An Underrated Texas Rangers Trade Target in Left Field
The Texas Rangers haven’t had a reliable bat in left field since David Murphy in the early 2010s. This Minnesota Twin could be an answer to their problem.
Since 2010, the Texas Rangers have seen 10 different men start in left field on Opening Day. From Josh Hamilton to Ryan Rua, Jurickson Profar to Ian Desmond, and David Dahl most recently.
Those are just the Opening Day starters, too. The Rangers also ran Jeff Baker, Mike Napoli, Nick Solak, Mitch Moreland, and even catcher Bryan Holliday out there.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Texas Rangers need help in the outfield, and with a roster currently comprised of Leody Taveras, Adolis Garcia, Eli White, Zach Reks, and the Calhouns (Cole and Willie), don’t be surprised if the Rangers look to add to their outfield depth.
As it stands right now, the outfield trio will look like this from left to right: Willie Calhoun, Adolis Garcia, and Kole Calhoun. But how sure are the Texas Rangers that all three of those guys can stay healthy in the Calhoun’s cases and repeat a strong season like El Bombi had last year? Probably not very high.
Of course, the Rangers could tack onto that half a billion-dollar bill they’ve accrued this offseason by signing the likes of Seiya Suzuki out of the NPB, former Met Michael Conforto, or big-time slugger Nicholas Castellanos. There is also the trade market. Could they consider bringing back Joey Gallo off of a down year? Potentially, but if they wanted to do that, why not wait a year when he hits free agency.
I suggest looking at the American League Central, a division largely dominated by the White Sox, but could be considered wide-open by some. Let’s take a look at the 2021 AL Central’s cellar-dwelling team, the Minnesota Twins, and look at one outfielder in his prime that could benefit the Texas Rangers’ group.
Byron Buxton is the centerpiece in the Twin’s outfield, signing a massive seven-year, $100 million extension before the league implemented the lockout. A rebuilding team sitting in limbo with a star player and two above-average prospects needing playing time. Count them. One, two, three outfield spots. Alex Kiriloff, Buxton, and Trevor Larnach making up the Twins outfield.
Where does the German-born Max Kepler fit into their plans? Well, it’s hard to say, making him a prime target for a team in need of outfield assistance.
Texas Rangers could turn to the Minnesota Twins’ Max Kepler to upgrade their outfield
Kepler has always flown under-the-radar across Major League Baseball, and the 29-year old lefty could make a promising piece to help build around in Arlington.
Coming off of a down year in 2021, Kepler hit .211 but also clubbed 19 home runs, drove in 54, and stole 10 bases over 121 games. The fleet-footed Kepler brings a lot of value but may get replaced as the Twins decide to get a little younger.
However, even off of a down year, Kepler is only two seasons away from hitting .252/.336/.519/.855 and finishing 20th in the MVP race. In 134 games, he hit 32 doubles, 36 homers, drove in 90, and had a strikeout to walk ratio of 99/60. Not a bad season by any means.
Max Kepler also provides some versatility to the lineup, able to play all three outfield spots and play first base in a pinch. He has a career .992 fielding percentage and finished best in the league among outfielders in both 2019 and 2021.
According to Baseball-Reference, Kepler is projected to bounce back in 2022. Looking at a slash line of .229/.316/.443/.759 while hitting 23 doubles, 22 homers, and driving in 61.
Ranger fans, you ought to know that Kepler also comes with at least two years of control left for $15.25 million, maybe three if the team decided to pick up his $10 million team option in 2024.
Productive, affordable, and controllable are three things that make Max Kepler an interesting trade target for the Texas Rangers, but will undoubtedly cost the Rangers a little more to get him.
The Twins have loaded their farm system with pitching. You can never have too much of it, right? Their top two prospects are both shortstops, former #1 overall pick in 2017 Royce Lewis and the versatile Austin Martin, picked 5th by the Blue Jays in 2020 and dealt to Minnesota in the Jose Berrios deal last summer.
While the Rangers on the other hand are loaded with both middle infielders and a bevy of talented pitching prospects, we’ll need to get creative to make this deal happen. Let’s give them a little bit of everything.
One thing the Twins struggled with last season was catching. Mitch Garver has seen a dip in production, and their two 24-year old backups both hit below .200 last season. The Rangers, however, have two of the best defensive and pitch-framing catchers in all of baseball in Jonah Heim and Jose Trevino. I like Heim’s age and upside a little better than Trevino’s, and with Sam Huff on the way, I think Jose Trevino is going to the Twins.
On the farm, let’s deal from some surplus. All of Josh Jung, Jack Leiter, Dustin Harris, Josh Smith, and Cole Winn are untouchable. Hanging up the phone if they’re remotely on your radar, Minnesota. Let’s look at the next tier down. That would be in the Justin Foscue, Luisangel Acuna, Owen White range.
I’ll start with pitching. Yes, the Twins are loaded, but too much pitching isn’t a bad thing. I’d be willing to give up a guy like Ronny Henriquez, Yerry Rodriguez, or Glenn Otto. Take your pick, Minnesota. But for simplicity of things, I’ll give you Glenn Otto. He’s the most polished of the bunch, has some big league experience, and can be filthy when he’s got his fastball/slider combo working.
I’m throwing utility man extraordinaire Trevor Hauver in, as well. He’s got a good left-handed swing, can play the infield and outfield, and posted a .274/.416/.473 line last season. He’s got an advanced eye at the plate and knows how to let the ball travel for some easy raw power. On-base machine with some pop plays everywhere and will soon be a part of the Twins organization.
Lastly, I’m also throwing in Jose Corniell, a right-handed pitcher received in the Rafael Montero trade with the Mariners. Only 18-years old, Corniell has the potential to be a rotation piece or a solid bullpen arm in the future. He’s 6’3 and has a solid three-pitch mix that could play at the big league level. He’s got a lot of life on his fastball with good movement, a pretty good slurve, and changeup and can pump them consistently for strikes. He’s the fourth and final piece headed to Minnesota.
Compared to some of the other guys on the market that would cost them $15-20 million a year, Kepler provides a decent opportunity to get an affordable, quality bat in the lineup without shaking up the entire farm system.
By acquiring Kepler, that allows the Rangers to DH Willie Calhoun full-time and gives guys like Leody Taveras and Eli White some more time to grow in the minor leagues.
The Texas Rangers would acquire a much-needed outfield bat for a solid defensive catcher, a big-league-ready starter, and two minor leaguers with really good upside. Keep in mind, Texas would be taking on the $25 million salary, assuming they pick up his option In 2024. I believe this could at least be the starting point for trade discussions between the two organizations.
Let us know how y’all feel about a potential Max Kepler trade for the Texas Rangers. If you have any trade ideas of your own, maybe changes to these, let us know on Twitter @NolanWritinFS and @PTylerHenderson.