Texas Rangers MLB Trade Deadline Targets: Tarik Skubal and Pablo Lopez

Jul 13, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Tarik Skubal (29) pitches against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 13, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Tarik Skubal (29) pitches against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports /

In the midst of what could be one of the biggest trades in MLB history for Juan Soto, the Texas Rangers find themselves deep in the thick of rumors for the slugger. This franchise-altering trade would be as exciting as it gets, but that shouldn’t be the only, or even main focus, for the Texas Rangers this summer.

The Rangers are 4-11 in their past 15 games, not only slipping out of the wild card chase but further away from a .500 record as well. This isn’t completely unexpected though, as this team was not planning on competing for the playoffs following a 102-loss season. It has, however, highlighted the short comings that are leading to their demise.

An outfield upgrade, and preferably a middle of the order bat, is still a major need for this team. With Adolis Garcia as a staple, the emergence of Leody Taveras and the planned move of Duran/Smith to the outfield when Josh Jung is ready to take over at third, the more pressing need would be starting pitching.

Yes, the Texas Rangers arguably the best collection of starting pitching prospects ever seen in their organizational ranks with Jack Leiter, Kumar Rocker, Brock Porter, Cole Winn, Owen White and Cole Ragans, but they’re all just that right now: prospects. Some will inevitably be traded, others will bust. That is the nature of prospects.

Jon Gray, for example, is a good pitcher. He was the third overall selection in 2013 and was ranked as high as 16th according to MLB Pipeline Top 100. For all intents and purposes, his aspirations were as high, if not higher than the Rangers’ current prospects. He is a good pitcher but a cautionary tale for the ace-caliber hope we have in these young arms.

In the meantime, there have been a handful of controllable and cheap quality pitchers reportedly on the trading block that could be had for the right price.

Texas Rangers MLB Trade Deadline Targets: Tarik Skubal

Skubal doesn’t have the pedigree most others that would make this list would have, A ninth-round selection of Detroit in 2016, he was only ranked as high as 20th in their organization before making his debut in 2020. Pedigree can mean very little though when performance on the field is shown. Skubal has improved his ERA each the last three seasons moving from a 5.63 ERA in ’20 to a 4.34 ERA in ’21 and now carries a 3.67 ERA in ’22.

Skubal has profusion of pitches at his disposal having a two and four-seam fastball that can touch 100 mph, a slider that regularly sees 88 mph, a changeup that hovers at 83 mph and a curveball he mixes in at 76 mph. He uses the repertoire to go after hitters leading to a 9.0 K/9 rate. He also isn’t a free agent until 2027, the same as Dane Dunning. That kind of affordable contract with control for years on an up-and-coming starting pitcher won’t come cheap, though. Dunning could make for a decent comparison on what it would take to acquire. Unfortunately, the Rangers don’t have a Cy Young Contending pitcher to offer, nor would Detroit be interested in that.

It would make sense that when trading a pitcher, you’d want a pitcher back, but rumors are that Detroit is more interested in acquiring talented hitters. This may keep our top six starters safe, but would put the focus on the top hitters in Texas organization. Detroit would prefer a 3B/OF, but they most likely see Foscue and Acuna as upgrades over their current options. Theoretically, a trade could look like:

The question is would Detroit even accept this trade? If that’s Texas best offer, they’re probably not landing Skubal. Other teams out there will most likely offer more.

If the Texas Rangers absolutely feel they need Skubal in their rotation for the years to come, you’d need to upgrade Foscue to Duran or Smith/ Zavala to either Dustin Harris or Evan Carter. It’ll take a steep price to acquire Skubal, but if Jon Daniels and Chris Young envision him starting a post-season game, they’ll pay up.

Texas Rangers MLB Trade Deadline Targets: Pablo Lopez

Lopez, much like Skubal doesn’t come from a high pedigree meaning he’s earned his status with quality performances. Lopez was a 2012 international signee of the Seattle Mariners before being traded to Miami in 2016. He never saw a ranking next to his name as a prospect, but that meant very little to Lopez. Lopez made his debut in 2018. He has consistently improved every year since leading to a career best 3.07 ERA in 2021.

This year, he’s looking to top that mark as he currently sports a 3.03 ERA. Lopez doesn’t quite have the strike out material as Skubal, but it is still above average at a 9.7 K/9 rate. The pitch mix isn’t as plentiful either as he leans on a 4-seam fast ball that tops out at 97 mph and a slider. Occasionally, he’ll mix it up with a change up or curve ball as he needs. One last knock on Lopez is the team control. He is a free agent after the 2025 season, two years fewer than Skubal.

Nonetheless, Pablo Lopez should be a coveted pitcher. His performances on the mound include a MLB-record nine strikeouts to start a game in 2020 against the eventual World Series champion Atlanta Braves that included Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson.

One major caveat here is that the Marlins don’t HAVE to deal Lopez, and there would even more suitors for him. Not only teams looking for controllable starters, but playoff contenders who would want him to start in a series.

A trade package could be constructed similarly to a Skubal one given the Marlins don’t need nor do they want any younger starting pitchers and would prefer third basemen and outfielders, so it starts with Ezequiel Duran. Josh Smith doesn’t quite have the loud tools that Duran does and if the Fish aren’t getting Jung, then Duran is the lead guy. He would need to be accompanied by two other players most likely another top-12 guy and a mid-tier player.

Perhaps Miami would rather have Leody Taveras over Harris, but this is how it starts.

It’s doubtful Miami could be conned into taking Foscue instead of Duran, especially given the other offers they’ll receive, but the other two parts are negotiable. With Duran as the MLB-ready piece, they’d require it opens things up to making moves. Perhaps they’ve liked what they’ve seen from Bubba Thompson, given an athletic outfielder would be one of their wants. Or maybe Aaron Zavala would be enough to pair with Maximo Acosta.

In any case, the parameters are there for a deal to be made, but in order to net us the big fish (no pun intended) that is Lopez, Duran would be their center piece.

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