Texas Rangers pull off surprising trade for Nate Lowe

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 17: Nate Lowe #35 of the Tampa Bay Rays bats against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 17, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 17: Nate Lowe #35 of the Tampa Bay Rays bats against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 17, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /

In an unexpected transaction, the Texas Rangers may have found their long-term solution at first base.

The trade market at the 2020 Winter Meetings has come up all Texas Rangers to this point.

After sending veteran right-hander Lance Lynn to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, Rangers fans were wondering what their team would do for an encore.

How about a matinee performance featuring a trade for a slugger with tantalizing power?

That’s precisely what Texas did on Thursday, acquiring first baseman Nate Lowe from the Tampa Bay Rays in a trade involving six players.

Lowe, who made his major league debut with Tampa Bay in 2019, burst onto the scene with seven home runs, a .779 OPS and a 107 OPS+ over his first 50 games.

The slugging first baseman was a 13th round draft choice by the Rays in 2016 out of Mississippi State University. He quickly ascended up the prospect ranks in Tampa, even reaching Top-10 status in their farm system at one point.

Lowe was ultimately blocked by other players in Tampa Bay during his development, meaning he was never going to get regular playing time there.

At least not the kind of exposure he’ll receive in Arlington.

In terms of the type of player the Rangers are receiving, Lowe possesses immense power to all fields while posting above average offensive statistics across the board (evidenced by his career 107 OPS+).

At just 25-years-old, the former Mississippi State product will be under contractual control until 2027. He also has yet to hit arbitration, meaning the Rangers will have him on the cheap.

There’s no question that Lowe has a superb power tool, but he is a bit defensively challenged.

The offense should more than make up for that deficit, however.

The trade certainly comes off as a bit curious for the Rangers, as Lowe isn’t a definitive upgrade over incumbent first base starter Ronald Guzman at the moment. Both players posted similar OPS metrics in 2020 (.750 and .749, respectively), with the latter having gradually improved his numbers over the last several years.

Guzman also plays better defense than his new teammate, a factor to consider since the Rangers’ new infield configuration will feature more defensively apt players in 2021 including Isiah Kiner Falefa and Nick Solak.

Of course, Lowe has significantly more upside overall than Guzman, which likely played into the Rangers’ logic in concocting this deal.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this trade for the Rangers, though, was their willingness to part ways with legitimate prospect talent.

Osleivis Basabe and Heriberto Hernandez, two of the players returning to Tampa Bay in the trade, were listed as Texas’ 20th and 24th best prospects, respectively.

While the team has organizational depth at the positions Hernandez and Basabe play, the Rangers are not quite at the point of their rebuild where they should be chasing big-league talent, especially if it means parting ways with future assets.

At the same time, Nate Lowe is precisely the type of player the Rangers would need to pursue if trading prospects was ever on the table, given his years of control, low price and tremendous upside.

The Rangers are also bringing a Texas kid home in the deal with the acquisition of first baseman Jake Guenther, formerly of Texas Christian University (TCU).

Overall, the deal seems like a mutually beneficial one for both sides, as Texas receives two players with decent upside (one with big-league experience in Lowe) and Tampa Bay boosts their farm system with three new prospects.