This week we will be examining various trade possibilities for the Rangers as we near the MLB Trade Deadline. With Texas just a few games out of a Wild Card spot, the season is far from over despite a record seemingly stuck in neutral around .500. Whether Texas wants to trade players with expiring contracts for prospects to build for the future, trade prospects for big leaguers to help put them over the top, or stand pat and see if they can make it to October with the team they've built, the Rangers have options.
The Rangers aren’t really that good but if it helps, the Rangers aren’t really that bad either, and that’s why Jon Daniels gets paid the big bucks. This time of the year is when the league starts to make sense and the good teams are clearly good, and the bad teams are clearly bad, and the bad teams with lots to gain and nothing to lose start seeing what they can get by shipping off their good players before the trade deadline to the teams who are missing a piece or two.
The problem for JD is that his team isn’t exactly on one side of the fence. They’re hovering around .500 and won’t commit to being bad or being good, so what does that mean? Who knows, Jon Daniels probably doesn’t even know, but that’s not going to stop us from speculating about what could happen before the trade deadline.
One of the most stereotypical situations for a team to make a trade is when a good player on a bad team is in a contract year, the bad team tries to get what they can for him before he walks in free agency, and the Rangers happen to have a particularly very good, particularly very underpaid free-agent-to-be pitcher from Japan, perhaps you’ve heard of him.
Yu Darvish is in the last year of his original MLB contract. The 30 (almost 31) year old hurler from Japan has set himself up to truly cash in during his first free-agent winter this year. After coming back from a 2015 Tommy John surgery and finishing out 2016 strong, 2017 has been a weird year for the Rangers during Darvish starts.
He’s sporting a record of 6-8 but Darvish’s wins and losses this year is the only evidence you need that the pitcher win stat is meaningless. The Rangers are 1-9 in his last 10 starts despite Yu being his normal self, striking out more than a batter per inning and only giving up more than three runs just twice in that span.
The hitters simply haven’t scored runs when he’s been pitching, averaging fewer than two runs per game since Darvish's Opening Day start back in April. The Rangers' despair when Yu is on the mound is not why you’re reading this though, you want to know what JD could get for him if things go south in a hurry and he starts selling.
In somewhat of an awkward scenario, Yu Darvish could see himself traded (perhaps even within the division) and then be pursued heavily by the team who just traded him this winter. The logical choice for teams pursuing Darvish would be a contending team who needs a top of the line pitcher and has the assets to send back to Texas in return. When surveying the landscape there are two logical candidates who won’t make Rangers fans happy…so let’s explore them.
The New York Yankees suddenly found themselves with a few of the brightest young stars in the league and a pipeline of young talent waiting in the wings. Currently 3.5 games back in the AL East, the Yankees have a great young core lead by Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.
The Yankees have the assets to get a deal done for Yu Darvish and they certainly have the need with a starting rotation held together with duct tape and popsicle sticks especially after Michael Pineda’s UCL tear earlier this week. With prized prospects like Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres, the Yankees could land basically any pitcher on the market but the Yankees aren’t likely to come off those guys very easily…but they could also use some relief help.
If the Rangers are really tearing it down and selling at the deadline they’d be remiss not to consider including a controllable reliever, maybe someone like Matt Bush or Jose LeClerc, in a package with Yu Darvish that could net them a prospect like Frazier who is slashing .308/.317/.718 through his first 11 games as a big leaguer and checks in as the Yankees second best prospect.
The Yankees' top prospect, Torres, is an exciting second or third baseman, though likely isn’t a fit for Texas' immediate needs. Clint Frazier fits in perfectly to the Rangers outfield of the future which is as follows: Nomar Mazara and two open patches of grass.
If both teams were willing, a deal could probably get done but a package like Darvish plus LeClerc for Frazier and a lottery ticket prospect or two is probably such a blockbuster that neither team would really be totally comfortable moving forward. The Rangers probably aren’t super likely to trade Yu anyway, so a situation like this – a true blockbuster – might be as likely as anything.
The Houston Astros are objectively a great team this year – there’s not getting around it – but their starting rotation is on the ropes. They are in the process of rehabbing Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh but injuries to multiple starting pitchers is scary and there’s no doubt the Astros have the assets to land basically any player on the trade market.
These injuries have forced their top prospect Frances Martes into the limelight a little earlier than the team was probably hoping but he’s had decent success and is probably untouchable at this point – if for no other reason than they may need him for the rest of this year.
The Rangers would love to get young, controllable starting pitching to hurt the Astros for years into the future and the Astros have a few young pitchers at the top of their prospect rankings, however even if the Rangers do decide to deal Darvish, they very well may re-sign him this offseason and keep trying to contend immediately again next year.
The Astros, aside from Martes, don’t have any top pitching prospects that are ready to contribute next year so this takes us to the Rangers’ next top need moving forward – good outfielders. Kyle Tucker fits that bill. Tucker is considered to be the Astros' second best prospect behind Martes and is slashing .301/.360/.548 in Double-A as a 20 year old.
Already the subject of swirling trade rumors with other teams, the Rangers would be fooling themselves if they said they weren’t interested in Tucker in exchange for half a season of Yu Darvish.
Again – like with the Yankees – the Astros aren’t likely to trade a top prospect like that without something to sweeten the deal. A good reliever is always valuable, but for the Astros it could be something else. There’s no doubt they are intimately familiar with the Rangers farm system so a top prospect from the Rangers side may go to Houston as well. Something like Yu Darvish plus a low level gamble like Jairo Beras for Kyle Tucker might work.
A Yu Darvish trade is probably a long shot, and these teams aren’t going to make the Rangers fans happy, but the kind of return that he might net is something that should excite Rangers fans.
Would you trade Yu Darvish and accept a rebuild effort from the Rangers? Share your takes and proposals with Chris on Twitter at @RealChrisRoland.