Texas Rangers May Soon Face A Logjam In The Lineup
The team with the second worst offense in baseball is ironically facing a logjam in its lineup. The Texas Rangers are riding a four-game winning streak that has seen the offense come to life for the first time this year.
This resurrection at the plate has been buoyed by the insertion into the lineup of first baseman Kyle Blanks and outfielder Carlos Peguero. In eight games this year, Blanks is hitting .375 with three homeruns and five RBI. Though Peguero is only hitting .239, he has started to heat up hitting three homers in his last four games.
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The issue facing the Rangers is what to do when Mitch Moreland and Josh Hamilton are ready to return from the disabled list. Moreland could be ready to return within a week and Hamilton is on pace to join the club sometime this month.
While having options is always a positive, Rangers’ manager Jeff Banister will have some tough decisions to make. Let’s start with the outfield.
When Hamilton is ready, he will certainly be the primary left fielder meaning Jake Smolinski will likely be optioned to AAA Round Rock. However, there is still a numbers issue. The Rangers will have too many outfielders on their roster. Hamilton, Leonys Martin (when he returns from his sprained wrist) and Shin-Soo Choo will be the everyday outfielders.
That leaves one spot for two players, neither of whom the Texas Rangers can option to the minors without losing them. Peguero has value as a power-hitting outfielder who is an athletic defender. He would be the perfect left fielder on days that Hamilton is the DH or gets a day off. However, he is out of minor league options meaning he could be claimed by another team if Texas options him back to the minors.
Meanwhile, Delino Deshields Jr. is a Rule 5 draft pick meaning that he must remain on the Rangers active roster for the entire season or he can be reclaimed by his former team, the Houston Astros. The speedy outfielder has proven to be an asset in the field and on the bases solidifying his place on the team.
But the numbers issue does not end in the outfield. When Moreland returns, the Rangers will have three first basemen. Prince Fielder is obviously going nowhere and Kyle Blanks has provided a tremendous lift to the offense. However, Mitch Moreland was hitting .304 at the time of his injury.
So what are the Rangers’ options? The first solution is to platoon three players at the designated hitter spot. Two of the three would likely be Hamilton and Fielder while the other might be Moreland who was the team’s primary DH to open the season.
But even if the Rangers rotate the DH spot as a way to give players a day off, they can’t carry five outfielders and three first basemen on the roster. T.R. Sullivan of TexasRangers.com reports that the Rangers are considering moving Blanks to the outfield where he has played 169 games in his career.
This would only be a temporary fix until Hamilton returns. The Rangers simply can’t keep Peguero, Blanks and Moreland on the roster. So who goes? If Blanks proves to be capable of playing a corner outfield spot, he would likely remain on the roster due to his versatility.
Peguero could possibly make it through waivers and return to AAA due to his age and his lackluster performances in previous big league call-ups. This exact scenario played out with former Ranger slugger, Nelson Cruz who cleared waivers for the same reasons.
Moreland and Blanks have almost identical career numbers in the field and at the plate. So a solution might be to trade one of these players for a prospect or a bullpen arm.
If this is the route the Rangers take, my money is on Moreland being dealt. He has drawn interest from teams in the past, especially the Pittsburgh Pirates who are managed by former Texas hitting coach Clint Hurdle. Moreland would likely bring a better return than Blanks because he has not been a journeyman and has shown flashes of being a solid hitter.
Also consider that Blanks is a right-handed hitter in a lineup that features six left-handed bats (if you include Hamilton and Martin). Keeping Blanks might provide balance and another right-handed power hitter to compliment third baseman Adrian Beltre. Perhaps, the Rangers can nurse this issue until closer to the trade deadline and include Moreland or Blanks in a July trade that is likely to bring more return than a trade in early May when teams are yet to become desperate.
The Rangers’ offense is finally starting to show signs of life after a disastrous April. Now, as the team begins to return to health, Jon Daniels and Jeff Banister will be forced to make difficult decisions about which hitters they keep and who they must risk losing.