DALLAS — If the weekend play against Houston had you thinking that this Rangers team needed just one good arm to try and make things interesting in the second half, what transpired over the next two games may have changed your thinking.
The uninspired baseball trotted onto the field against the Arizona Diamondbacks, a fringe contender themselves, came amidst already circulating rumors that the Texas front office was on the verge of waving the white flag.
With those rumors came an angry ace who might be their best trade chip, some confusing roster moves, which resulted in their top upper-level hitting prospect being angered, and, somewhat naturally, some double-talk from general manager Jon Daniels.
As the Trade Deadline (the one and only Trade Deadline!) looms, it’s time to tackle the question…
WOULD YOU OR WOULDN’T YOU: Sell at the deadline?
Why you would: If you believe that 2020, the year of brand spanking new Globe Life Field, is NOT going to be a year in which any sort of pennant is raised in Arlington, then you sell. I know the word “sell” can be just as taboo to the Rangers organization as “rebuild,” but a course has been chartered and the Rangers need to stick with it. If you have players on your team that don’t figure to be part of your next Championship era, then their trade value right now could not possibly be higher.
You have Mike Minor, packing an extra year of control in his first unrestrained, All-Star season since rebuilt him as a valued member of the rotation, Hunter Pence, who has ridden a resurrection of his career to an All-Star nomination, and Shin-Soo Choo, who might cost a lot over the next season and a half, but is still proving to be worth every penny as an on base machine.
If your goal is now beyond 2019, and more likely 2021, then none of these veterans are going to be on the club when that time comes. All three of the above, along with players like Danny Santana and Logan Forsythe off the bench, and Shawn Kelley in the bullpen, can earn some decent return from clubs that are actually one or two of those pieces away from a pennant.
At that point, the question is more about how big of a fire is the sale going to merit? If you just want to clear some space for a few 2020 place holders, then you can stop with the aforementioned names. If you think the first World Series championship team is headed up by Joey Gallo and the next wave of baby Rangers, then nobody (save for Joey, who has likely ascended to the next face of the franchise) is safe.
Didn't they just sign Jose Leclerc to an extension? Then that’s an attractive team-friendly deal for someone. Isn't Nomar Mazara under control for three more seasons? That’s a power-hitting outfielder at a low cost.
Some of these questions can probably be answered in the offseason as the team takes a step back after a more interesting than expected season and reevaluates, but some of these players might never see their value rise higher both for what they can offer contenders and for what they could get Texas in return.
Why you wouldn’t: It’s not as simple as thinking you’re ready to try to make it to the postseason or not this year. Now five games back of two teams for a wild card spot, this year's squad isn’t ready to try for that, but that doesn’t mean they have to go to a minor league lineup.
Players on one-year deals should almost always expect to be shuttled off around this time of year, but those with control? If you’re feeling that 2020 is a good year to contend, with this year's team making a positive step forward, or even if you think you can extend some of your other controllable veterans another year or two, then you don’t have to trade Mike Minor or Shin-Soo Choo right now. And if Texas feels like they won't be able to replace that talent from somewhere else, then they can wait to be absolutely blown away by a deal – if they're not blown away, they don’t have to make the deal.
Texas is in a spot now where they can shuttle off their short-term assets and still field a pretty productive Major League team. This isn't about tanking. With Willie Calhoun eternally waiting in the wings, a group of just-underdeveloped hard throwers waiting to get into the bullpen and perhaps Joe Palumbo waiting for an opening in the rotation, the Rangers can get some decent farm pieces back for the likes of Pence, Shawn Kelley and Asdrubal Cabrera and still be entertaining.
The problem they may run into if they’re trying to move some other arms is over-exposure. I worry that Jesse Chavez’ foray into the rotation may have killed off a lot of his trade value. If a team realizes that Chavez is out of his comfort zone and plans to bring him in as a reliever, then you might be able to pull some value from trading him, but his last few starts have not exactly inspired confidence.
Shawn Kelley seems to have something haywire happen to him each time out and isn’t as lockdown as he was earlier in the year. But he’s still a reliever with a track record and contending teams are always after bullpen reinforcement.
All told, the Rangers can keep the powder dry, so to speak, while still playing spoiler for this year and possibly next. A better question to ask, then, is whether you think the next wave of Rangers is going to come into Arlington strong? That could determine the magnitude of selling more than anything.
What would you do? Just drop some luxury weight to try and bargain shop again next year? Or do you sell off your top assets in hopes of accelerating the rebuild?
With just two weeks before the trade deadline before us, do you think the Rangers should maximize value for their rebuild efforts and acquire prospects for their veterans? Share your thoughts on the deadline with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.