So in my last article, I wrote about how Zach Greinke was a lock to be on the Rangers. And, almost simultaneously as I had posted it, news manifested that he was dealt to the Angels for a mid-level package filled with the Angels best shortstop prospect, and two minor league right-handed pitchers. So, clearly I don’t know what I’m talking about. Shall we move on?
A few minutes before the deadline passed on July 31st, it became apparent the Rangers dealt 3rd base prospect Christian Villanueva and Myrtle Beach right-hander Kyle Hendricks for Chicago Cubs ace Ryan Dempster, arguably the best pitcher on the trade market outside of the aforementioned Greinke. So what does this all mean?
Well, first off, if you expected Dempster to keep up with his 2.25 National League ERA, you can quit with that false hope right now. The Rangers didn’t acquire him to be the “Ace” of the staff. In fact, they probably didn’t expect him to be much more than a #3 or 4 starter. Yes, he is an upgrade to the helpless Roy Oswalt experiment. But don’t expect much better than an ERA around 4.00 from here on out. He’s in a tougher league with better hitters, and rather than navigating around the pitcher’s slot in the lineup every time through, he’ll be forced to face the DH. And since Michael Young is already on his team, that’s going to be a challenge. It’s reasonable to expect a few glimpses of greatness, but he’s no Justin Verlander. (And no, I don’t think last night’s game against the Angels is any indication of how he’s going to pitch; that was a game they needed to win. And yet, they
The other big news in the last week are the additions of Geovany Soto (also from the Cubs), and Mike Olt (formerly of the AA Frisco Rough Riders). There was a lot of whining in the Rangers blogosphere that Soto really wasn’t that strong of an upgrade over the already established Yorvit
Torrealba, a well-liked teammate and solid #2 backup behind Mike Napoli. But if you really understand the logistics of the trade, all the Rangers had to give up for the better-defending, better-hitting Soto, was (according to Jamey Newberg) the #39 prospect in the system, Jake Brigham. There’s a lot of upside in that deal.
At the same token, the arrival of Mike Olt means we can expect a reduction in playing time with the purported Face Of The Franchise, Michael Young. It’s fairly evident if you’re one of the five people who reads this stuff, that I have a fairly high disdain for Young, as he has been one of the worst everyday players in baseball this season (-1.4 fWAR). (Only Jeff Francoeur is worse, at -1.7.) Olt’s strongest position is 3rd base, but since Adrian Beltre has that spot held down harder than some just-set concrete, we can expect Olt to see the majority of his time split between 1st base and DH, and in particular against left-handed pitching (such as last night with CJ Wilson on the bump). I’m not going to expect a ton of production from now until the regular season ends, but since the Rangers front office was so reluctant to move him in any of the trade deadline rumblings, I’m going to assume he outproduces Young at any position he covers. There is a lot of power upside with this guy.
We’re fresh off one of the most improbable series splits I can remember in the last five years, as the Rangers came back to win Game 3 of the Angels’ series after being down both 7-1, then 10-7 in extra innings. The division lead remains at 5.0 games over the Angels, and 4.5 over Oakland (who should be considered a lesser threat, depending on how dramatic you choose to be).
There are still two months left in the season, but I find it hard to fathom how any Rangers fan would feel anything less than confident at this stage. Now, let’s move forward.