Raise your hand if you saw the Texas Rangers sitting in second place on June 17th. Oh, and keep it raised if you thought the team sitting in front of them was the Houston Astros.
I don’t see many hands raised and mine certainly isn’t raised regardless of the fact that I picked the Rangers to finish second in the division before this season began but the moment Derek Holland hit the disabled list I thought my prediction was dead on arrival.
Look at the guys who have stepped up and played a big role in where this team is right now. Mitch Moreland is finally playing like we all had expected from him and I know we’re all knocking on wood right now hoping he doesn’t get hurt like he has three times in the past. Robinson Chirinos has come up with some big hits including last night’s walk off home run to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, Prince Fielder is doing Prince Fielder like things, Wandy Rodriguez has looked like a Cy Young candidate since the Rangers acquired him, and Chi Chi Gonzalez has been nothing short of phenomenal since being called up, giving up just a single earned run in his first three big league starts (21.2 IP) before the two-run home run in the ninth inning last night just two outs short of his second straight complete game shutout.
The national media, and local media for that matter, is paid to give their opinion and regardless of the fact that you may, or may not, agree with them it’s just an opinion. Even when one says the Rangers won’t be in the same class as the Oakland A’s (currently dead last in the AL West) or the Los Angeles Angels (3rd in the AL West, 2 games back of Texas).
Baseball is not a game that’s played on paper. Nor is any other sport for that matter. How many people predicted the Dallas Cowboys would finish with double-digit wins last season when they looked at what the roster was going to be? Maybe a handful?
I tweeted, back on March 31st, that this game isn’t played on paper. Let’s play 162 games and see where things are when the smoke clears. It’s still very early on in the Major League Baseball season and anything could happen. The Texas Rangers could very well fall on their faces and end up dead last in the division but I think that is highly unlikely.
Because Texas is going to get both Matt Harrison and Martin Perez back in the rotation, not to mention Josh Hamilton’s bat back in the lineup, and all three could be back before the All Star break. Derek Holland hasn’t progressed like the Rangers had hoped and may not be back until sometime in late July or early August, but if this team is still in the thick of things, and well within striking distance of the top of the division, getting him back for the home stretch will be huge.
What about the trade deadline? Who can the Rangers trade in order to bring in the pieces they need to put them on top of the AL West and allow them to make a deep run through October?
There’s a big part of me that would love to dangle Elvis Andrus out there and see what kind of offer you can get but the lack of depth at the position, at least bringing someone to take his spot if Andrus is traded, makes me think twice about it. Could Rougned Odor or Hanser Alberto move over to the shortstop position and have the other playing second base? Is that something that could be done?
If you can trade Andrus, where do you send him and what would the Rangers want in return?
The first team, and general manager, to talk to is the San Diego Padres and A.J. Preller. With the way things are going in San Diego right now there’s little doubt that they could turn into sellers before too long especially if this free fall continues and the current six game deficit turns into double-digits over the next few weeks. There is no shortage of players Preller could be ready to unload but, like Rangers’ general manager Jon Daniels, he won’t just give a player away without getting the best deal in return in order to build that franchise back into a year in and year out contender.
So, assuming that the Rangers are dangling Andrus as trade bait, would you ask for another reliever to bolster your bullpen? Maybe somebody like Craig Kimbrel who gives you a lockdown closer at the back end of your bullpen?
There has been previous interest in Justin Upton, would the Rangers be willing to kick the tires on him again and turn Leonys Martin into an outfield role player? A “fourth outfielder” so to speak?
At this point, one has to wonder if you break up a good thing. Look at what this team has accomplished thus far. It’s been nothing short of amazing and it’s been a lot of fun to watch. Not only is this Rangers’ squad exceeding expectations, they’ve done all of it with Yu Darvish gone for the year, Holland done until possibly August, Hamilton on the shelf for at least the next two to three weeks, Adrian Beltre missing another week or two, and Delino DeShields getting hurt just a few nights ago.
Different guys have stepped up every night and have come up with big hits or big time pitching efforts and first year manager Jeff Banister has them believing anything is possible.
With that said, are the Rangers just a piece or two away from being true contenders in the American League? If that is the case, where do you go to find those pieces and what are you prepared to give up?
That question could be debated over the next month and a half until the trade deadline.