas traded for Cliff Lee. In 2011, it was Mike Adams and Koji Uehara (and Mike Gonzalez). In 2012, it was Ryan Dempster and Geovany Soto. Each player acquired was specifically targeted to fill a need on that year’s Rangers team, and they did so with varying degrees of success (a lot to a little, respectively).

In 2013, the Rangers needs at the trade deadline will most likely fall into three areas: starting pitching, relief pitching, and outfield.

Fortunately for Texas, some of the largest names that could be on the trade market this year fall into those three categories. In many ways, the possibilities are endless for Jon Daniels & Co., and as July 31st approaches, it is for that reason that we will see the Rangers included in nearly every trade rumor that is perpetuated.

For those who pay attention to such things, the obvious names that come to the front of mind when beginning down the path of this discussion are David Price andGiancarlo Stanton. These are the two biggest names that may be on the market this year, and their anticipated departure from their current teams has been discussed for months. The options for Texas don’t start and end there, however. Other viable possibilities for Texas include but are not limited to: Cliff Lee, Jeff Samardzija, Bud Norris, Matt Garza, Andrew McCutchen, and Carlos Gonzalez.

As an aside, not listed here are some candidates for additions to the bullpen, which don’t have the same weight in name value, nor are they quite as easy to pinpoint. To scattershoot some possibilities, you can think along the lines of players like: Joe Thatcher (SD), James Russell (CHC), Brett Cecil (TOR), Aaron Loup (TOR), Jesse Crain (CWS), Jared Burton (MIN), and Joel Peralta (TB).

Each of the main possible trade targets for Texas has multiple layers of complexity and intrigue associated with it, each bringing their own level of attractiveness and likelihood. Attractiveness and likelihood are two separate matters. Perhaps you would view Stanton as the most attractive piece to acquire, but he is far from the most likely to become a Ranger in 2013 when factoring in age, contract status, and the haul of prospects required to land the big fish (pun intended).

Here are the “big targets” with their age and contract status: 

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And here is how I would rank them, in terms of attractiveness and likelihood (with explanations to follow):
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Giancarlo Stanton

There are a lot of reasons Stanton is the most attractive target out there this year. He is already one of the premier power hitters in the game and is still just 23 years old. He doesn’t hit free agency until 2017. He could be the Rangers cornerstone in the outfield for years to come, launching dingers out of the Ballpark in Arlington with regularity and majesty.

There are also a lot of reasons Stanton is unlikely to be a Ranger in 2013. For starters, it’s unknown if he’ll even be available. He should be, based on the Marlins recent unloading of all of their other talented players in an attempt to raze the franchise and start over, again, but the Marlins do things differently sometimes. If Stanton is made available, the Rangers chances of trading for him are diminished because they will be just one of 28 teams that will be calling Miami to work out a deal. In those situations, the Rangers have proven they are hesitant to overpay in assets for the sake of winning a deal. The Marlins would certainly demand a return of Jurickson Profar and much more. The Rangers love Profar, and they also love keeping their future bright with a strong farm system. Trading Profar may be enough of a non-starter for Texas on its own, but once additional top prospects are required to be included in the discussion, that may be enough to end talks altogether.

Andrew McCutchen

Much of the same reasoning given for Stanton applies to McCutchen from the Texas perspective, but he is even more unlikely to be traded this year because the Pirates are contenders, or at least are close enough to the hunt that they won’t be moving the face of their franchise at the trade deadline. McCutchen is electric though, and would bring a lot to the Rangers organization, on and off the field.

Carlos Gonzalez

He wasn’t available in 2012, but perhaps 2013 is the year when the Rockies begin to seriously look into moving their superstar corner outfielder. His contract is backloaded, he is having the best year of his career, and the Rockies are still a risk to not contend this year (Baseball Prospectus has their playoff odds at 19%). This may be their best chance of moving the left-handed slugger for maximum value, before the years of his prime are behind him, and his contract looks less team-friendly. It is unlikely, however, that the ransom the Rockies would request on Gonzalez would include Profar, based on the age and coming paydays of the outfielder.

In earlier years, there was a concern that CarGo couldn’t hit outside of Coors Field. He has started off 2013 with better numbers on the road than at home, and the drop-off from hitting at Coors to hitting with the jetstream to right-center field in Arlington is immaterial, anyway.

David Price

Entering the 2013 season, Price looked like he may be more of an option to be moved this summer. However, after nine starts this year, his velocity had dipped, his ERA ballooned to 5.24, and he finds himself on the disabled list with a triceps issue. The Rays are unlikely to trade him at a discounted rate due to the injury, but the team looking to acquire him will want to make certain he is healthy before making the necessary investment to bring the TORP-lefty aboard. That’s not a recipe for a successful negotiation to be completed, at least not during this season.

Jeff Samardzija

Samardzija may be my new trade target crush of 2013. The late-blooming righty has flashed dominance this season, with a 9.9 K/9 rate and 48% groundball rate. His effective use of the split-finger fastball has the potential to neutralize the ballpark effects in Arlington.

Samardzija will hit free agency after he is 30 years old, putting his career trajectory on a path outside of the current franchise trajectory of the Cubs. In return, the Rangers could offer major-league ready prospects like Martin Perez, Mike Olt (assuming he can see and starts hitting over the next two months), or Neil Ramirez. The Cubs would get some valuable pieces to add to their youth movement, and the Rangers would get a quality #2 to slot behind Darvish in a playoff rotation.

Cliff Lee

This would be the ultimate “win now” trade for Texas, acquiring the 34-year old lefty on a seven-year contract whom they didn’t want to give a six-year contract to two years ago. In order for such a trade to take place, Philadelphia would certainly have to swallow a significant portion of the remaining contract. The particulars of this potential deal may be its biggest hindrance, as finding a medium between cash exchanged and the quality of prospects would be a significant undertaking.

Matt Garza

The Rangers have shown interest in Garza multiple times before, and one wonders if they might have been able to land him instead of Ryan Dempster in 2012 were it not for Garza’s season ending on July 21st. Garza is a free agent after 2013, and still has a way to go to prove he is healthy this year. The cost in prospects to acquire Garza may be the lowest of any of these options, making him more available, but with that availability comes the greater risk of whether he’ll bring much of a contribution in 2013.

Bud Norris

Bud Norris is making $3 million this year in Houston, which makes him a luxury by the Astros’ current standard. As Houston continues the rebuild of all rebuilds, the 28-year old will most certainly find himself wearing a different uniform this season. His talent level may be the lowest of any on this list, meaning he won’t be a front-of-the-rotation playoff starter, but if Justin Grimm or Nick Tepesch or Alexi Ogando are unable to sustain their early season success, Norris would be a suitable anchor to the back of the rotation.

Texas is hopeful for the returns of Joakim Soria, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, and Neftali Feliz to their pitching ranks this year. In my opinion, they need to and should and will supplement those returns from the disabled list in the trade market. The corner outfield playing time could be re-allocated in 2012 to accommodate a new acquisition, but more importantly there isn’t an easily visible player to hold that spot in 2014.

To summarize briefly in generalities, I don’t expect that Texas is going to trade Profar this season. I see his next six years of pre-free agency control as more valuable than any of these targets, and his skillset to be one worth holding onto. That limits what Texas can do in the trade market, but not so much that they’re handcuffed in negotiations. Even without Profar, the depth of the Rangers farm system surpasses the majority of ballclubs around the league. My gut feeling is that Texas is going to make a big move or two this year, while holding onto its biggest trump card in Profar.

Perhaps no franchise is in a better position to complete an impact trade in 2013 than Texas, but at this point we should be getting used to that. No matter what move is made, it is almost a certainty that it will make Texas a better team in 2013, and a stronger organization in the next several years to come. That is but one of many reasons they are a model franchise to many around the game, and the franchise that is so fun to be a fan of right now.

Peter Ellwood is a Senior Staff Writer for Shutdown Inning. You can email him at Peter.Ellwood@shutdowninning.com or reach him on Twitter @FutureGM
Peter Ellwood

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