There are days when I feel the Rangers are the best team in baseball, stronger than they were in the middle of 2010 or the middle of 2011.
There are other days when I believe that the Rangers could be a disturbingly easy mark this October, with too many ways to be beat to address them all on the trade market without gutting the system.
There are more days than either of those when my mindset is that this is a team positioned to win a World Series, but one that – like almost every contender ever – could use an impact boost heading into the stretch run.
I assure you of two things: that I’m as frustrated as any of you that Texas has been unable to make a statement trade yet this week, and that so is the group at 1000 Ballpark Way.
This isn’t an issue of the Rangers not having a taste for doing something big, or lacking the guts to take a significant risk. The track record speaks for itself.
What this week might be demonstrating, as much as ever, is how much restraint the Rangers front office has.
Every story about Zack Greinke and Cliff Lee and Josh Johnson and Justin Upton – and Felix Hernandez – and whoever else has claimed that day’s headlines has singled Texas out as the lead (if not sole) candidate to get something done, if it wanted to. The Rangers have the financial muscle, the high-end prospects, the farm system depth, a few need spots on the roster, the chance to win it all and the hunger to match.
But there’s also that five-year plan laid out alongside the one-year plan, and so far management has resisted compromising the long-term blueprint for the short-term fix, based on what the cost to do so would have been.
It’s been a weird Rangers season in all kinds of ways, and there are both moments when I’m glad Texas didn’t put Mike Olt or Martin Perez into a deal to get Greinke because I think this team is good enough without Greinke to give up that sort of high-end asset and moments when I’m glad the club didn’t part with Olt or Perez for Greinke because I don’t think Greinke would be enough to overcome the biggest questions going into October and don’t think Greinke would stick around thereafter.
Restraint has prevented the Rangers from making the late-July splash they’ve made the last two (World Series) seasons, and as much as my baseball adrenaline craves something louder than Jake Brigham for Geovany Soto, my faith in the folks making baseball decisions preserves my sanity and eases my impatience.
Which isn’t to say that I expect Jon Daniels and his crew to kick back today and idly watch the clock tick toward 3:00.
Peter Gammons and Ken Rosenthal and a dozen others said yesterday that the Phillies were open to trading Lee and that no team other than Texas had a realistic shot at him and that those talks are dead.
There’s no reason, though, to write that possibility off for another five hours.
And yes, Lee will slide all the way through the National League and then most likely all the way through the American League for Texas to make a prevailing revocable waivers claim in August. But two things there: (1) Philadelphia can make a Randy Myers maneuver and just convey the entire Lee contract to the Rangers, with Texas having no right to say no (the more likely scenario is that the Rangers let him slide all the way through waivers so that this can’t happen); and (2) just as Lee would have to clear waivers, so would anybody on the 40-man roster that the Phillies would demand from Texas.
Olt and Cody Buckel and Chad Bell and Leury Garcia and Jorge Alfaro and dozens of others – no problem, as they’re not on the 40-man roster.
But Perez and Leonys Martin and Justin Grimm and Tanner Scheppers and Engel Beltre are. No American League team is going to let those guys get by them on August waivers.
Could those guys be players to be named later, not identified until after the season? Yes. But the rules only allow that if they don’t appear in the big leagues between the day of the trade and the day that it’s finalized. Would Texas be willing to park Perez or Martin or Scheppers in AAA in August and especially in September when rosters expand and there’s a benefit to having a deeper bullpen and some speed on the bench?
Lee could be traded in August. But the universe of players Philadelphia could get in return is greater today.
There are reports this morning that the talks between the Rangers and Cubs that led to last night’s Soto trade might have branched off to include righthanders Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster, the first of whom is sidelined with a triceps thing and the latter of whom is a rental. Even if the Rangers are interested, they won’t be alone, and the issue, like with Greinke, will be whether Texas wants to pay Chicago’s price.
The Marlins reportedly aren’t getting the offers they want for Johnson. Same with the Red Sox and Josh Beckett. Jon Paul Morosi (Fox Sports) thinks Texas should be pushing on Yovani Gallardo and Justin Masterson and Kyle Lohse. Jim Bowden (ESPN/XM) thinks Seattle would be crazy not to see what it could get for Hernandez, and that Texas should be the dance partner.
The one certainty is that the Rangers have looked into every possibility the media has run out there, and plenty that haven’t seen the light of the rumor-dump day.
The Soto trade isn’t a huge move but it’s an improvement. He’s a better defender than Torrealba, he’s hit in the past, he’s controllable in 2013 (but only as an arbitration-eligible, so Texas has the right to cut ties this winter without consequence if it chooses to), which could be significant since Torrealba and Mike Napoli will be free agents, and hey, he’s been Garza’s and Dempster’s primary catcher for a long time.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden led Texas in innings caught in 2009.
Matt Treanor and July pickup Bengie Molina led in 2010.
Torrealba and Napoli led in 2011, and have in 2012 as well.
Next to a number one starter, the thing I would most love to see the Rangers add this winter is a frontline catcher who would be here for years. My pipe dream for 2013 has been Travis d’Arnaud (though the trade I proposed a month ago couldn’t happen in that form now), with Kelly Shoppach as his 1A. Soto (who makes $4.3 million this year but much of what remains this season will be paid by the Cubs) is more likely a Shoppach/Torrealba type for Texas, rather than a long-term solution, but so was Molina, and in his short time here he made a significant impact.
Brigham was a reasonable price to pay. You can read Scott’s report from earlier this morning for more on Brigham, whose power combination has produced inconsistent results in varying roles but who is the type of pitcher teams regularly take chances on. Texas traded Michael Main (and Chris Ray) for Molina two years ago, and some Rangers fans complained. Now?
Torrealba has been designated for assignment to make room on the active roster for Soto (Brigham’s departure will mean the 40-man roster has an extra open spot) and that the Rangers are likely to find a trade partner for the veteran catcher. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets that the Rangers and Nationals are expected to discuss Torrealba today. But don’t expect a major return, and it might turn out that some of the cash the Cubs sent Texas goes away with Torrealba to defray the cost of his own contract.
Texas would probably rather take a non-prospect than see Torrealba claimed off waivers, for instance, by the Angels (Scott Servais was said to be a key proponent when the Rangers signed Torrealba, with whom he was familiar as a teammate). Even though Los Angeles doesn’t need a catcher, particularly with Chris Iannetta returning, the idea of him joining the Angels even briefly and sharing scouting reports on Rangers pitchers (tendencies, game plans on Angels hitters, etc.) is probably something the Rangers would prefer to avoid.
Will the Soto acquisition and return of Mitch Moreland cut into Michael Young’s playing time? That’s up to Wash.
But whether Wash has Lee or Garza or Dempster or another pitcher to work into the plans is up to Daniels.
And we’re down to as little more than five hours before the conversation changes, at one crossroads point in a season in which the conversation seems to have changed a lot.