Friday, July 16, 2010

Despite Recent Trades, Rangers Still Need Players

Over the past few weeks, they have seen Josh Hamilton go on a rampage and raise his batting average to .351 for the season. They have also acquired catcher Bengie Molina and starting pitcher Cliff Lee. With these two trades, the Texas Rangers filled two of their biggest holes.

Since coming to the Rangers, Molina has hit just .185/.219/.296 in 8 games.

Cliff Lee did not fare much better in his debut despite going the distance for a 6-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles while allowing a season-high three home runs and striking out a season-low two batters, something he had already done twice this season.

In order to obtain Lee, the Rangers traded starting first baseman Justin Smoak, who was not having a brilliant rookie season. At the time of the trade, Smoak was hitting just .209/.316/.353 for the Rangers and has gone 1-for-12 in three games with the Mariners.

The departure of Smoak left a vacancy at first base to be filled by Chris Davis, the man who began the season as the Rangers’ starting first baseman. Davis is hitting just .203 on the season, but .273 in 4 games since assuming the role of starter. While Davis can certainly provide the Rangers with power, he also provides them with a player who could probably strike out about 200 times a season if given enough playing time.

While Davis is certainly not the worst batter in the world, the Rangers may need to look to the trade market for an upgrade.

Players that could be available to the Rangers include Lyle Overbay, Lance Berkman, Adam Dunn and Mike Lowell.

Perhaps the best option of that list would be Dunn. He’s a left-handed batter who would thrive in Texas with that short porch in right. Add to that the fact that he is having a career year at the plate, with a .288/.372/.588 slash line and is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. The main problems with acquiring Dunn are that he would probably strike out just as much as Davis, and his free agent status is projected to be Type-A meaning the Nationals may ask for a lot in return.

Overbay is a player who has struggled for most of the season, but has seen his average reach a more respectable .250 while hitting safely in 10 of his past 11 games. He is not projected to be a Type A or B free agent at the end of the season so could possibly be had for very little, but with Alex Anthopoulos in charge of the Blue Jays that does not seem likely.

Berkman, in the final guaranteed year of six year contract makes $14.5-million this year and has a full no-trade clause. Would he accept a trade to another team in the same state? Perhaps if the Rangers agreed to exercise his $15-million option for 2011, but then again, that price tag may be a little too high for a player such as Berkman at this stage in his career.

Though still on the disabled list, Lowell could find himself playing for the Rangers by the end of the month. His $12-million salary makes it hard for the Red Sox to move him, but the very little playing time that he has seen while healthy is an indicator that they may be willing to eat some salary just to rid themselves of Lowell. That said, they may not necessarily give him away and would probably want roster players in return as they go for a playoff push of their own.

Whatever the Rangers do, they will probably ask teams to eat some salary in any trade they make like they did when acquiring Lee from the Mariners. The impending sale of the team makes it hard for them to take on any payroll for the remainder of the year, though has not had as much of a hindrance on the team as expected.

Before closing out, I’d like to put out two final options for the Rangers. It could be worthwhile to take a look at players that are currently not contracted to any MLB teams and take a look at some free agents. Specifically, Carlos Delgado and Jermaine Dye.

If healthy, Delgado would be a huge help to the Rangers. In Arlington, Delgado has a career slash line of .316/.400/.781 with 19 home runs in just 40 games. Those 19 home runs are the most that Delgado has hit in any ballpark that he has not called home throughout his career. We know that he had off-season surgery and was not expected to play until June or July, but we do not currently know how he is progressing or if he will even be able to play this year. Still, it’s something worth looking into.

Unable to find a Major League contract at the start of the season, Dye may find a home in Texas if he is willing to play first base. We saw a decline in Dye’s numbers in 2009, but the power was still there and at 36, is still a much more reliable option than Davis. Being a free agent, the team would not have to give up any players to obtain him. Though, money could be an obstacle for the Rangers.

At the moment, it is not clear if the Rangers will be able to acquire any more players. The only thing that can be observed by watching them is that they have a definite need for a new first baseman. Barring any injuries, it should be all they need to go deep into the post-season.

They have great production from all other positions, some quality arms in the starting rotation and a reliable bullpen. The Rangers may win the division title with the current squad, but obtaining one more offensive threat to play first base will almost certainly guarantee it.