The trade deadline has now passed for the 2023 season and what is left is a race between the two Texas teams who both made significant additions to their squad. Texas since June 30th has added Aroldis Chapman, Max Scherzer, Jordan Montgomery, Chris Stratton, and Austin Hedges. Houston added Kendall Graveman over the weekend and then on deadline day reacquired Justin Verlander in a trade with the New York Mets. These additions will have a significant impact on who wins the AL West.
The impact of the trades on the Texas Rangers' roster
Chris Young had one mission this deadline season and that was to "make the Texas Rangers better". It was clear from the moment that Jacob deGrom was lost for the season in addition to Jake Odorizzi before the season even started that starting pitching would need to be addressed.
Texas was rumored in on Justin Verlander late last week, but then that flipped after Scherzer's last start when he questioned the direction of the Mets' franchise. Talks had already been ongoing by that point, but they accelerated from there on Saturday afternoon to Texas being able to get Scherzer to waive his no-trade clause and agree to come to Arlington.
The Rangers were playing their last game in San Diego on Sunday afternoon when Texas was able to complete a trade with St. Louis for Jordan Montgomery and Chris Stratton. Montgomery is a left-handed pitcher who will show up ready to go every fifth day. He pitches deep into games and gives his team a chance to win nearly every time out. That reliability will go a long way toward helping this rotation over the final two months. Stratton is a veteran right-handed bullpen arm that is being brought in to alleviate the pressure on some of the Rangers' younger pitchers.
Today on deadline day the Rangers did make two trades. They made a trade with Pittsburgh for catcher Austin Hedges. The injury to Jonah Heim has taken away the only good defensive catcher Texas had. Hedges will give them a defensive first catcher who can help the pitchers on the staff better than Garver or Huff can. He is an excellent pitch framer much like Heim. He does not provide much on offense, but his defense will help until Heim is ready to resume playing regularly.
The final trade was done right before the buzzer and it was trading Spencer Howard to the Yankees for cash considerations. Texas needed a 40 man roster spot and instead of designating Howard for assignment, they traded him to New York for cash so that they could fit Hedges on the 40-man roster.
They did lose several good prospects in these trades. Luisangel Acuna went to the Mets in the Scherzer trade. Thomas Saggese and Tekoah Roby went to St. Louis in the Jordan Montgomery trade. Each of those players will likely go on to long major league careers in their organizations. The current roster construction of the Texas Rangers was going to make it hard for Acuna and Sageese to contribute to the Rangers anytime in the near future. Roby has had health issues the last two seasons and Texas felt comfortable including him in the trade. They made a few trades, but their farm system is far from decimated.
The major league team will feel the impact of these trades right away as Scherzer will make his first start with Texas on Thursday afternoon and Montgomery will follow him up on Friday night. These trades restore depth to a rotation that has been lacking for most of this season.
Where does Texas go from here?
The moves have been made and this is the team for the most part that Texas will be playing the rest of the season with. Hopefully Seager, Eovaldi , and Heim all come back at some point in August. There is no more trade talks the rest of the season. There are likely no more significant additions. This is the team Texas is going to be taking on Houston with. Texas at this point is only half a game ahead of the Astros. They still have 55 more games to go as compared to Houston's 54 games.
Houston has the division race experience that this Texas team does not have. Several Rangers' players have been in that pressure cooker of a division race, but not in their time as members of the Texas Rangers. It will be Texas' first time playing meaningful games in August and September since 2016. They do have one more series against Houston from September 4th through September 6th in Arlington.
Chris Young has given the pitching staff the reinforcements they need and once Seager is healthy the lineup will go back to looking like normal. For Texas, it will be about playing clean baseball on the field, staying away from free passes on the mound, and coming up with timely hits on offense. Houston has the experience, but the rotation for Texas can now match up with Houston very well. It comes down to can the bullpen close out games much like they did on Tuesday night. Texas went Josh Sborz, Chapman, and Will Smith for three scoreless to close out the White Sox. If they can do each of those things they not only will hold the lead against Houston they will grow the lead.
The teams have been chosen, the terms of the battle have been dictated, and now it is time for Texas and Houston to go at it. The first chapter of this battle was written in the hours after the trade deadline with both teams winning duel 2-0 games. Andrew Heaney had a six inning, 11 strikeout performance for Texas and Framber Valdez threw a no-hitter against the Cleveland Guardians. Texas and Houston have a fierce rivalry, but this showdown is setting up to be a memorable duel between the two Texas franchises.