The Conundrum grows as deadline nears

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, June 8th, 2019

Image result for shawn kelley texas rangers
BY DIC HUMPHREY
DHUMPHREY24@GMAIL.COM
Member United States Basketball Writers Association

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers won five of their first seven
games on the current home stand, and they finish with four games
against Oakland this weekend.

The amateur draft took place this week, but after the draftees get
signed and assigned to farm clubs, the full focus will be on the Major
League team and what direction it is heading. Will the Rangers be
buyers as the July 31 trade deadline approaches, or will they be
pushing veterans out the door to contenders to further stock their
farm system?

The ball club on the field is not making the decision easy for the
front office.  After Thursday’s 4-3 win over Baltimore, the club is
15-6 in their last 21 games, and manager Chris Woodward said
afterward, “From here on out, every game is going to matter. That’s
awesome.”

With the success they have had so far in the current home stand,
the team is four games over .500 with more than a third of the season
in the books. Granted, these most recent five wins have come at the
expense of the two teams with the worst records in baseball, but good
teams are supposed to beat up on bad teams.

The American League playoff picture at this point looks like this:
The Astros and Twins are essentially in the playoffs as division
champions. The Yankees and Rays appear to be the winner of the East
and a Wild Card in some order. Baltimore, Toronto, Kansas City,
Detroit and Seattle have thrown in the towel. The Angels and White
Sox have not thrown in the towel, but have records with more losses
than wins.  After Thursday’s games, the Indians and Athletics have
.500 records.  Texas and Boston go into the weekend tied for the
second Wild Card playoff berth.

One encouraging sign for Texas is the pitching. Mike Minor and
Lance Lynn form a nice one-two punch at the top of the rotation.
Ariel Jurado and Adrian Sampson have been solid in their recent
performances such that the Rangers have four starters that give the
team a chance to win almost every game.

The hole in the rotation is Drew Smyly.  He faltered again this
week giving up seven runs Tuesday night in the 12-11 loss to
Baltimore, which ballooned his ERA to 7.93. He gets at least one more
start, because with a doubleheader this weekend, the Rangers simply
have no alternatives to replace him, but his hold on a rotation spot
is tenuous.

Obviously, they need to add to the rotation if the front office
decides this team has a chance to go all in to make the playoffs.
The starting rotation falling into place has boosted the bullpen
by needing fewer innings to pitch from the relief corps.  The back of
the bullpen has settled in with four solid relievers: Shawn Kelley,
Jose Leclerc, Jesse Chavez and Chris Martin.  A couple of veteran
relievers to beef up the pen from there would be helpful if the team
goes all in.  Relievers at the trade deadline are both plentiful and
not all that costly in terms of prospects.

The offense has actually been more of a concern in recent games.
Injuries are part of the problem. Elvis Andrus has not hit since
returning from the injured list. Joey Gallo, the team’s best
offensive player is on the IL now, as is Willie Calhoun, who was off
to an astounding start when he got the call to join the Rangers. Joey
is especially missed.

One player of significant concern is Rougned Odor. He continues
to struggle, and one solution may be to shuttle him to AAA for a stint
to get his game back together.  After the Baltimore series, his
batting average stood at .163. In this day and age when many experts
say that batting average doesn’t matter, .163 is still bad!  Woodward
continues to express publically that they have confidence in Odor and
compliment the effort he is putting into turning his season around.
However, Major League baseball is a results oriented league, not a try
hard league. Even GM Jon Daniels has publicly addressed his concern.

However, Odor has been in the Majors for almost five
years….it’s time for him to be better.  The investment the team has
in Odor’s contract extension, that still has more than $35 million
remaining after this season, has undoubtedly kept him in the Majors so
far this season, when he otherwise would have been sent down. Another
factor is his time in the Majors.  He is just weeks away from hitting
the five year mark at which time he has the right to reject an
assignment to the minor leagues. If the Rangers decide that a stint
in the minors to get his game together is the correct course of
action, they need to take the step sooner rather than later.  Odor
looks safe for the immediate future, but once Calhoun returns to the
active roster, Odor’s hold on a roster spot becomes perilous, and
that’s even more true if the team’s on field performance continues to
keep them in the playoff picture

The good news for Ranger fans though is that the team is playing
well, giving the front office much to think about in terms of what to
do in the next seven weeks for the future of the franchise.  On one
hand, the chance to win the second Wild Card berth may not be the
Golden Fleece. It assures only one playoff game on the road against
the first Wild Card team. The Rangers aren’t going to trade top
prospects to shore up the team to win the second Wild Card berth.

On the other hand, they are more likely to hold on to veterans to
keep the team competitive over the final two months of the season.
Asdrubal Cabrera, Andrus, Mike Minor, Logan Forsythe, Hunter Pence,
Lance Lynn, and perhaps Shin-Soo Choo would be of interest to
contenders.  Minor especially would bring a bundle on the trade market
since he is under contract at a reasonable salary through the 2020
season. The better the team does, the more likely he is to stay.

Surely the Rangers will be discussing a contract extension as input
for their decision to keep or trade him.
The schedule gets decidedly more difficult at this point.  After
hosting Oakland this weekend, the Rangers go on the road to Boston and
Cincinnati, and then return home to face Cleveland and the White Sox.
That’s 19 games in 18 days before getting a off day.

The trade market between now and the end of July is expected to be
more busy than usual. In the past, trades were still possible after
the trade deadline for players that clear waivers.  This year those
post-July 31 trades have been outlawed.  The Rangers still have time
to develop their in season trade strategy; but for sure, the team on
the field is complicating the decision.
NOTABLE:
• After taking two wins in three games against Baltimore to start
the week, the Rangers have won three consecutive series for the first
time this season and have a
9-1-1 record in home series.

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