Waiting on the pitch.
This is the one-year anniversary of one of the most important weekends of the 2010 season and, by extension, among the most significant in franchise history.
Texas headed out for the second leg of interleague play, rolling into Milwaukee for a June 11-13 series that kicked off a road trip that would take the club to Florida and Houston, before returning to Arlington to host the Pirates and Astros.
The Rangers would lose the opener against the Brewers (a Rich Harden special that featured four home runs allowed in a six-inning effort) before rattling off a season-high 11 straight wins (the second-longest club win streak ever). Texas went into that stretch 1.5 games up on the Angels (two ahead of the A’s, 10 ahead of the Mariners), and came out of it 4.5 games ahead of Los Angeles (with both the A’s and Mariners more than 10 games out).
But most crucial development over that weekend in Milwaukee took place off the field. As Jon Daniels told us at Newberg Report Night last summer, it was during the Brewers series that the club first approached Seattle to express interest in Cliff Lee. The trade wouldn’t be consummated for another four weeks, but the process began in earnest on this same weekend one year ago.
Former big league general manager Jim Bowden wrote yesterday for ESPN that GM’s “usually begin more serious trade discussions the weekend after the June draft. The communication within the GM family increases dramatically during this time period with phone calls, texts and emails. . . . If the clubs feel like there is an obvious fit, initial trade proposals will be exchanged. These proposals are normally low-ball type offers that begin the process.”
Seattle reportedly wanted a young hitter like Jesus Montero or Desmond Jennings or Ike Davis or Aaron Hicks or Smoak to front a deal for Lee last summer, and so any proposals that Texas put on the table before agreeing to part with Smoak on July 9 (the day that a Mariners-Yankees deal involving Lee had hit a snag) were probably, in the Mariners’ minds, exactly the type of early “low-ball” offers that Bowden described.
Maybe that’s what going on now even though ESPN’s Buster Olney writes that “[t]he good thing for the Rangers and the Cardinals and the Yankees and all the other teams looking for relief help is that there probably will be bullpen help available – immediately.” It’s the weekend after the draft, the one on which Bowden says trade talks start getting more serious, the one on which Daniels first reached out to Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik last year to let him know the Rangers wanted Lee.
Olney acknowledges that very few teams will admit to being out of contention this early, but San Diego (Mike Adams, Luke Gregerson – on the DL with a strained oblique), Oakland (Grant Balfour, Michael Wuertz), and the Cubs (Kerry Wood) could be ready to deal.
I’d probably add Minnesota (Matt Capps) and Washington (Tyler Clippard, Todd Coffey – whom ESPN’s Jayson Stark says is “clearly on [the] list” for the Rangers, who “are stepping up their hunt for a right-handed set-up man”) and Houston (beats me), but not Pittsburgh (Joel Hanrahan, Chris Resop, Jose Veras, Evan Meek – DL/shoulder tendinitis), at least not yet, because Clint Hurdle has that club hovering around .500 and just 5.5 games out of first (and five back in the Wild Card chase) and you’d think the front office would be disinclined to send a message to the clubhouse or Pirates fan base that it’s time to tear this year’s roster down.
I’d like to be able to offer some concrete thoughts on a deal or two that could make sense for Texas and its trading partners – and you know me, I’ll always throw those darts (and will get back around to it before long) – but for now, we’re going to read columns, locally and nationally, suggesting in general terms that the Rangers are targeting relievers and this team or that one is just about ready to transition into seller mode.
But we can also look to Jim Bowden’s column, or to the comments Jon Daniels made to our group in the theater at Rangers Ballpark last summer, and deduce that specific trade talks are now underway. History tells us that it may be a few weeks before anything happens, either because mid-June proposals tend to be of the “low-ball” variety or because teams aren’t ready to play for next year – in other words, neither the buyers nor the sellers are willing yet to go somewhere that they might a month from now – but with the draft behind us, the Rangers’ next Cliff Lee deal (not in magnitude, but priority) is probably starting to get whiteboarded in two different war rooms right now, if not more.