Rangers working hard to fill holes

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, January 5th, 2019

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BY DIC HUMPHREY
DHUMPHREY24@GMAIL.COM
Member United States Basketball Writers Association

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers closed out 2018 with a
blockbuster, three-team trade. The essence of the transaction was
Jurickson Profar and minor league pitcher Rollie Lacy departed, and
the Rangers received four prospects, three of which are pitchers, and
$750,000 in international slot money.
The trade of Profar had been rumored for some time, and the logic
became clear in explanations made after the trade was completed.
Profar had seemingly established himself as a Ranger regular in 2018
when he batted .254 with 20 home runs and 77 RBIs in 524 at bats. He
appeared to be the heir apparent to the Rangers’ third base job once
Adrian Beltre announced his retirement.
Profar is contractually under team control for two more years
before becoming a free agent. The Rangers indicated they had spoken
with Profar’s agent about a contract extension, however, Profar’s
agent is Scott Boras, and Boras’s clients rarely fail to test the free
agent waters and rarely return to their original team when they do.
Contract extension talks gained no traction, so the Rangers made the
decision to move Profar if a promising deal could be found.
The Athletics won 97 games last season and made the playoffs. A
year ago, they were thought to be a young team making progress, but
success arrived early to their surprise. They are now considered a
solid playoff contender. Jed Lowrie was their second baseman last
year and a free agent. It doesn’t appear that they will be able to
re-sign him hence they were interested in Profar.
The one hole in Profar’s game was his defense. He led the Major
Leagues in errors (25) most of which were throwing errors. 2018 was
the first season that he really was a regular, but even last year, he
played all four infield positions. Settling down to one position
should improve his defense, and second base appears to be his best
position at this point in his career.
Jamey Newberg in The Athletic (subscription required) wrote a
detailed article about how the deal came together. The short version
is that Rangers’ GM Jon Daniels essentially had a deal in place with
Oakland and then looked to Tampa Bay to expand the deal. When the
smoke had cleared, Oakland got Profar and gave up Emilio Pagan, a 27
year-old middle reliever, minor league infielder Eli White (the 38th
pick in the 2019 Amateur Draft), and $750,000 of international slot
money.
Texas then turned around and sent Pagan and the draft pick, along with
Rollie Lacy, a starting pitcher prospect that the Rangers obtained
last July from the Cubs in the Cole Hamels trade, to the Rays. Tampa
Bay in return sent Brock Burke, a minor league starting pitcher
prospect, and relievers Kyle Bird and Yoel Espinal to Texas.
Burke is believed to be the jewel in the return. He’s a big
left-hander that went 9-6 with a 3.08 ERA in 22 starts in high A (13
starts) and AA (nine starts) last season.  It was a breakout season
for Burke who likely starts the season at AAA Nashville, but could
find his way to Arlington sometime next year.
White is an extremely good athlete that hit .306 with nine home
runs, 55 RBIs and 18 stolen bases in 130 games at AA Midland last
season. He then went to the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .344
with a .406 on-base percentage in 69 at-bats.  It’s not clear where he
fits ultimately with the Rangers.  He’s regarded as a middle
infielder, but the Rangers have Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor signed
to long term contracts manning shortstop and second base. White may
get a look in center field.
MLB Pipeline immediately re-ranked the Rangers’ Top 30 prospects
placing Burke at six and White at 12. Bird, the left-handed reliever,
is not thought to be a great talent, but is likely to be the first one
of the group to reach the Major Leagues.
The trade of Profar leaves a hole at third base. The first name
that came to mind was Joey Gallo who played mostly third base in his
minor league journey to the Rangers.  He said last year that he would
play wherever the team wants him, but that he preferred to play
somewhere besides third base.  The Rangers quelled the thought by
indicating that Gallo would not be playing third base.
The next thought among internal candidates was Isiah
Kiner-Falefa, but the Rangers quickly shot that idea down indicating
that Kiner-Falefa was solidly in their catching plans.
One player that will get an opportunity is Patrick Wisdom, whom
the Rangers acquired from St. Louis for Drew Robinson on December 11.
Wisdom was a first round draft pick in the 2012 draft and hit .288 in
the minor leagues last year, earning a call-up to the Cardinals in
September where he hit .260 in 50 at-bats. Wisdom is 27 and is a
right handed power hitter hitting 46 home runs the last two seasons at
AAA Memphis.
In all likelihood though, the Rangers will probably bring in a third
baseman from outside the organization to start the 2019 season.
The Rangers also signed Lance Lynn to be part of the starting
rotation. Lynn pitched for the Twins and Yankees last season with a
combined record of 10-10. He is 31 years old and signed a three year
contract for $30 million.
There is still plenty of work to do on the starting rotation.
Right now, Lynn and Mike Minor head up the rotation. Veterans Drew
Smyly and Edinson Volquez are currently penciled in for two more
spots. Both are coming off arm surgery.  Internal candidates such as
Ariel Jurado and Yohander Mendez could be part of the rotation. The
team obviously needs to sign more veteran candidates for the rotation
and to pitch at AAA for depth.
One starting pitcher that won’t be joining the Rangers is Japanese
import Yusei Kikuchi. The Rangers were supposedly interested as they
have been in the past for Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani.  Kikuchi
signed with Seattle, and the Rangers apparently received little
consideration, as he looked mostly at West Coast teams.
Despite the Rangers’ need for pitching, rumors still persist that
Mike Minor could be traded. He became the team’s best starter by the
end of the 2018 season, but with the team in full rebuild mode, he
likely could bring at least a couple of top prospects, and the team
has to give that consideration.
The catching situation isn’t settled yet either. Veteran Jeff
Mathis has been signed, but realistically, he’s likely to catch only
75 games or so.  Kiner-Falefa is viewed as a backup at this point with
his limited catching experience as a professional.  He may even start
the season in AAA to get regular playing time behind the plate.  Jose
Trevino is viewed as the top catching prospect, but he’s not ready to
take over as the starter.
The bullpen needs to be filled out. The Rangers did re-sign Matt
Bush to a minor league contract.  His injury however will keep him out
of action until June or July, so he won’t be a factor early in the
season.
The lineup is too left-handed with Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara,
Joey Gallo, Ronald Guzman, Rougned Odor and now Willie Calhoun all
needing regular playing time and having just five positions to fit
them in.  There are no rumors about anything happening here, so the
Rangers may again go into the season with a batting order that is too
left-handed
The bottom line is, much has been done. Chris Woodward is the new
manager and has largely re-done the coaching staff.  There have been
significant additions to the front office but still a lot more to do
with spring training roughly five weeks away.
NOTABLE:
• This week, Bleacher Report published a list of their updated minor
league rankings in consideration of the moves made so far this winter.
The Rangers checked in at number 16.  The good news is that six of
their projected top 10 prospects are starting pitchers.  They rank the
rest of the American League West as follows:  Houston seven, Seattle
10, Oakland 12, and Los Angeles 22.

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