The Texas Rangers are 13 games out of first place following an 8 game skid, which was finally snapped last night against the Twins. The Texas Rangers’ playoff odds are down to 1.2%. This season is officially lost. Texas will not win the division and will not win a wild card. All three teams outside the state of Texas in the AL West will finish higher than the Rangers in the standings. It is going to be a rough finish in Arlington.
This puts the Texas Rangers in an unusual situation. They may be sellers at the deadline. This is in an unusual position because they may not really need a complete rebuild. If Jon Daniels brings back players like Alex Rios and Joakim Soria on their club options and Texas bounces back from a freakish injury year then Texas could go right back to contending in 2015. Texas was supposed to be a formidable team in 2014. The front office added big offensive pieces to go with an improving pitching staff. With starters like Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland, Jurickson Profar, and Geovany Soto, coming back to the lineup and important bench pieces such as Kevin Kouzmanoff and Jim Adduci getting healthy the lineup could again be a top lineup in the AL. Not to mention that some current Rangers starters are playing hurt. It does not take a major league scout to see that Shin-Soo Choo is physically not 100%. He can barely put a ball in play and he is running like Adrian Beltre. Ron Washington should be fired if Choo opens 2015 on the disabled list. Why are we playing one of our stars on a bad ankle? Texas’s two top additions from the 2014 offseason are both banged up in 2014 and both should have a good chance to be fully healed for 2015 which would be significant for a pedestrian but not awful offense.
The pitching staff has been equally effected by the injury bug. The rotation is missing three important contributors in Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Martin Perez. This created a vacuum that also ended up hurting the bullpen. The pen is one of the worst in the AL due to losses to the rotation and to the disabled list. Alexi Ogando, Joe Ortiz, Neftali Feliz and Tanner Scheppers have all been hurt this year. Scheppers and Robbie Ross were converted into starters which ended up being a nightmare scenario where neither were effective, Scheppers got hurt and Ross became useless even to the bullpen. This has turned one of the best core of relievers last year into one of the worst this year.
Additionally, players like Leonys Martin, Michael Choice, Nick Martinez and Rougned Odor could really benefit from low pressure major league reps this year and be even better (some of them star caliber?) players in 2015. All of them could really improve from a disappointing 2014 campaign.
This makes the decision for the front office a peculiar one. On one hand, Daniels and Thad Levine have shown that they will work on the future as well as the present. The team could unload veterans and restock an already healthy minor league system in order to be prepared for the future. This makes sense because the important Rangers that would not be dealt, Beltre and Choo aside, are either in their prime or are very young. The Rangers can build around Perez, Holland and Darvish in the rotation along with Fielder, Martin, Profar and Odor in the field.
If Texas trades veterans and gets significant return, which is entirely reasonable, they could pad an already stacked minor league system. Texas has three promising minor league starters in Alex Gonzalez, Alec Asher and Luke Jackson. They also have potential stars still stashed away in the minors by way of Joey Gallo, Jorge Alfaro, and others. If Texas adds to these prospects they could have an incredible youth movement ala Houston and Washington without the extended stretch of cellar dwelling. Remember the new wild card setup means few teams are sellers and most teams are buyers. This means the few teams that are sellers can get far more in return for veteran players than they used to be able to get. More teams in contention drives up the demand for players while the supply of available players is falling. This means the sellers can get great packages of prospects back for their trades.
On the other hand, the Rangers could hold onto nearly everyone they have this year as mentioned above. Rios and Soria can be brought back and Texas could prop open the window of contention without much expense other than forgoing the possible prospects. This team is built for contention and the big three position players, Beltre, Choo, and Fielder, can all come back full strength next season. The Rangers still have plenty of financial flexibility meaning they could add pieces over the winter. Few star hitters are likely to be available but at least several starting pitchers are certain to hit the market. Imagine this Texas squad next year with a pitcher like James Shields, Jon Lester or Johnny Cueto added to the rotation; formidable indeed.
Chances are Texas will fall somewhere in between these two extremes. Players like Joakim Soria, Jason Frasor, Neal Cotts and Alex Rios are almost certain to be dealt away for nice pieces. These veterans are on short deals, are playing well and are replaceable over the offseason, whether internally or via free agent. Either way, Rangers fans keep your heads up, the Rangers Golden Era is just beginning.