With the worst record in baseball, members of the Rangers’ front office find themselves in a unique situation. Injuries have derailed a team they believe could contend, but they do have assets remaining that could garner interest from teams with which they may be willing to part.
The Rangers are most likely to part with players whose contracts are set to expire in the near future, but the list of players may also include some others, including shortstop Elvis Andrus. Here are some of the more likely matches for the Rangers, should they decide to make a move.
Best match: Seattle
Alex Rios is in a unique situation this season, as the team holds an option for Rios at $13.5 million to return in 2015. Rios has been productive during the 2014 campaign, batting .305/.333/.440 with an OPS+ of 113. Rios has experience in both CF and RF and could likely play any of the three OF positions.
The Mariners are currently holding onto the second AL Wild Card position, and may stand to gain the most of any playoff contender by acquiring an outfielder. Rios would provide an immediate upgrade over Endy Chavez, who is currently sporting a .651 OPS at age 36.
The Mariners have a minor league system deep with starting pitching prospects. Left-hander Tyler Pike and right-hander Victor Sanchez could be of interest to Texas. Both are considered top 15 prospects in Seattle’s system and have reached the Double-A level.
Other possible matches: Yankees, Reds, Indians
Best Match: Detroit
The Rangers are said to be requiring a substantial return on any deal involving their closer, and Soria would certainly bring the highest return of any of the available bullpen pieces. Soria has been fantastic this season, posting a 2.97 ERA with even more impressive advanced statistics (0.90 FIP, 152 ERA+). Texas holds a team option for Soria for $7 million next season.
The Tigers have continued to have bullpen troubles this season, with relief pitching seemingly being their weakest link yet again in 2014. Joe Nathan has been shaky closing games for Detroit this season, posting a 5.61 ERA and having blown 5 save opportunities while age continues to chip away at the former Rangers’ closer’s velocity. Soria would provide an immediate upgrade and a reliable option for manager Brad Ausmus.
The Tigers’ system also includes some interesting potential targets. Triple-A right-hander Drew VerHagen projects as a possible #4 starter. Steven Moya is a powerful left-handed hitting right-fielder that reached Double-A this season at age 22. He currently holds an OPS of .835 in Double-A Erie, launching 22 HRs.
Other potential matches: Blue Jays, Reds, Pirates, Angels
Best Match: Toronto
Neal Cotts has had an exciting couple of seasons with the Rangers since making his comeback to a major league bullpen three years removed from appearing in a major league game. The 34-year-old has put up a 2.13 ERA with a strikeout rate of over 10 strikeouts per nine innings since joining the club.
The Blue Jays could use an effective left-hander out of the bullpen, and currently stand just 2.5 games back in the Wild Card race. The Blue Jays have not reached the playoffs in the 20 seasons since winning back-to-back World Series in 1992-1993.
While prospects such as Aaron Sanchez, Dalton Pompey or Daniel Norris would obviously not be available in a deal involving a reliever with an expiring contract, the Blue Jays could offer some interesting options. Triple-A starting pitcher Sean Nolin projects to be a #4 starter, but might require more than Cotts for the Blue Jays to include him.
Other potential matches: Tigers, Reds, Pirates, Angels
Best Match: Pittsburgh
Frasor, who signed a way-under-market-value $1.75 million extension for 2014, has been one of Ron Washington’s most reliable arms over the past two seasons, posting a 2.86 ERA and 144 ERA+ in 2013-14. With his contract expiring at the end of 2014, Texas could look to capitalize on Frasor’s value rather than risk losing him to free agency.
Frasor could really represent a viable option for any of the teams needing bullpen help, but perhaps nobody could use more affordable bullpen help than the Pirates. Judging by cumulative fWAR (FanGraphs-calculated wins-above-replacement), the Pirates’ bullpen ranks above only the Mets. The Pirates have already attempted to bolster their bullpen by adding Ernesto Frieri, hoping that a change of scenery could help the former Angels’ closer, but Frieri has been disappointing over his seven appearances with Pittsburgh
The Pirates have a deep minor league system, one ranked 3rd in all of baseball by ESPN’s Keith Law. The return for Frasor may be somewhat limited unless he is packaged with another player, but the Pirates should possess plenty of intriguing possibilities if they should decide to bolster their bullpen.
Other potential matches: Tigers, Reds, Blue Jays, Angels