Mercifully, the All-Star break is here. The Rangers have limped (been dragged?) into the break. They are now 19 games below .500 and 21 full games behind the Oakland A’s. With the worst record in baseball and worst run differential too, it seems as though 2014 has come to an end for the Rangers as contenders. But 2014 is not over altogether.
There are questions about what this first half means. Does it mean Jon Daniels has made a grave error going seemingly “all in” this off-season signing Shin-Soo Choo and trading for Prince Fielder? Does it mean Ron Washington has worn out his welcome in Arlington and the Rangers need a new man at the helm? Are the health issues the Rangers have faced correlated somehow or are they simply part of some terrible luck?
These questions cannot, with real certainty, be answered. But the first half is over: 95 games down and 67 to go. Here, I would like to cast aside what has been and look toward what will be. This is what I would like to see from the Rangers with their 67 games left:
Trade Alex Rios. True, Rios has been a big piece of the offense this season and helped keep the Rangers in the hunt early with quality hitting in the middle of the lineup. I believe, though, that he doesn’t fit the Rangers current and long term plans. Rios will be no help to the Rangers for the rest of this season considering their state as a team. Next year, the Rangers could pick up his 13.5 million (with a 1 million dollar buyout) dollar option and get some good production from him again theoretically. But the Rangers have spread themselves thin financially (i.e. Choo and Fielder) and I believe that that money is better spent on pitching (check out our rotation ERA if you need convincing). Rios has been a shot in the arm for nearly a full year as a Ranger, but he talent will be wasted this year and his value is superseded by other team needs.
Trade Joakim Soria. The names that have been coming up in rumors are Frasor, Cotts, and Soria. I believe the Rangers can contend next year, for that reason Soria is valuable to keep around with a relatively modest 7 million dollar option for next year. But I believe Jon Daniels to be a better seller than buyer and there will almost certainly be buyers. In 2007 Daniels turned Eric Gagne into David Murphy, Engel Beltre and Kason Gabbard, thereby fleecing Theo Epstein who would later get us back in both the Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza deals. Murphy became a quality major league player in Texas for more than a couple years and Beltre might still do the same. This deal lets me believe Daniels could hold out for a similar package giving the Rangers one or multiple pieces for 2015 and beyond.
Trade Cotts. Neal Cotts was beyond terrific last year and has been solid this season for the Rangers despite lots of use. His performance and left handedness makes him a piece to be coveted by several teams for a stretch run; should the return be right, I would support Jon Daniels pulling the trigger considering Cotts would be a free agent at seasons end regardless.
Shop Jason Frasor. I like Jason Frasor; he resigned with the Rangers early last offseason because he liked it here and took a potentially more modest deal than his market value suggested he was capable of getting. This, combined with his rough patch of late therein driving down his trade value, makes me less inclined to suggest a Frasor deal, but as always, if the price is right and the Rangers can add quality players then it would be a risk worth taking.
Let David Robertson and Engel Beltre and Jake Smolinski play. Choo has been poor in the field and very well could still be nursing his ankle. For the rest of the way, I would like to see these three players get looks in the outfield (both corner OF spots if Rios is traded). Michael Choice had a rough and not-so-brief chance in the first half and now I think it best to give the 28 year old Robertson, 25 year old Smolinski, and 24 year old Beltre play. 67 games could be enough to discern whether the Rangers have a David Murphy or a Richard Hidalgo.
To be clear, I do not believe the Rangers should have a fire sale. Retooling appears to be a more appropriate term in terms of the extraordinary injury related adversity they have dealt with. In my eyes Choo, Martin, Beltre, Andrus, Odor, Darvish, and Fielder are all capable of winning a pennant together. But the Rangers have to strengthen their chances for next year by reinvigorating the farm and assessing their situation looking toward 2015.
The offense should be better next year with a healthy Prince and Choo and Profar and Moreland. The pitching is far more troublesome. Given Martin Perez and Matt Harrison’s injuries, the Rangers, should they stand pat, would enter 2015 with a rotation beginning with just Darvish, Holland, Tepesch, and Martinez. That will not cut it. Whether it be through trading or signing, the rotation has to be better. Jon Daniels has taken heat for not bolstering the pitching depth this off season, he will not make the same mistake this time around.
In a sentence, with 67 remaining games, the Rangers need to evaluate their young offensive pieces, clear salary for an attempt to bolster the rotation down the road, replenish the farm following a stretch of contention-led trades, and scout thoroughly for the highest draft pick they will have a chance to sign in a decent while.