Rangers add an arm, need a bat

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, July 26th, 2013

cruzwhif

By Dic Humphrey

The Rangers completed the long rumored trade for Matt Garza with the Cubs this week.  Garza is the biggest name to be traded since the season began; and on August 1 when the non-waiver trade deadline has passed, that may still be true.  Certainly his addition with Yu Darvish and Alexi Ogando being activated from the disabled list this week adds three solid starting pitchers to the Rangers’ rotation.  The bullpen was already outstanding, and the staff ERA was ranked second in the league when the week began.  Pitching should not be a problem going forward, especially with reinforcements such as Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz rehabbing to hopefully be ready for action next month.  It’s a pitching staff that is not only good enough to win the division, but good enough to do serious damage in the playoffs if this team qualifies for post-season baseball.

“I think Jon Daniels did an outstanding job getting this guy,” Manager Ron Washington said about getting Garza.  Washington is thrilled to have Garza’s veteran presence on the staff.  Garza is especially known for his competitiveness on the mound.

The question is whether Garza is enough to get the Rangers to the playoffs?  This team is offensively challenged and has been virtually from day one this season.  Lance Berkman has essentially been a bust, while Elvis Andrus and David Murphy are having sub-par years.  Texas ranks 13th overall and ninth in the American League in runs scored.  They are averaging 4.25 runs per game, a 15% drop from last year when they led the Major Leagues with 808 runs scored.  They have scored two or fewer runs in 33 games, approximately one-third of the season, winning just three of them.  They have scored three or fewer runs in 47 games and are 10-37 in those.  They are 45-8 when they score four or more runs including winning all 23 games in which they have scored at least six runs.  One of the ugliest scoring stats is that the Rangers have scored just 25 first inning runs on the season, while allowing 48.  They are often behind in games early having to play catch-up.

The Rangers’ offensive problems could get worse with the announcement this week that Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun has accepted an immediate suspension for the rest of the season resulting from the Biogenesis probe.  Biogenesis is the now defunct wellness center in the Miami area that was supplying performance enhancing drugs to Major League players, and Nelson Cruz is rumored to be one of those players.  There had been an announcement around the All-Star break from the Major League Baseball Players’ Association that the Biogenesis suspensions would not be announced until after the season and the suspensions would not be assessed until the 2014 season.   Obviously, that has proven false.  The strong rumor now is that the suspensions will be assessed by the end of July.

Cruz’s loss would be a huge blow to the Rangers as he has been the Rangers’ most consistent hitter this year.  He leads the team with 23 home runs and 70 RBI’s.  Cruz himself may face a difficult financial decision if he is assessed a suspension, which is expected to be for 50 games as a first time offender.  He is eligible to be a free agent this winter, and his value in free agency will be greater if the Biogenesis suspension has already been served.  His best financial course then is to accept the suspension if assessed and get it over with, rather than to appeal the suspension and continue playing.

Not only is this a quandary for Cruz, but is one for Texas too.  They might want to avoid losing him this season by signing him now to a contract extension with the understanding that he will appeal the suspension and play the balance of 2013.
In any event, the Rangers need a bat, a big bat, and maybe more than one.  There aren’t many rumored to be available.  The combination of no dominant teams and the expansion of the playoffs to two Wild Card teams in each league, means that more teams feel they have a chance to make the playoffs and are unwilling to trade players that could help a pennant contender.  Just two seasons ago, the Cardinals were 10 games out in August and ended up winning the World Series.  In the American League, six teams are at least 10 games out of first place, while in the National, there are four.  Fully, two-thirds of the teams are within reasonable striking distance to make the playoffs.

Some of the hitters that are rumored to be available are Hunter Pence (Giants), Alex Rios (White Sox), Alfonso Soriano (Cubs), Justin Morneau (Twins) and Kendrys Morales (Mariners).  The prize might be Jose Bautista, who has hit 23 home runs and driven in 60 for Toronto, but the Jays have shown no interest in moving Bautista, despite being 14.5 games behind Boston in the East. Texas is especially interested in an outfielder that is controllable past this season, which further limits the field of available hitters.

There is also the question of what the Rangers have to give to obtain a hitter.  They certainly have a bountiful farm system of quality prospects, but the best prospects are at the lower levels of the farm system.  They are years away from breaking into the Major Leagues, and teams making deals at the trade deadline are interested in more Major League ready prospects.

The biggest prize could be the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton.  Miami is more likely to trade him this winter than in July.  The Rangers want to be in on Stanton, and may want to save prospects for that eventuality.  However, the team has been in second place now for 23 consecutive days going into play this weekend.  Oakland is not going away in the West, and the Rangers have slipped into third place in the Wild Card standings.  There is still a lot of baseball to be played in 2013, but if the Rangers are going to make the playoffs for the fourth straight year, they are going to need more offense to get there.

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