Keynan Middleton - rental
The first option for the Rangers to consider is Keynan Middleton. The 6'3" - 215lb righty, has a 95 mph four-seam fastball but has relied heavily on his changeup this season. In fact, Middleton has thrown the change 43.9% of the time this season compared to 29% sliders and 27.1% four-seam fastballs.
Middleton started the year as one of the hottest relievers in baseball. From his first outing on April 11th thru June 9th, he appeared in 23 games. In that timeframe, Middleton pitched 21 1/3 innings, struck out 28, walked 7, had a batting average against of .195, and a 1.27 ERA. Since that time, he has pitched in 14 games, thrown 13 innings, struck out 16, walked eight, allowed four home runs, had a batting average against of .255, and a 6.92 ERA.
In a world of what have you done for me lately, this trade target seems like a bit of a stretch. Now, if the Rangers scouts have identified a reason for the lack of production over the last six weeks, then they may take a flier on Middleton. Or perhaps he is paired with one of the other relievers to be listed or even one of the White Sox starters that will be available. The price for Middleton should not be that high as he is a rental that has been struggling lately. He has quickly gone from a huge trade chip, to one that might not make sense for a team looking to make a deep playoff run in 2023.
Joe Kelly - 2024 $9.5M club option or $1M buyout
Joe Kelly is a name that has been flying around on the Twitterverse for quite some time as a possible fit for the Rangers. And why not? He checks a lot of the boxes that GM Chris Young is bound to be looking for when searching for bullpen help. First off, he is a hard throwing right-handed pitcher with lots of skins on the wall. As a two-time World Series champion ('18 Red Sox, '20 Dodgers), he has been in some of the most pressure-packed situations that a reliever can be in.
He is also not a closer, nor has he ever been one. What he has done, and enjoys doing, is pitching in the high leverage situations, no matter the inning. That has been his deal for quite some time (he is 35 years old) and one that he has done well with. Kelly is also not a fan of the Astros and that would make him an instant hit with Rangers fans.
After a brief stint on the IL with arm tightness, Kelly was added back to the roster on Saturday and pitched the sixth inning against the Twins on Sunday afternoon. He looked electric in his one inning of work. Kelly did give up a hard double after falling behind to the second batter of the inning, but he also struck out the side. His fastball was sitting 98 to 100 mph and his curveball was sharp. The Rangers' scouts will no doubt be watching to see how he performs and feels over the next week.