There's a lot of knee jerk opinions out there about what the Rangers did not do yesterday, trade-wise. In fact, I could hold some of those opinions if I really wanted to. For instance, I could say the Rangers paid more for Matt Garza than the Red Sox and Padres paid, combined, for Ian Kennedy and Jake Peavy. And that would be pretty much untrue but that doesn't stop most “opinion” types out there. Or I could say that not getting a “big bat” dooms this season to also-ran status. Which is still pretty untrue. Or I could say that failing to sell on pieces like Jason Frasor, Joe Nathan, AJ Pierzynski, or the aforementioned Garza is a criminal waste of soon-to-be-gone resources. And that's pretty much 100% untrue.
But, just like the Rangers, I'm stuck in the middle.
The Rangers are at the unfortunate crossroads of having a glaring need; a hitter who can hit for power and average, get on-base and play a corner outfield spot well. They have a lot of resources to go get such a hypothetical player. I can't readily think of a team with nearly as much talent in A-ball as the Rangers have. The market doesn't bear such a player (perhaps Alex Rios if you squint a little) and teams that might have such a player know the Rangers are desperate and stacked with quality prospects. Which means those teams ask for marrow, not just the standard pound of flesh.
On those grounds, not buying is defensible. Really, the only way to attack not buying is to point to the Padres trade for Ian Kennedy from the Diamondbacks. Kennedy is a starter who is 28, under team control through arbitration for two more years and was really good two years ago. There's several things about this trade that are weird. First off, the Diamondbacks traded a cost-controlled pitcher with top-of-the-rotation upside. Secondly, they traded this pitcher in their own division. Third, they traded him for a left-handed specialist reliever and a good but not great relief prospect in AA. To put the cost in Rangers terms, it was a healthy and good Mike Kirkman and Ryan Rodebaugh.
I'd assume the Rangers at least had a conversation with them because they could beat that trade without scratching the surface of the system. Kevin Towers, the Diamondback's GM, has to be familiar with the Rangers' system. And the Rangers front office has to be familiar with players the Diamondbacks like because they spent the whole winter flirting with a Justin Upton trade that didn't materialize.
Then again, maybe Towers just likes to vex Daniels with trades that would improve the Rangers, despite returns the Rangers could easily top. Upton, Dan Haren, and now Kennedy have all been traded out from Arizona under similar circumstances.
As far as selling, that's hard to put over to fans, given that the team is one game out of the wild card race. By Baseball Prospectus odds, they stand a 50 % chance of seeing post-season play. The team's most valuable and feasibly moveable assets would be Nelson Cruz, who is likely to sit the rest of the season to suspension, and Joe Nathan, who is under control for next season. Other relievers like Cotts and Frasor would bring a negligible return, while trading Matt Garza two starts after acquiring him means you'll lose a significant amount of the investment you made in him and likely lose out on the chance to sign him in the off-season. And would you sign with the team that sent you packing two weeks after bringing you in?
In the end, we're forced to wait and hope for a few lucky breaks. Given that luck tends to equal itself out (and the Rangers' luck has been awful so far this season) it doesn't seem like a bad play.