Just a few moments before Tuesday’s trade deadline, the Rangers sent two prospects over to the Cubs in exchange for Ryan Dempster, complimenting the other trade the Rangers recently completed with the Cubs, who sent over Geovany Soto.
On the Rangers side, the prospects they sent over weren’t exactly world-beaters. The team managed to hang onto Martin Perez, Mike Olt, and Jurickson Profar. However, they did have to send Christian Villaneuva, who is a good 3B prospect. Villaneuva was rated as the 100th best prospect by Baseball America, and probably belongs in the Rangers’ top ten prospects. While losing him seems like it might hurt, there isn’t a position the Rangers have in greater abundance in the minor leagues than 3rd base, so I’m not all that worried about it. Otherwise, the two pitchers they gave up, Jake Brigham and Kyle Hendricks, are solid pitching prospects that probably won’t haunt the Rangers.
I’m not very worried about what we sent over, but I’m not blown away by what we got back either. Ryan Dempster has had a terrific season so far, pitching 104 innings with a 2.25 ERA. Unfortunately, he looks primed for a serious regression. His FIP is 3.42, and its not hard to see where the disparity is coming from. His left-on-base%, which for virtually his entire career has been at or around 70%, is currently at 85% for 2012. Additionally, his batting average on balls in play, which for his career has been at .300, is at .242. He’s also been getting kind of lucky on his home run rate, but moving to Rangers ballpark will correct that in a hurry anyway.
The other acquisition, Geovany Soto, is sort of the opposite case. The catcher had a stellar beginning to his career, winning National League Rookie of the Year honors in 2008. The three seasons following that were good but not great, but he is presently on pace for his least valuable season yet. He is definitely getting unlucky: a .219 BABIP compared to a career .300, and slightly diminished power output, suggest he could be ready for a return to some kind of groove, where he gets himself back to league average or so. Soto is also a somewhat cost-controlled commodity, who is entering his final year of arbitration, unlike Ryan Dempster, who is a free agent after this season.
Obviously, the return for the prospects isn’t a shining light in the darkness that was the Rangers’ July. There are no ace pitchers, no powerful first basemen riding in to save the flickering division lead. Nevertheless, in context, the transactions were necessary, and should ultimately help the team.
Consider, for example, who Soto is replacing. Yorvit Torrealba, in addition to being poor behind the plate and on the basepaths, also is the hopefully not very proud owner of a 70 wRC+, right around Soto’s 67; however, Torrealba hasn’t been hurt by bad luck on balls in play. If Soto can go out there an be an actual player contributing value to the team, he is already a significant improvement over Torrealba, who has been just under replacement level.
Dempster is even more critical to the success of this team. The Rangers’ starting rotation has been badly depleted by injury first to Colby Lewis, and then to Neftali Feliz, both of whom are now out for the season. Roy Oswalt, brought on to help out, has been, in a word, not incredible from an ERA standpoint. Its not clear that this is entirely his fault; his BABIP is around .409, which is obviously enormous, his LOB% is a meager 66%, his HR rate is a colossal 18%, all much worse than career averages. On the other hand, he has looked lost on the mound, folding under pressure, giving up big hits, and in general just not getting the job done. Hopefully Dempster will be able to lock down his spot and complete the Rangers rotation with a minimum of angst for the fans.
All in all, I think Rangers fans will end up being happy with the results of the Rangers’ trading with the Cubs. They worked hard to address the problems that exist, and we can look forward to valuable contributions the new members of the team.