1: Texas maintained a one-game lead over Oakland behind another dominating Yu Darvish effort, beating Houston, 2-1.
2: Darvish is the second pitcher in Rangers history to have multiple starts in one season of at least 8.0 innings pitched and no more than one hit allowed (Nolan Ryan had three in 1989).
3: Darvish is one of three pitchers in the live ball era (since 1920) to have four starts in a season of at least 14 strikeouts and no more than one walk (Pedro Martinez in 1999 and Randy Johnson in 1999 are the others).
4: Darvish’s 428 strikeouts are the fourth most by any pitcher in his first two big league seasons since 1900.
5: Darvish is the fifth pitcher in big league history with at least five games of 14 strikeouts or more in one season (Ryan, Martinez, Johnson, and Sam McDowell are the others).
6: Texas plays Houston six more times in 2013.
7: Oakland plays Houston seven more times in 2013, starting tonight.
8: The Rangers have won eight straight games — all on the road, a club record.
9: Darvish has punched out at least 10 hitters nine times in 2013, which leads the big leagues.
10: Texas finishes its 10-game trip to Oakland, Anaheim, and Houston with nine wins, making it the most successful road trip (by winning percentage) in club history.
12: Darvish victories in 2013. Also the number of Darvish’s 15 strikeouts yesterday that came on offspeed pitches.
13: The number of Texas wins . . .
14: . . . in the last 14 games.
15: Darvish strikeouts yesterday, setting a personal best (after four games of 14 punchouts).
16: The Rangers control Darvish through 2016. His contract extends through 2017, but he can void the final season if one of two things happens: (1) he wins the Cy Young in any season before that and finishes second, third, or fourth in the vote in another season; or (2) he finishes second in the Cy Young vote once and finishes second, third, or fourth in two other seasons.
17: Darvish leads the big leagues in 2012-13 with 17 starts of at least 10 strikeouts. Max Scherzer and Chris Sale are next with nine such starts.
18: It was on the game’s 18th Astros hitter that home plate umpire Ron Kulpa issued a walk and ejected Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski out of the game, an exquisite example of #umpshow that he’s likely very proud of.
19: Darvish has allowed 19 hits and 10 walks in 34.1 innings since returning from the disabled list on July 22. In that span he’s 4-1, 1.31, holding opponents to a .160/.231/.277 slash line and punching out 50 batters.
20: Kulpa has ejected 20 baseball people since 2005, which is as far back as this website goes.
21: Number of times between now and the end of 2016 that I’ll beg in writing for Texas and Darvish to tear his contract up and replace it with a new, longer, more awesome one.
22: The uniform number of Astros backup catcher Carlos Corporan, who’s not as bad a word pair as “Marwin Gonzalez” but man, that home run sucked. It’s also the uniform number of Matt Garza, who could be pitching for a JD Wash-do tomorrow if Alexi Ogando and his teammates beat the Brewers tonight.
51,703,411: Thank you, Bob & Ray & Neil & your whole bad-ass crew.
Ah ah ah.
Before Mike Bacsik was a local radio personality and after he was the son of a 1970s Texas Rangers pitcher, he played in the big leagues himself, for the Indians and the Mets and the Rangers and the Nationals. Whether that gives him added credibility or not to have said what he did yesterday after Texas traded for Alex Rios, a player whose motor and body language has been questioned more than once and whose untapped potential gets mentioned as often as his actual production on the field, I’m unsure, but what he said struck a nerve.
Tweeted Bacsik: “If you get traded into a pennant race and you’re an everyday player, you see it as, ‘I’m the player who can put the team over the top.’ . . . [A] player sees it as his chance to become a savior and doesn’t want to disappoint his new teammates. Remember what Rick Carlisle says about pressure.”
Carlisle has a sign in the Mavericks locker room that says: “Love pressure.” The title-winning coach says pressure “has one of two effects: It makes diamonds or it bursts pipes.”
I don’t discount the body language thing. They don’t all have to be Matt Garza or Grant Balfour or Jered Weaver, but you want to see the key players on your team showing a pulse, and not getting benched in the middle of a game for not running out a double play ground ball. But here’s the thing.
How would you feel if Texas, sitting right now in a virtual tie atop the AL West after this run of 10 out of 11, finished the season five games out of any kind of playoff spot?
Imagine that for a minute. Five games out. The Rangers have been more than five games back on just two days since 2009 (and that was two weeks ago, right as this dominant run was about to get underway). Imagine Texas limping to a finish where the club is five games out of a Wild Card spot, and some larger number of games behind the A’s in the division.
It would be the most successful finish to a season in Alex Rios’s 10-year big league career, with the exception of one.
He’s been on a few teams that won more games than they lost, marginally, but he’s finished seasons 30.5 games out of the playoffs, 15 games back, 11 games back, 10 games back, nine games back, eight games, 7.5 games back, and six games back. That doesn’t count the White Sox in 2013, a miserable year that has that club 22 games out of the second Wild Card spot this morning and stripping down.
The one season in which a Rios team was closer to 162+ than six games out was last year, when the 85-77 White Sox finished three games behind Detroit (having held first place for four months before spitting things up with a week to go).
It happened to be Rios’s career year. A slash line of .304/.334/.516, an OPS+ of 125, and a number 15 finish in the AL MVP vote, a couple spots ahead of Albert Pujols.
Nobody ever questioned Adrian Beltre’s or Mike Napoli’s or Joe Nathan’s motor, but none of them had won a ring or had much of any post-season success at all, and that story line came up when Texas acquired each of them. The hungry Rangers like hungry players.
I have no idea if Rios really plays as spiritlessly as his reputation suggests, or if he’s hungry for another pennant race, or if 2012 reveals anything reliable about how he competes when he’s on a competitive team.
But I do know he’s a good defensive right fielder, has some juice in the bat, at least in spurts, can put pressure on the opponent with his legs, and, last night notwithstanding, is a better bet to help Texas win games these final two months than a platoon of Joey Butler and Engel Beltre. As we discussed yesterday, as long as ownership was comfortable with the financial investment — Rios is guaranteed about $3.5 million the rest of the way this season and $13 million in 2014 (when Nelson Cruz and David Murphy will be free agents), with a $1 million club option to buy out his $14 million commitment in 2015, with Chicago kicking in $1 million in the trade — you don’t turn away from the opportunity because of Leury Garcia, who has a chance to be a tremendous utility player, but no more than that in Texas. When names like Martin Perez and Luke Jackson and Rougned Odor are getting tweeted around, that’s one thing. This is another.
And I also know that the Rangers, in large part because of their manager, tend to get a lot out of their new players, sometimes a good bit more than their former teams did. Maybe it’s the winning atmosphere, the culture in the clubhouse, the hands-off approach of the skipper. Maybe it’s the type of player they target.
You probably remember seeing the national columns a week ago declaring trade deadline winners and losers, a couple of which placed the Rangers in the “L” column, presumably because they made no news in the final couple days of July.
But Texas is the team that, nine days before the conventional July 31 deadline, traded for the best pitcher in the league who was moved, and that, nine days after the deadline, traded for arguably the best hitter who changed addresses. Be my guest if you prefer Alfonso Soriano over Rios, but make sure to factor in not only the age and contract but also the defense and baserunning.
Garza won his first start as a Ranger, and since his second start, the club is 10-1. Nobody knows if the abstract boost that a move like adding Garza played any role in the team’s turnaround — it’s not as if the subtraction of Cruz has had an adverse effect so far — and Garza is player who, at least in the obvious sense, can only help your team win once every five days.
Maybe that’s all Rios will do, too.
But I like the idea of Alex Rios in a pennant race, not only because of what it might do for Texas but also because of what it might do for the player. Pressure can lead to one of two things, and there’s a pretty decent stack of evidence of what being thrust into this intensely competitive battle just might lead to in Rios’s case.
The Rangers have now won 7 of 11 games against the A’s this season, including 5 of the last 6.
Never mind those 5 of 6 against Oakland at the end of 2012. This is 2013.
Once this series at O.co ends tomorrow, the Rangers are scheduled to play 24 more times before meeting the A’s again in September. Oakland will play 25 games in that time.
In those 24 games, Texas faces zero teams who have a winning record.
In its 25 games before the next A’s-Rangers series, Oakland faces teams with a winning record 15 times.
Then again, after those three games against the A’s on September 2, 3, and 4, Texas matches up 10 times with winning teams over the club’s final 23 regular season games.
While Oakland will have only three such games — in Texas on September 13, 14, and 15.
Texas has a five-game win streak at the moment, a run it hasn’t surpassed since June — of 2012.
Take everything in the above 10 paragraphs and toss it out.
If Ron Washington manages a win over the A’s today or tomorrow, he becomes the Rangers’ all-time winningest manager. And it would happen in Oakland, which would be cool since so much of his baseball history is rooted there.
Throw that out, too.
Because the important thing is that if Texas wins today, or wins tomorrow, it’s a series win against Oakland, and that’s what matters.
And if it happens this afternoon, with The Count on the mound, that ridiculous stretch of heavy synchronicity that saw Texas go 32 straight days without once gaining ground on the A’s, even for a day, will have been followed by five straight asynchronous days on which the Rangers trimmed the deficit.
Let’s go, Matt Garza.
Monday, 9:16 pm: Explosive.
Tuesday, 11:51 pm: Explosive.
Wednesday, 9:37 pm: Explosive.
Thursday, 6:05 pm — 8:11 pm: Corrosive.
It’s a good night when the postgame notes invoke the names of Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Dwight Gooden.
Yu Darvish is an animal.
0.5, 2.5, 4.5, or 6.5. As we and Yu watch.
Here we go.
Monday afternoon, with just over 48 hours to go before the conventional trade deadline, we got word from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports that Texas checked in recently with Atlanta about the availability of catcher Brian McCann.
Even though the Rangers have been in a tailspin and even though McCann is a core piece of a team headed toward the playoffs and even though Texas will be able to go get McCann three months from now without having to offer up the frontline prospects it would surely take to get so much as an attentive conversation going.
Hours after that, the left-handed-hitting catcher that McCann would possibly replace instantly and the backup catcher with the Yu Darvish/Matt Garza rapport that McCann would possibly replace instantly both honey-badger Ernesto Frieri ninth-inning, two-strike 94 with blasts of pure hang time pull, suitably fair and very gone, and suddenly a team whose wins of any kind have seemed improbable lately walked off with one in the most improbable of fashions.
Texas had won only three games in July that Joe Nathan didn’t save, but certainly none like that one, none that had him warming to enter the ballgame when the ballgame suddenly ended.
And upstairs, a General Manager who’s reportedly been gauging interest in his stud closer sees a sea of red hopping dugout rails and swarming toward the plate and dancing around like Joe Nathan’s eight- and six-year-olds (well, all but Lance Berkman: check out the dugout video or Kelly Gavin’s photos) and feels what’s left of 36,000-plus shaking the joint like they’re all of 86,000-plus, and you have to wonder whether it changed his thinking on whether he can trade a core piece like that, now, even if it’s dealing from the club’s greatest strength to address a glaring weakness.
Surely one game isn’t going to dictate the front office’s trade deadline direction.
Dictate, no. But influence? Maybe?
And now there’s just one game before teams have to put their trade deadline pencils down.
Tonight: Derek Holland, C.J.Wilson, and lots of subtext.
More, probably, than Matt Garza and Jered Weaver, who may or may not have teed it up as California preps or as Fresno State and Long Beach State horses before turning pro as first-round picks drafted a year apart (but signing two weeks apart).
I watched Garza’s postgame interview late last night. I’m glad I did. What a beast.
I love watching Matt Garza talk about team almost as much as I love watching Matt Garza pitch baseballs.
Even if it turns out he’s here for less time than Cliff Lee was, I can’t promise that the only two Rangers player T-shirts I have ever owned (Lee and Adrian Beltre) won’t be joined by a Garza 22.
Maybe the Braves would be open to the idea of trading Brian McCann now since Evan Gattis and Christian Bethancourt and McCann’s imminent free agency market probably mean just a 2014 first-round pick otherwise — well, a 2014 first-round pick and McCann in October 2013 — but c’mon. Can’t really happen, right?
Maybe the Rangers really are thinking about trying to overwhelm Atlanta for McCann, even though they could simply wait until the off-season when it would cost them a draft pick and not the three blue-chip prospects it would surely take to add him now to an offense that is more than one Brian McCann bat short of real health. They’d get to keep the draft pick, after all, if they went out and got him now and re-signed him this winter.
And maybe the Rangers really are thinking about trading Joe Nathan today or tomorrow before 3:00 — hey, maybe for a blue-chip prospect they could then flip to Atlanta now, or Tampa Bay or Miami in the off-season — on the theory that he’s going to opt for free agency this winter himself and, given the club’s depth in the bullpen and needs elsewhere (and Nathan’s age), probably end up somewhere else
Whatever happens in the next 30 hours could make Joakim Soria or Tanner Scheppers or Neal Cotts a ninth-inning guy. Or could cost A.J. Pierzynski or Geovany Soto, hours after their biggest moments as Rangers.
Or we could take Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan at their word, and not expect Texas to do anything nearly as significant as trading for Matt Garza.
Even if the momentary jolt of a ballgame that ends with a party at the plate threatens to knock reason out of the park and change the way you think about things.
So Ken Rosenthal dropped a Fox Sports blog post late last night, reporting that, according to Major League sources, the Rangers have internally discussed the idea of trading Joe Nathan by Wednesday’s trade deadline, in an effort to see what sort of noise they might be able to make by “exploiting a thin market for relievers” while dealing from a club strength.
But I can’t bring myself to embrace the idea of the Rangers as sellers, no matter how nuanced that definition might be in this case.
I have a thousand COFFEY-appropriate notes that I’ve dutifully gathered over the last week, mostly concerning right-handed bats and touching on the Blue Jays’ free-fall and the Rockies’ own little skid.
But I can’t bring myself to embrace the idea of the Rangers as buyers, not the way the lineup has looked so uniformly hollow and drained for an uncomfortably long time.
I want to write an article about Engel Beltre and how he fits going forward, even as his options run out with the completion of this season.
But I can’t bring myself to do that today, either.
On June 27, the Rangers beat the Yankees, 2-0, and in doing so moved from a deadlock with Oakland atop the West to a half-game up on the idle A’s.
That was the last day Texas gained ground on the A’s, whether ahead of them or behind.
I’ll leave it to someone with more energy for the task to figure out the last time in baseball history one team went a month without gaining ground on any one other team.
Let’s go, Alexi. Let’s make this next month of baseball different.
We’ve been saying for weeks that this lineup is a bat short, if not more, but last night it was every other phase that failed the team.
The bats were fine. Not so much for the defense, the baserunning, the starting pitching, the concentration or intensity or attention to fundamentals or whatever you want to call that, and, in the end, the bullpen.
The bullpen, which had been so good since coming to the rescue in the fourth inning (7.0-7-1-1-2-4) and which, thanks to Matt Garza on Wednesday and Derek Holland on Thursday, was as lined up for battle as you could hope for in the dead of summer.
The bullpen, whose stalwarts Neal Cotts and Joe Nathan remained available and seated as Jason Frasor was sent out for a third inning in the 11th. Jason Frasor, who had never pitched three innings in his 10 big league seasons. Jason Frasor, who had thrown two innings once in 2012 and once in 2011 and once in 2010 and in fact who had only recorded more than three outs as a Ranger two times — a 1.1-inning effort in May and another 1.1-inning job in June.
Cotts and Nathan sat. So did Tanner Scheppers, who threw 11 pitches last Saturday, rested on Sunday, threw 11 pitches on Monday, rested on Tuesday and Wednesday, and threw four pitches on Thursday. The manager said after the game that Scheppers was unavailable last night.
OK. There’s got to be a reason for that. Fine.
But the manager said Cotts and Nathan were available.
Thank goodness they’ll be ready tonight with Yu Darvish on the mound. No, don’t even have one of them getting loose just in case Jason Frasor happens to let the first two Indians hit safely in the 11th inning on a night when the offense and the bullpen had absolutely battled to turn Cleveland 7, Texas 1 into a tied ballgame. Keep Cotts and Nathan down in a winnable game against a team whose bullpen you clearly outmatch, because who knows how much help your ace will need the next day. Cotts and Nathan were available, but what does that even mean?
The last time the Rangers were four games back in the division, they’d never been to a World Series.
There have been too many nights this season, more so than any time since Texas was winning pennants, when this team seems more than just a bat or two short.
“It’s just [about] going right after those guys. Make them uncomfortable. Make them think about what they’re doing, what they’re going to swing at. Right now, they’re real comfortable. They’re just up there swinging and hitting the cover off the ball. So I’ve got to go in there and make them uncomfortable, make them do what I want them to do. It’s a hard job, definitely a hard job, but somebody has got to do it. And I feel I’m the right man for the job right now.”
So said Matt Garza.
On October 7, 2010, minutes after Texas had won the first two games of its best-of-five against Tampa Bay in its first ALDS in 11 years, with the series about to head to Arlington.
The Rays won Game Three, a Garza-Colby Lewis pitchers’ battle in which Garza had allowed nothing but an unearned run through six innings. He surrendered an Ian Kinsler home run to start the seventh and exited the game. Tampa Bay went on to score five unanswered runs and won, 6-3.
“I’m excited. I couldn’t be more happy being in a place where I’m at, a place where I’m wanted, been wanted. It’s awesome. I felt good. I just wanted to throw strikes.”
So said Garza.
Right after the very next game he would pitch in Rangers Ballpark.
Which was last night.
Texas 3, New York 1, a game in which Garza allowed nothing but an unearned run through seven and a third.
Garza, who missed Tanner Scheppers by a year at Fresno State and who ensured that Scheppers — and Robbie Ross and Joakim Soria — wouldn’t be needed last night, helping the Rangers not only take a 2-1 series lead over New York but also go into this afternoon’s series finale at nearly full strength.
“We’re in a playoff hunt, aren’t we? We’re trying to make it to October. So every game’s a big game. I don’t care who’s on the other side. Every game counts. . . . I just want to get us to October. That’s it.”
Matt Garza. Arlington. October.
When you have C.J. Edwards, you can get away with telling the team with the consensus top arm on the July market they can’t have Martin Perez or Luke Jackson, and still win the pageant.
When you have Justin Grimm, you can refuse to part with Nick Tepesch, and maybe Jake Brigham is heading in that direction himself.
When you have Victor Payano and Alec Asher and Connor Sadzeck and Nick Martinez and Luis Parra and Andrew Faulkner and Jerad Eickhoff and Yohander Mendez and Alex Gonzalez and David Ledbetter and Colin Wiles and Jose Samayoa and Ariel Jurado and Pedro Payano and Marcos Diplan and Edgar Arredondo, you accept the danger, if that’s the right word, of trading Edwards and Grimm, not because any of the others have close to the value that Edwards and Grimm have, but because the pipeline runs deep, and there will be some among them who will emerge into something more than they are now, just as Edwards went from the 48th round to blue-chip status and as Grimm reached the big leagues just two years removed from a 3-7, 5.49 college season.
This is not the Angels and Jean Segura.
Or the Rangers and Ruben Mateo. Or Jovanny Cedeno.
Or John Danks.
Neil Ramirez, age 24, will go into 2014 with one option remaining, and assuming Texas will be even slightly healthier next season than this one, if it turns out he’s singled out in the next month as a Cub to be named later (Chicago GM Jed Hoyer apparently said he can choose Ramirez alone, or instead take two other minor league pitchers from a predetermined list), that might not be the worst thing for anyone.
Mike Olt, a month short of his 25th birthday, is blocked from playing where he’s most valuable defensively. If you don’t trade him before third base opens up in Texas, he’s a player nearing his prime who will be learning a new position on a contending team. Not ideal, whether or not there are concerns about a possible head injury.
That’s not to say the Rangers didn’t give up a ton for Matt Garza. It’s a loaded package.
But they held onto Luis Sardinas and Rougned Odor.
And Perez and Jackson.
And Lewis Brinson and Joey Gallo and Ronald Guzman and Nomar Mazara and Nick Williams and Jairo Beras.
And Jorge Alfaro.
And they still had enough to get the best starting pitcher on the trade market, more in the Cubs’ estimation than anyone else was offering.
I’m a Matt Garza guy. Love the stuff, love the swagger. He’s battle tested, both in the American League and in October. He’s been as hot as any starting pitcher in baseball, and in a division that feels like it could go down to the final week, as it did last year, giving him the ball every time it would have otherwise gone to Ross Wolf or Josh Lindblom or a veteran returning from surgery could be a difference-maker.
But there are still two things that make me nervous about this trade.
One, while the Rangers are deep enough at the big league level and on the farm to survive the absence of Olt and Edwards and Grimm, the other part of that is they no longer have Olt and Edwards in particular to dangle in front of the Marlins or Rays or whatever club they are hoping to do very big business with this winter. Those assets have now been allocated, irretrievably.
Second, while I believed Texas was a legitimate contender even before yesterday’s trade, I still don’t think the club is a realistic World Series competitor today, even with Garza. The lineup feels one bat short, maybe two.
But there’s still a little more than a week to take care of that, and at this point, make no mistake: The Rangers, having made the Garza trade, are loaded for bear. The front office is going for it.
How does Edwards plus Olt plus Grimm plus either Ramirez or two other minor league pitchers compare, a year ago, to either (1) Grimm, Cody Buckel, and a third prospect or (2) Grimm, Chad Bell, and Leury Garcia? Those are the two packages the Rangers were rumored to have offered Milwaukee for rental Zack Greinke last July.
I’d say this package, especially if Ramirez is in the deal, is stronger, but then again Olt’s a year older and with more questions than his game raised a year ago (rumor has it that the Rangers could have had Greinke last summer had they agreed to send Olt to the Brewers — and Hoyer said yesterday he tried trading for Olt last July as well), and in spite of Buckel’s crash this spring, a year ago he was basically Edwards — and two years younger then than Edwards is now, while pitching two levels higher than Edwards.
The other thing is that Texas was leading the division by three to six games throughout July 2012, with seemingly fewer holes to address. No, Garza 2013 is not Greinke 2012, but the need for impact help is greater this year than it was last.
Who knows what the Rangers were poised to give the Cubs a year ago for Garza, before his triceps injury shut his market down (and led the Rangers and Cubs to turn their attention to Ryan Dempster instead)? Probably less than it would have taken to get Greinke.
And, perhaps shockingly, less than they’re giving Chicago for Garza now, even though he’s now under contract for one pennant race, not two.
But it’s also less than they were evidently being asked to give up just last week, when the Cubs asked the Rangers, Dodgers, Indians, and Blue Jays to make their final pitches — and then at least made appearances of getting the A’s involved at the eleventh hour. According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, after Texas and Chicago had gotten deep into talks and were zeroing in on an agreement, the Cubs “had to accept Grimm instead of Odor” when Texas raised an issue about the soundness of Garza’s elbow. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the teams were discussing a structure of the deal that would have sent Sardinas to Chicago rather than Grimm (with perhaps a second player coming back to Texas).
If you’re like me, you see Grimm pitch and it’s easy to envision a guy who will be in the big leagues a long time, pitching in the middle or near the back of a decent rotation, perhaps in middle relief on a very good staff, but you see Odor as a potentially disruptive force at or near the top of a lineup, an energy player that the Rangers need more of now and probably a couple years from now, when the 19-year-old is pushing for a big league look. And the 20-year-old Sardinas as a pure shortstop with plus run and a projection to hit, an extremely valuable commodity who could figure in here should the club decide to move a big league shortstop over the next year or two.
Or maybe you see Odor and Sardinas as winter trade pieces themselves, trade assets that the Rangers were able to preserve for that possibility.
Odor, strictly a second baseman, and Sardinas, whose offensive game and durability raise questions, are not Segura.
Neither is Olt, in spite of prospect rankings going into the season that had him in territory similar to Segura’s a year earlier, before the Angels parted with him in their Greinke trade.
Olt’s not Segura because he plays on a corner, not up the middle. Because he’s three years older now than Segura was last July. Because post-concussion syndrome is not exactly a quad strain.
But mostly because Olt was not nearly alone in the Rangers system as far as top-tier minor league talent goes. Like Mateo used to be. Like Danks once was. And like Segura was for the Angels.
Imagine how much the aging, underachieving Angels would like to have Segura back right now, and for the next however-many years.
It wasn’t as easy to envision where Olt fit here, at least not in the next year or two. He’ll be 25 in a month.
As for Grimm, who will also be 25 next month, where does he fit among Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Garza, Martin Perez, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando, and Tepesch, who could all be healthy in a month or so and who will all be here, with the exception of Garza and possibly Lewis, next year?
And not just next year. The Rangers control Ogando through 2016. Darvish through 2017. Holland and Harrison and Perez and Tepesch through 2018.
Plus, we all know the Rangers aren’t going to stop chasing top-end pitching.
Which could include Garza.
He won’t forgo the opportunity to shop himself on the open market for his one career mega-deal, but maybe the player and the club decide this summer there’s a mutual fit going forward. Joe Davidson of the Sacramento Bee reports that Garza, a Northern Californian, has been “very intrigued with the Rangers for some time, which bodes well for signing him long term . . . [he] wants a contender and may have one.” USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale writes that the Rangers, “who have sought [Garza] for two years, privately believe they can convince him to stay as well, averting free agency.”
Garza will certainly test the market, but maybe he decides he wants to be right back here, and maybe the club wants him back. Think back to Anibal Sanchez and Detroit a year ago.
Regardless, we know Texas will keep looking for more frontline starting pitchers. Always.
On top of that, there are waves of talent coming behind Grimm, and Olt, and boots on the ground all over the world relentlessly looking for more.
And an ownership group committed to all of it.
An ownership group that signed off on the $4 million or so left on Garza’s 2013 contract, that had greenlighted the over-slot bonus it took to sign Grimm in 2010 as the franchise was coming out of bankruptcy, that stands behind Jon Daniels’s charge to his scouting department to step outside their routine, his challenge to them to do something every day to help the Texas Rangers win, a philosophy that inspired a 27-year-old scout named Chris Kemp, who had spent two nondescript Class A seasons in the organization playing first base, to venture deep into rural South Carolina to the town of Prosperity (population 1,200) and buy into a 150-pound kid that no other scouts were paying attention to, and to pound his fist on the table on Draft Day 2011 until the Rangers called the name of Carl “C.J.” Edwards in the 48th round, a round in the baseball draft that doesn’t even exist anymore.
The ownership group here doesn’t get enough credit for making the blueprint work. For supporting a scouting and player development system that may be this franchise’s greatest star.
“What it comes down to is we had the players to do it,” Daniels said yesterday. ”The work our scouts and our player development [people] and coaches and trainers . . . have done to allow us to put these guys in a deal and get a pitcher of Matt’s caliber can’t be overstated.”
“Not just these few players, but [we had] the confidence we’ve got more coming behind them to where we can part with a pretty significant package. We paid a steep price in talent to acquire Matt, but we did so knowing we’ve got other guys in the system because of the work of our scouts, because of the work our coaches have done.”
Not everyone will agree with Jason Parks (Baseball Prospectus) when he says the Rangers “didn’t give up big impact” for Garza, and suggests that he’d take Sardinas or Alfaro ahead of Olt (me too) and that Edwards projects to be a back-of-rotation or late-inning type (there are durability questions due to his size), but you get the point: The Rangers are deep in prospects that other teams like, deep enough that they are able to make a certain group of them unavailable in a deal for the market’s best available pitcher and still come away with him.
July’s have changed in baseball, as more young players are getting locked up into their free agent years, and more teams are falling into huge TV money, and the advent of a second Wild Card in each league means fewer sellers at mid-season. It all adds up to fewer available impact players and more interested buyers, and as a result far more leverage for those few teams willing to concede to their own clubhouse and fan base in July that they’re sellers.
Upshot: It costs a lot to get markedly better at the trade deadline. More than ever.
It’s not easy to decide whether to pay the inflated price, but it’s easier when you have a farm system equipped to survive the cost.
It’s well documented that Texas has repeatedly tried to get Garza the last few years. I really love the pitcher. I love his edge. I love when A.J. Pierzynski says, “In the back of your mind, you know this guy can be a little bit crazy and let one go.”
Maybe he only makes a one- or two-game difference here.
You don’t need to have a great memory to understand how big an extra regular season win or two can be.
Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs nailed it: “Garza could make [Texas] a little more stable and a little more good. And though his actual addition wouldn’t make the Rangers substantially better, it could make them better enough. A small upgrade is only a small upgrade until it makes all the difference in the world. The Rangers probably understand that better than most.”
I still believe that for this trade to make ultimate sense, there needs to be one other move, at least, to get a difference-making bat in here.
And the Rangers have the farm system to get something done on that front, whether it’s a player like Kendrys Morales or Alex Rios or (I write longingly) Jose Bautista, whose Jays probably wouldn’t even listen but who have now lost 17 of 24 and are hopelessly out of the race. If Toronto is open-minded, the Rangers have the prospects to at least start a discussion.
Even after parting with four of five of them to get Garza.
It wasn’t clear what role Olt would have had here next year, and at his age his trade value was likely going to start to recede further. Grimm’s role on this staff going forward wasn’t defined. Edwards is years away, and Ramirez, if he’s in the deal, goes into next season with one option left and no big league experience, unless he gets some with the Cubs (he can’t get any here before the trade is finalized).
It’s possible none of them may have helped Texas significantly in 2014.
Garza may not help here in 2014, either, but this deal is about now — and so, I hope, is the next one, as Texas uses more farm system ammunition to go get an everyday hitter as the march toward the tournament gets set to enter its final third.
The message Daniels has sent to the Rangers’ clubhouse, and the Rangers’ fan base, from the front office is this: “We believe in this group. Now go win baseball games.”
I’m less concerned about the package Texas gave up for Garza than I am about whether Daniels can go out and get a bat to match in the next eight days.
But I know this: I do like being the fan of a team that goes for it, and that has set itself up to do just that.