2. Jose Leclerc
I’m not sure which player will be the most unpopular trade on this list. Leclerc or the one coming third, but no doubt Leclerc being traded will generate plenty of angst from the Texas faithful. Trading away a 25-year-old closer who statistically, was a top reliever in the game last year won’t win Jon Daniels any more friends, but it could win him some quality prospects.
Leclerc is coming off what amounts to a break out season in 2018 where he was a great reliever up to the point that the Texas Rangers traded then closer, Keone Kela. After that trade, he became an elite closer. Featuring a hard fastball, Leclerc posted a minuscule 1.56 ERA in 59 appearances for the Rangers last year. In the second half of the season, when Leclerc mostly acted as the 9th inning man, Leclerc appeared in 25 games, held opponents to a .110 average, had an ERA of just 0.73 and struck out 37 in 24. 2 innings while racking up 12 saves. He was in a word, unhittable.
He was discussed as a piece that could get moved before the deadline last season but the Rangers opted to hold onto him. It’s been reported that offers are coming in for the young reliever but nothing has caused Texas to pull the trigger yet.
Why would the Rangers be willing to deal such a surefire piece this offseason? Especially when, like Calhoun, he’s under team control for so long. Leclerc is set to hit arbitration next offseason but won’t become a free agent until after the 2022 season. However, at this point, Jose Leclerc is an unnecessary luxury.
For a team that will likely be battling to keep from hitting the 100-loss mark in 2019, a lockdown closer isn’t a need. Not when your starting rotation and your starting pitcher prospects are so thin. What good is wasting a top tier closer on a team with a losing record for likely the next two seasons? Generally, relievers are easier found on the free agent market and easier to develop as well. At this point, it’s worth dealing Leclerc to set the team up long-term rather than have him closing out meaningless games.
Leclerc should pull in a pretty big haul and it may be wise to capitalize on his success from last season. However, if Texas is willing to gamble that he’ll be as good for the first half of 2019, it may be worth holding onto him until the deadline.