Rumors: Nationals interested in Texas Rangers reliever Jose Leclerc
By Kenneth Nash
The Texas Rangers are reportedly getting interest in reliever, Jose Leclerc, with the Washington Nationals specifically noted as a potential buyer.
Despite having a down year that saw him lose his role as the Texas Rangers closer, Jose Leclerc is still drawing plenty of interest around the league. Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported early Monday morning that the Washington Nationals have shown an interest in the hard-throwing righty.
It’s hard to gauge what Jose Leclerc’s value is right now. This time last year, Leclerc was emerging as one of the top closers in the game at just 24-years old. He was getting trade interest then but Texas viewed him as their closer of the future and opted to hold onto him, signing him to an extension this offseason. We would assume that his value would’ve diminished considerably now that he holds an 4.34 ERA in 49 appearances. However his stuff is still nasty and his FIP actually suggests he’s been better than his ERA with a 3.46 marker.
His extension also actually probably made him more tradeable despite his struggles. He’s now under contract through 2024 with the last 2 years of that deal each having a team option at $6 million in 2023, and $6.25 million in 2024. That would carry him through his age 30 season without ever even approaching double digits in annual salary. For a guy that has flashed what he did in 2018 which was a 1.56 ERA and 1.90 FIP in 59 games, that’s a bargain if he can regain that form.
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Additionally, Leclerc has actually bounced back as of late. If you remove his blown save yesterday which was his 3rd day in a row to pitch and 4th game in 5 days, his numbers are quite good over the past couple of months. Since the beginning of May up until Saturday’s outing, Leclerc had an ERA of 2.70 and a FIP of 2.36 in 36.2 innings. He had a 14.24 K/9 rate and a WHIP of just 0.87 in that stretch. That’s not quite the numbers we’d seen from him last year but that’s still fairly dominant and an extended trend in the right direction. In his last 8 appearances prior to Sunday afternoon, Leclerc had not allowed a run while allowing just a single baserunner.
In terms of what Texas could back for Leclerc this summer, I truly am just guessing. Elite, controllable closers can net big time prospects, just look at what the Pirates want for Felipe Vazquez. However, Leclerc isn’t really even a closer right now and despite a trend in the right direction, he hasn’t been elite. With the Nationals, they don’t have the deepest farm system in the world and only feature a couple of Top 100 prospects. I’d like to think the Rangers could snag one of those guys be it SS Carter Kieboom (#22) or INF Luis Garcia (#80). I’d have to imagine getting Kieboom is unlikely at best and really Texas would have to start with Luis Garcia. Washington’s top pitching prospect, Jackson Rutledge, isn’t eligible to be traded having just been drafted.
I’d expect Texas to ask for Kieboom but get rebuffed. Perhaps Garcia plus RHP Wil Crowe could get a package started for the Rangers but even then, are the Nationals willing to give up their most advanced pitching prospect? I’m really not sure. I have to wonder if the Nationals and Rangers can come to terms on a deal that would be worth it for both sides.