With the Rangers’ surge into contention in the American League West, many baseball writers are suggesting that Texas will be in the market for a marquee starting pitcher at this year’s trade deadline. Though the Ranger’s starters have been one of the best rotations in the league this year, many feel that Texas cannot contend for the playoffs without a so-called ace at the top of the rotation.
"ESPN’s senior baseball writer Jason Stark sees the Rangers as a player for the Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hammels predicting that, “Hamels winds up in Texas with minutes left before the deadline.” Link"
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In 2010, Texas traded with Philadelphia for ace Cliff Lee who led the Rangers to the organization’s first American League pennant. However, recent baseball history suggests that trading for a big name pitcher does not guarantee postseason success.
In 2012, Texas traded for right-hander Ryan Dempster of the Chicago Cubs. Prior to the trade, Dempster’s earned run average (ERA) was a sparkling 2.52 but in 12 games with Texas, his ERA ballooned to 5.09 and the Rangers fell to the Baltimore Orioles in the first-ever American League wild card game.
Last season, two teams made trades for front line starters only to see postseason disappointment. Oakland acquired two top starters, Jon Lester from the Boston Red Sox and Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs. Despite these moves, Oakland folded down the stretch and lost the wild card Game to Kansas City.
The Detroit Tigers also considered themselves one pitcher away from being a title contender last season so they traded for David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. In eleven games, Price was mediocre with a 3.59 ERA and 4-4 record. The Tigers failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs being swept by the Baltimore Orioles.
There is no guarantee that trading for an ace will lead to postseason success. Likewise, it should be asked if the Rangers are truly a contender even if they add a top tier starter.
Despite their recent success, the Rangers are a flawed team that needs more than a starting pitcher. The lineup desperately needs another powerful right-handed bat in addition to third baseman Adrian Beltre and the inconsistent bullpen could use an upgrade or two.
Acquiring a bat and a bullpen arm makes more sense than a starting pitcher. The price of acquiring a starter at the trade deadline is going to be astronomical meaning that it could put the organization’s farm system at risk of being gutted.
Since Hammels is under contract until 2018, the Phillies will ask for a king’s ransom from Texas. The first words out of the mouth of Phillies’ general manger Ruben Amaro Jr. when negotiations begin will be “Joey Gallo”.
After Jon Daniels stops laughing, Amaro will ask for Chi Chi Gonzalez. Again, Daniels will say no and Amaro will begin to compile a list of top minor league prospects he would like to pilfer from the Texas system.
Philadelphia will settle for nothing less than a package that includes the Rangers best pitching prospect (now that Gonzalez is in the majors) Jake Thompson who has a sub 2.00 ERA in his last 40 innings at AA Frisco. Then, Amaro will want catcher-of-the-future Jorge Alfaro and another top player, perhaps outfielder Nomar Marza or right handed pitcher Luis Ortiz who was the Rangers’ top draft pick in 2014.
While the price for Samardzija or Kazmir will not be as steep, neither is a true ace and both have their warts. Plus, Texas should be hesitant to trade with Oakland for Kazmir because Oakland’s farm system is depleted after last season’s trading spree and the last thing Texas should do is help their division rival replenish their system.
In 2011, Texas came within one strike of winning the World Series with a rotation featuring C.J. Wilson as the best starter. With the imminent return of Martin Perez and the presumed return of Derek Holland later in the season, Texas should avoid the temptation to make a huge splash by overpaying for another starting pitcher.
The current Texas rotation is more than capable of winning the mediocre American League West. If all are healthy, Texas will be able to compile a 4-man playoff rotation from a list of at least seven capable candidates (Yovani Gallardo, Colby Lewis, Nick Martinez, Holland, Perez, Wandy Rodriguez and Gonzalez) giving the Rangers enough options to create a rotation capable of winning the American League pennant.
Texas is soon to have a glut of starting pitchers from which to complete a quality rotation. They should not mortgage the future on a presumed ace pitcher that will not guarantee them any post-season success.