Date: Saturday, June 3rd
Rangers’ Record: 26-29 (3rd place, 13 games behind Houston)
Tonight’s Opponent: Houston Astros (39-16)
Tonight’s Starters: Lance McCullers, Jr. (6-1, 2.48) vs. Andrew Cashner (2-4, 2.92)
Today’s Daily is going to be a little different. Rather than the numbered list of goings on (Cole Hamels is throwing a bullpen tomorrow, Today is probably Tyson Ross’ last rehab start, Carlos Gomez is running at 13mph, and Elvis Andrus got married. Boom, done), we’re going to take a look at where the Rangers are right now. An honest assessment. And then we’re going to provide some possible next moves forward. So take a deep cleansing breath, let go of your Spring Training Hopes and Dreams, and lean into the abyss. It’s the June 3rd Baseball Texas Daily.
First things first. The Rangers–barring an absurd merging of a not-small number of baseball miracles–are not going to win the AL West in 2017. Let's just rip that band-aid off now. Entering Spring Training, the Rangers had a chance. But then Adrian Beltre was hurt and Sam Dyson was bad and Rougned Odor is OPS’ing under .600 and Cole Hamels and Carlos Gomez and you don’t need me to tell you everything that has gone wrong.
Meanwhile, the Astros… did you look at that record up there? 39-16? Their run differential this season is +96. No other team is better than +85 (Dodgers) and the worst team in the league is -83 (Padres). They are better at scoring runs (and preventing them) this year than the Padres are at Not Scoring runs (and allowing them). Even the 'red-hot' 2015 Astros were 34-21 after 55 games. This 2017 team looks to have a better rotation, a better bullpen, and their core of young players: Altuve, Correa, and Springer, specifically, are three years further into their prime.
Scribble out “Catch the Astros” on your wish list.
But the Wild Card? Well, maybe. Texas is just 3.5 games back, but they’re also trailing Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Anaheim, Toronto, and Detroit. That’s a lot of teams. Only Seattle (4.0 back), Chicago (4.5), Kansas City (5.5) and Oakland (6.0) have worse records in the A.L.
But even if the Rangers do manage to leapfrog all those teams, you have to ask: is a Wild Card berth the best option this year?
Sure, baseball is weird. If the Rangers get it together, they absolutely have the talent on the roster (especially once Hamels and Gomez and Ross and Diekman return) to be competitive in the playoffs. Houston is good, but they’re not invincible in a short series: just ask the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who went 116-46 and lost to the Yankees in the playoffs. Baseball miracles happen.
But here’s the other thing to consider: most teams that sell at the deadline are… bad teams. They’re losing because they don’t have enough good players. They have one or two guys that they’re able to deal, and they re-stock the farm system a little at a time until they have enough to do, well, what the Cubs did when they traded Dempster and Samardzija and Garza, and so on and so forth.
The Rangers? They aren’t a barren big-league club. This roster has a lot of talent that could absolutely help a contending team. So Yu Darvish, Mike Napoli, Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Gomez, Delino DeShields, Ryan Rua, Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Tony Barnette, Alex Claudio, and Jeremy Jeffress could all find themselves Dodgers, Twins, Indians, Nationals, Brewers, Cubs, or Diamondbacks by season’s end. It could be a sell-off of historic proportions.
Then there are the question marks: would Jon Daniels trade Adrian Beltre to a contender? Especially if Beltre is approaching 3,000 hits? Is the haul for an Adrian Beltre worth the gut-punch of trading Adrian Beltre? It probably comes down to what Adrian wants. If the team is selling and he wants to move to a contender, maybe we see him in pinstripes, replacing Chase Headley down the stretch.
And what of Matt Bush? He’s under team control for a long while, and cheap, as well. But he is 31. How much does the fact that his arm doesn’t have all those years of wear and tear factor into the team’s hope that his arm is a “young” 31? A 100mph flame throwing proven closer under team control for 4 years after this one could be worth the moon. Do you take it? Do the Baltimore Orioles–with Zach Britton injured and Brad Brach currently closing–even have a moon for sale?
Martin Perez could probably fetch a large return, but he’s young enough and his contract is team-friendly enough that perhaps he stays for the next wave. It probably comes down to what you’re offered, and if there’s an injury to a starter on a playoff-hopeful team.
As for the rest: Is Cole Hamels available? He's under contract through 2019, so it's likely he would stay, but any time there's a sell off, you at least listen. Shin-Soo Choo is probably still owed to much to move, unless Texas wants to eat a large part of his contract ($62m for 2018-20). Odor is too young and potentially valuable, and the team just signed him to an extension. Joey Gallo is the future. So is Nomar Mazara. So, too are Keone Kela and Jose Leclerc. Elvis is probably a Ranger forever; you just get the feeling that he’ll be the veteran that leads this next group of guys into maturity. The Dillon Gees and Nick Martinezes and A.J. Griffins of the world aren’t really the sort of top of the rotation guys that a contender would pay a premium for. Plus you need someone to start all those September games).
It’s sad to think about. You want Adrian Beltre and Yu Darvish and the rest of the team you root for to win rings as Rangers. And, as I said earlier: make the Wild-Card game, and anything could happen. But they’re going to have to start winning a few… some… a lot more games to prevent the sell-off.