In need of starting rotation depth and a lefty specialist out of the bullpen, the Texas Rangers could find their answers via a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Texas Rangers have jotted down controllable pitching on their trade season shopping list. They’ll be looking for a quality arm or two that can bolster the back-end of their rotation and perhaps their bullpen as they work to remain in contention. The premise brings your attention to starting pitcher Merrill Kelly and reliever Andrew Chafin of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Rangers’ side of the deal
Merrill Kelly is 7-7 on the year with a 3.99 ERA. He’s pitched 88 innings over 15 starts and has earned a decision in 14 of them. Only three times has he failed to pitch at least five innings, and he’s pitched at least seven innings in six outings this year.
If you’re wondering where this 30-year-old rookie came from, the answer is the Korea Baseball Organization. Following a season at AAA with the Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays’ organization) in 2014, he decided to take his talents to Korea, where he spent the next four years. Kelly accumulated 390 innings and a 3.64 ERA in his final two years of international baseball, earning him a contract with the Diamondbacks.
The D’Backs signed him to a two-year deal covering $5 million. They also have team options on the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
Andrew Chafin has been Mr. Consistent out of the Arizona bullpen over the past three seasons. He posted a 3.51 ERA over 51.1 innings in 2017 and a 3.10 ERA over 49.1 innings in 2018. He currently has a 3.22 ERA in 22.1 innings, right on pace with previous campaigns.
The left-handed thrower dominates left-handed hitters. He’s held lefties to a .222 batting average and .311 slugging percentage in 2019.
Diamondbacks’ side of the deal
Eli White is new to the Texas Rangers’ farm system. They acquired him in a three-team trade this past offseason, and he presently slots as the organization’s 16th ranked prospect. He’s a well-rounded player who boasts a nice glove at shortstop, a strong arm and a consistent bat. Power is not yet part of his game, but the wide alleys at Chase Field could be very friendly to him once he makes it to the bigs.
Scott Heineman was the Rangers’ minor league player of the year in 2018. He had a stellar season with the bat, as he slashed .306/.371/.445, hit 22 doubles and launched 12 home runs. He’s still making his way back from shoulder surgery, but he should return to game action sometime in July. The 26-year-old was thought to have a shot at making the major league roster entering spring training. Injury obviously got in the way, but he’ll be knocking on a major league door again very soon.
Texas may need to add another prospect to get a deal done with the Diamondbacks. Kelly is under team control for the next three seasons and Chafin has another year left of arbitration. Arizona is one game under .500, still in the NL Wild Card hunt. Thus, they won’t be desperate to move on from either pitcher. Their stance could change though if they begin to fall back as the calendar turns to July.
Why the trade makes sense
For the Texas Rangers’ sake, they need pitching help. Mike Minor and Lance Lynn have held their own at the top of the rotation; however, the rest of the crew has been very hit and miss. Kelly has proven an ability to pitch deep into games, plus he’s displayed a rather impressive repertoire. He has a 112 ERA+ and allows 1.2 HR/9, which is a fine number considering he frequents a notorious hitter’s ballpark.
Texas also needs a lefty specialist in the bullpen. They’ve had a difficult time finding a reliable southpaw. Brett Martin is still on the 25-man roster, but left-handed hitters have tapped him to a .303 batting average. Jeffrey Springs just hit the IL with left biceps tendinitis. Chafin is a proven lefty specialist. He could fill a role that has been missing all year-long in the ‘pen.
The Diamondbacks would get two players that are on the verge of making it to the majors. They lack on-the-fringe middle infielders in their pipeline, and a little competition for Nick Ahmed could do them some good. That’s where shortstop Eli White comes into play.
CF Jarrod Dyson and RF Adam Jones will both be free agents at the end of the 2019 season. Arizona has a few outfield prospects towards the top of their rankings, but only one is projected to join the team by 2020. Scott Heineman could be a productive stop-gap for a year or two, capable of playing a corner or center field. Who knows, if he’s given the chance, he could earn some staying power — he has that kind of ability.