Hopes of a playoff berth on life support

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, July 19th, 2019

Image result for Mike Minor

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

ARLINGTON, Texas – Maybe! On June 28, the Rangers beat the Tampa
Bay Rays in St. Petersburg to tie the Rays for the number one Wild
Card spot in the standings. Furthermore, Texas had climbed to within
4.5 games (four in the loss column) of first place Houston in the
American League West. Since that night, the Rangers have lost 10 of
14 games and their hopes of a playoff berth are on life support.
Texas limps into the weekend on a four game losing streak, and it
hasn’t been pretty. The combined score for just the last three losses
is opponents 40 – Rangers 10. The mainstays of the Rangers’
starting rotation have been Mike Minor and Lance Lynn. Texas has lost
both of their most recent starts. The most disastrous loss came
Wednesday night when the Arizona Diamondbacks struck for seven runs
before the Rangers even came to bat. The Snakes put up another seven
runs in the second and third innings to pull ahead 14-3. By the ninth
inning, the Rangers called on catcher Tim Federowicz to make his Major
League pitching debut to save an inning of work for the bullpen. The
final score was 19-4.
The Rangers find themselves in third place in the West after
Wednesday’s game with a record of 50-46. They trail first place
Houston by 10 games and second place Oakland by 4.5 games. The Los
Angeles Angels are just one game behind the Rangers at 50-48.
In the Wild Card race, Cleveland sits in the top spot. Oakland
and Tampa Bay are virtually tied for the second Wild Card spot one
game behind the Tribe. Boston is next two games behind Oakland and
Tampa. Texas is 4.5 games out, and he Angels have now moved into the
picture at 5.5 games out of a Wild Card spot.
The Rangers’ recent slump has accelerated speculation that the
Rangers will be sellers at the trade deadline. Mike Minor is the name
most often thrown around. Minor with an 8-4 record and 2.73 ERA will
be highly sought after if the Rangers make him available, especially
since he is signed through next season at a reasonable salary.
A national baseball writer wrote this week that Minor would be
made available for trade. The news was not received well. Minor
reaction was “It makes us mad,” with the “us” including other players
such as Hunter Pence that could be traded if the Rangers turn into
sellers at the trade deadline. Minor old MLB.com’s T. R. Sullivan,
“I don’t want to go anywhere.”
Pence was activated from the injured list for the Diamondbacks’
series, and Willie Calhoun was sent to AAA Nashville to make room on
the active roster. Calhoun did not take the news well. In 26
games, Calhoun was hitting .277 with five home runs and 13 RBIs. He’s
unfortunately part of a glut of left-handed hitters on the Rangers’
roster.
The notable other left-handed hitters include, Ronald Guzman,
Rougned Odor, Shin-Soo Choo, Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara. With Guzman
hitting .200 and Odor hitting .192, it had to be hurtful to Calhoun to
be the odd man out. Choo and Gallo are the only two lefties with a
better batting average than Calhoun.
Calhoun told Sullivan when the move was made, “I was just as
surprised as everybody else. They just said ‘Go to Triple-A and do
your thing.’ I guess. I mean I’ve helped this team win, so I don’t
know what else I could have done.”
At this point, Calhoun is essentially blocked at the Major League
level by a glut of outfielders. He’s clearly the best player the
Rangers received from the Dodgers in the 2017 Yu Darvish trade, but it
may be time for Calhoun to move on to another organization. He
doesn’t seem to have much of a future with Texas.
The Rangers did make a trade this week sending reliever Pete
Fairbanks to Tampa Bay for infielder/outfielder Nick Solak. Solak is
regarded as a top hitting prospect and he bats right-handed. His OPS
this summer at AAA is .831, and he was immediately slotted as one of
the Rangers’ top 10 minor league prospects. He will likely join the
Rangers when rosters expand in September, if not sooner. He is
playing second base at Nashville, so perhaps is being groomed to
replace Rougned Odor, who is still hitting less than .200 this year in
almost 300 at-bats.
The trade deadline is now less than two weeks away. There have
been predictions that trade activity this year would be brisk since
trades after July 31 are no longer possible. The American League has
six teams that are clearly out of the running for a playoff berth.
Chicago, Seattle, Kansas City, Toronto, Detroit and Baltimore are more
than 10 games out of the second Wild Card spot. The standings are
much closer in the National League, where only Miami is more than 10
games out. All the other NL teams are within six games of the second
Wild Card playoff berth.
The end result is that there are a lot of teams in contention that
are likely buyers at the trade deadline. Theoretically, the price for
desirable pennant race help should be more than usual. However, teams
have gotten stingy about giving up highly regarded prospects in recent
years, so it is questionable how high the prices will go.
From the Rangers’ standpoint, GM Jon Daniels has said the Rangers
could be both buyers and sellers at the deadline. With the team
having the look of fading out of contention, it’s a foregone
conclusion that Texas will not be trading top ranked prospects for
some of the high profile names that are rumored to be available. On
the other hand, it still will take a breath taking offer to get the
Rangers to part with Minor or Lance Lynn. Both represent a solid
start to a 2020 rotation.
It is likely though that the Rangers’ roster will have a different
look for the final two months of the season. There are 66 games
remaining in the season going into the weekend. That’s still a lot of
opportunity for the Rangers to get back into the thick of contention.
NOTABLE:
– Joey Gallo has 22 home runs on the season going into the weekend,
and 12 of those have an estimated distance of 425 feet or more.
That’s the most of any hitter in the Majors.

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