The other deadline.
Somewhere between the things I don’t care much about, like Stephen Strasburg’s workload and Roger Clemens’s Hall of Fame timetable and who the MVP’s should be, and those you don’t care much about, which I suppose might include who the Gary Southshore Railcats traded two players to be named for last week, lies the wheelhouse of where this project has evolved over the years.
Fourteen years ago, the focus of the Newberg Report was wholly on the Texas Rangers farm system. It’s still a huge part of things but now in a different way.
The emphasis of the newsletter is now the baseball operations effort as a whole. Scouting and player development, from the draft and international markets to developments in the minor leagues and how things might fit in Arlington. Roster management. Trades, free agency, and a constant overview of the direction of the franchise, steadily disrupted by an unapologetic dose of scoreboard watching and in-game hashtagging.
There’s an added boost of adrenaline on the final day of August in a contending baseball season. We’re heading into the final leg before 162+, a final four-and-a-half weeks of games that count no more than the first five months and in some cases probably less, but not really.
August 31 also has a procedural significance, as it’s the final day on which a team can bring in a player from outside the organization and be able to suit him up for the post-season. (Theoretically, it’s also the day on which players from the farm must be added to the active roster to be playoff-eligible, but there are ways around that to the point that exception basically swallows up the rule.)
On August 31, 2010, days after designating him for assignment, Texas traded infielder Joaquin Arias, out of options and the plans, to the Mets for outfielder Jeff Francoeur.
On August 31, 2011, Texas sent cash to Kansas City for catcher Matt Treanor and traded a player to be named later to Baltimore for left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez. The Rangers placed out-of-options reliever Pedro Strop on revocable waivers, and Baltimore claimed him the following day, completing the trade.
Francoeur was not a big deal. The mere $833,333 that remained on his one-year contract with New York didn’t prompt any of the 25 teams with priority over the Rangers to claim the 26-year-old, even if just to ensure that Texas couldn’t get him.
But he contributed a few meaningful moments.
So did Gonzalez, and Treanor caught 26 September innings that Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba didn’t have to.
Will Jon Daniels make a trade today? An extra right-handed bat for the bench couldn’t hurt, and neither could an extra bullpen arm.
But there are options for those roles already in the Rangers system, and the universe of players available in trade is limited to those who cleared league-wide waivers this month (or were placed on waivers since Monday afternoon and were claimed since Wednesday afternoon by Texas and no other team with greater claim priority), and the trade opportunities are limited by the reasonableness of the trade discussions.
Maybe Julio Borbon or Brandon Snyder, each out of options, is this year’s Arias or Strop. The potential impact of any trade would have to be greater than a Francoeur or Gonzalez type, you would think, for someone like Engel Beltre or Neil Ramirez to be involved, even with their flaws and ticking clocks, and Wilmer Font and Roman Mendez and Miguel De Los Santos aren’t going anywhere. Move off the 40-man roster and the conversation gets more layered, but you get the idea.
August 31 trades are typically an effort – on both sides – to catch a little bottled lightning, to roll the dice. (They rarely involve impact players, the Texas-Oakland blockbuster in 1992 notwithstanding.)
But that’s not to say they’re meaningless. Texas wouldn’t take the Francoeur trade back (even if Arias has evidently since become a player that Giants manager Bruce Bochy can’t take out of the lineup), and the Orioles are plenty happy with the shot they took on Strop.
So it’s August 31, and we wait to see when exactly Jurickson Profar will go from the late-inning replacement that Texas has tactically made him at Frisco this week to an asset on the big league bench.
And we look at the September schedules and see that the uncommon opponents between Texas (at CLE, at KC, at TB, CLE) and Oakland (BOS, BAL, at DET, at NYY) ought to make the division race no more worrisome in September than it is for anyone today.
And we watch Font and Mendez and C.J. Edwards and Ronald Guzman and the crazy-great finishes to the season that they’re putting together, not to mention Tanner Scheppers and Leonys Martin, who should get another chance to help before this season is over.
And we read this.
And we still keep an eye on those Angels, the last team I want to face in October.
And we note that the compensatory picks Texas received when Los Angeles signed C.J. Wilson turned into Joey Gallo and Jamie Jarmon.
And while we do all that, we spend the hours before Ian Kinsler steps in tonight against Ubaldo Jimenez by monitoring Twitter and the screen crawls, wondering whether some club might call Jon Daniels today, backing off the last ask in order to move the expiring contract of a role player who could be asked to get one big out or one huge pinch-hit in October for someone who, if things play out, could bloom late for them like the next Joaquin Arias or Pedro Strop.
And I’ll keep myself distracted from that ticking clock by doing a day’s real work and, if things get slow for five minutes, maybe I’ll check to see whether the Windy City Thunderbolts and Sioux Falls Pheasants have finally made a trade.