Should I Stay or Should I Go?

There are several options for the Texas Rangers and their front-office personnel this coming trade deadline, but unlike the past few years this team will be building for 2015 and beyond instead of looking to add a key piece for a run at the pennant. You can make a case that the front office needs to just sit tight and hold on to the majority of this team in order to make run at it next year, while others are suggesting that all players are fair game including guys like Beltre, Andrus, and Darvish.

The idea of losing Adrian Beltre or Yu Darvish makes me cringe, but I understand the risk/reward strategy behind the trading deadline. However, I just don’t see those two deals happening. Darvish and Beltre will be key pieces in 2015, and replacing them would be too difficult and costly to compete next season (even if Beltre plays DH in 2015 at times). Elvis Andrus makes sense if you look at the size and price of his contract, but by trading Andrus you are putting all of your chips in the Profar/Odor basket. If you wait one more year to shop Elvis in 2016, you will get a chance (hopefully) to see Profar play every day and can better assess if he can adequately replace Elvis at shortstop in 2016 and beyond.

It’s fun to jump on the prospect bandwagon and scream for their immediate arrival to Arlington, but that’s a result of the technology age we live in and isn’t a logical way to handle baseball players. While Elvis may not be living up to the offensive production that this team needs, nobody can argue his value defensively and as a leader on this ballclub. Trading Elvis this year makes little sense, but I can definitely see the reasoning/logic behind it-I just don’t agree.

Alex Rios is another story altogether. The outfielder is having a career year in almost all offensive categories this season, and his value is arguably much higher than it was when the Rangers acquired him from the Chicago White Sox. Alex ranks 13th among all players and 4th among all outfielders in batting average at a .312 clip.  His on-base percentage and slugging percentage are both in the top 30 among outfielders, and his 13 stolen bases put him in the top 15 of all outfielders at 12. He does have value, and there will be teams out there that are interested in acquiring Rios, but if you look at his advanced metrics and go beyond the stats I have highlighted, he slips in terms of ranking among other outfielders. His value numbers are very pedestrian regardless of which form of WAR you want to look at. His WAR according to Fangraphs is 0.9, and his WAA (wins above average) according to Baseball-Reference is -0.7. Meaning that Rios compared to league average players would bring a negative value to a team he is traded for. Baseball-Reference also uses a fascinating stat with RAA (runs better than average), which shows how many more runs a particular player would add to your team compared to a league average player.

If a team spends and unloads prospects for Alex Rios this July they would add -8 runs per game compared to a league average player. The bottom line is that Alex Rios is average all the way around if you look at everything except for average, triples, and stolen bases this season. His stolen bases are an inflated stat because he also has been caught 8 times, which leads the league. I will be interested in seeing if Jon Daniels can turn Alex Rios around for something valuable this trade season and it will be a true testament to the power of batting average when it comes to trade negotiations. If Jon Daniels can find a GM that overvalues batting average and speed on the bases, then I make a trade in a heartbeat. It’s in Jon Daniels best interest to let Rios sit out there until later in the deadline and see if a GM gets an itchy trigger finger and overpays for Rios. Trading him early in the process may not warrant a return good enough to justify not having him back in 2015 (assuming the Rangers exercise the team option).

The only pieces that I would feel completely comfortable trading this season are my bullpen arms. Jason Frasor, Neal Cotts, and Joakim Soria will all have value as teams always look to add arms to bolster their bullpens for a stretch run. Bullpens are overhauled and changed more than any other aspect of a big league team because of the nature of their position. I have little doubt that Frasor and Cotts will be wearing a different uniform by August, but Soria comes with a little bit more uncertainty. Jon Daniels will get more back for Soria than any other arm in his bullpen, but that leaves a gigantic gap in the closer role for 2015. I think it’s worth kicking the tires and seeing what he can get for Soria, but the deal must warrant the risk of not having a bona fide closer who can help this team get back in the pennant race in 2015.

If the Rangers and Jon Daniels are serious about contending in 2015, I anticipate this trade season to be quieter than some writers and fans are speculating. There aren’t any major salaries that need to be, or can be, dumped at this time and ridding the team of clubhouse issues also doesn’t appear to be a problem. Those two reasons are typically the main cause of a “fire sale,” and it just doesn’t make sense for the Texas Rangers at this time. Tip your hat to the injury bug, because he was the big winner in 2014, and move on to 2015.

Jeff Johnson

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