Non-Waiver Trade Deadline has come and gone

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, August 4th, 2018

Texas Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels (left) and manager Jeff Banister watch pitchers run a fielding drill during a spring training workout at the team's training facility on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, in Surprise, Ariz. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)

BY: Dic Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The non-waiver trade deadline passed last Tuesday, and it was undoubtedly a relief for all the Rangers (players, coaches, and front office). It’s been obvious since April that Texas would not contend for a playoff berth this season; and consequently, they would be sellers at the trade deadline. As July 31 approached, the uncertainty weighed on all the players, even the ones that knew they would not be traded. It was clearly a distraction, as even an old pro like Cole Hamels finally admitted that the trade rumors had affected him. Keone Kela had not been the subject of trade speculation before this season, so it clearly weighed on him.

In the end, the Rangers made five deals in July. “We accomplished some things we set out to do,” general manager Jon Daniels told the Fox Sports Southwest television audience during last Tuesday’s game. “I felt we were really prepared. Our scouts, our analytics group, our front office. Ultimately, we walked away with nine prospects and two guys on the big league club.”
As to the preparedness comment, Daniels admitted the team’s record on the field changed their approach. “Really in May, we changed our scouting coverage and our priorities.” In other words, they knew they would be sellers in July and began assessing prospects to trade for.

“We were really talent focused,” Daniels continued. “Ownership didn’t give us any sort of mandate to move salary.”

The Rangers moved four pitchers from their Major League roster – Jesse Chavez, Cole Hamels, Keone Kela and Jake Diekman in chronological order of the trades. All four are pitchers. The two Major League players they received are relievers Cory Gearrin and Billy Butler. (Butler is actually stretched out enough to pitch at least five innings in an outing and could be a starting pitcher option at some point.)

Noticeably missing among the players that departed are any position players, most notably Adrian Beltre and Shin-Soo Choo. This may or may not be Beltre’s final season at age 39. He has not committed to playing past this season, though he has made it clear that if he does return next year, he wants to do so as a Ranger.

“Unique guy, unique relationship,” Daniels said about Beltre. “He gave us a list of clubs he’d consider. Ultimately, it didn’t match up.”

Beltre could still get traded in August. Trades are still possible for players that clear waivers or with a team that claims a player on revocable waivers. Beltre’s salary is almost $3 million PER MONTH, so the only teams that would claim him are teams that are in a pennant race. Beltre still has the right to veto any trade due to his accumulated time in the Major Leagues.

If it happens, Boston is probably the best bet. He has been very clear that if he consents to a trade, he wants it to be to a team with a realistic chance of winning the World Series and to a team on which he would be an important part of the roster. He isn’t interested in being just a pinch hitter and a semi-player/coach to a bunch of young players. Boston fits his criteria, he’s played there before, and Boston’s third base situation is iffy.

Choo, despite his great season on the field, was never really close to getting traded. He’s dealing with a sore quad muscle which has limits his availability to play in the field. That narrows the field of buyers to American League teams where he can DH. Realistically there are just six contenders for five playoff spots in the A. L. One reason those teams are good is that they already have a heavy hitting designated hitter like J. D. Martinez (Boston), Mike Stanton (New York), and Nelson Cruz (Seattle). Choo’s contract with more than $40 million remaining for the final two years after this season is a major hindrance too.

Three of the players the Rangers received in trades are to be named later. Essentially, the Rangers have been given a list of players to choose from, and they have time to study those players more carefully before making a selection. It is assumed that at least one of those three will be a position player.

0802 Rangers art 2h

Having said that, most Ranger fans are underwhelmed at the return Daniels was able to bring back for the players traded. Taylor Hearn, a left-handed pitcher that has been groomed to be a starter with the Pirates’ AA affiliate in Altoona, Pennsylvania, was the best and most advanced prospect the Rangers received. He is 6’-5”, and his fastball has been clocked in triple digits. He is also a local guy from Royse City. His record at Altoona was 3-6 with a 3.12 ERA.

“Up through AA, he’s (Hearn) been a very effective starter. Really athletic. Intelligent. Local Texas kid. We’re going to give him every chance to be a starter,” Daniels said.

Hearn was assigned to AA Frisco, but there is some chance the Rangers will take a look at him this September when Major League rosters expand. It’s a long shot, but he at least has a chance to be part of the Rangers’ 2019 starting rotation.

Essentially then, this is a numbers game. By accumulating starting pitcher candidates at the A level, it’s hoped that at least one or two will turn into something valuable.

The last time the Rangers were in the all-out sell mode in July was really 2007 when they traded Mark Teixeira to the Braves for Jerrod Saltalamacchia and prospects. Saltalamacchia as the headliner in the deal, never really developed into a great Major League player. However, three of the prospects – Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz – went on to make All-Star teams and were integral parts of the 2010 and 2011 Ranger teams that went to the World Series.

It was natural then to compare the Rangers haul in 2018 (or lack thereof) to 2007 when the Rangers made the Teixeira trade and another trade that brought outfielder David Murphy. Needless to say, this year’s additions to the farm system look miniscule compared to 2007.

There are a number of reasons. First, the Rangers had no player comparable to Teixeira to trade. Teixeira was an All-Star caliber player in his prime with still another year after 2007 before becoming a free agent. Secondly, the climate has changed in recent years. Teams are putting much more value on prospects and are more reluctant to part with top tier talent to shore up this year’s team. The lack of contenders in the American League added to this problem.

But you never know how these trades will turn out. Back in 2000 before Jon Daniels was GM, the Rangers had a starting pitcher to trade on a floundering season – Esteban Loaiza. They made a deal with Toronto, and they were most interested in adding to their pitching prospects. Darwin Cubillian was the live arm they were after and received in the deal. He looked like Bob Gibson on the mound and the Rangers even assigned Gibson’s uniform number 45 to him.

Cubillian ultimately appeared in the Majors in three different seasons for four teams and won two games in his career, both with Toronto before the trade. The Blue Jays did throw in a lightly regarded middle infielder to sweeten the pot. His name was Michael Young, now one of the all-time great Rangers.

It’s worked the other way too. The Rangers were definitely looking to go back to the World Series for the third year in a row in 2012. They tried to shore up their starting rotation by trading two prospects for Ryan Dempster near the July 31 deadline. Kyle Hendricks was at the Rangers A league affiliate at Myrtle Beach and was not one of the Rangers’ highly regarded prospects as a 25th round draft choice. He was a throw-in to get Dempster. In 2016, Hendricks led the Cubs and the National League in ERA.

The Rangers likely will not know how successful they have been with these trades for years.

Meanwhile, on the field the Rangers have bounced back from the four game sweep at home at the hands of the Oakland A’s. They go into the weekend with five wins in their last six games, with four of those wins coming in road games. Thursday night, they posted season highs in hits (18) and runs scored in a 17-8 rout of the Orioles, who remain for three more games this weekend.

Younger players that weren’t expected to make much of a contribution this year were the guns behind the Thursday’s offensive explosion. Rougned Odor had an historic game as he walked five times and hit a home run. Only three other players have ever done that, though in all three cases, it happened in an extra inning game and involved at least one intentional walk. Odor’s game was nine innings, including just eight at-bats for the winning home team, and none of the walks were intentional. Jurickson Profar led the charge with four RBIs. Joey Gallo also homered. In all, 13 of the 17 runs were driven in by players that are 25 or younger. Gallo is now leading the team in RBIs (61) followed close behind by Profar (56).

It was obvious too that there is relief in the clubhouse that the trade deadline has passed. Everyone has settled down to focus on the last third of the season. With the young position players that the Rangers have developed at this point, the Rangers look to have the foundation to be another offensive juggernaut.

Now if they can just get some pitching. (Where have we heard this before?)

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