- Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal draws parallels between the Rangers’ trade for Cole Hamels last July and the Red Sox’ need for a starter this season. Like the Rangers last summer, the Red Sox have four or five prospects that are regarded among the very best in the game — Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers and Anderson Espinoza are widely considered to be within the game’s Top 35 prospects or so — meaning the Sox could part with one or even two in an effort to land an impact arm that is controllable beyond 2016. MacPherson lists Julio Teheran and Sonny Gray as potential fits in that regard, and I’d add that the Braves, in particular, provide a comparable opportunity to the Hamels swap; Atlanta is also open to moving Arodys Vizcaino, who could be packaged with Teheran as Jake Diekman was with Hamels last season. Rangers fans will want to take a look at MacPherson’s piece as well, as he spoke with Rangers GM Jon Daniels about last summer’s trade and has a number of quotes from Daniels on his thinking at the time.
- Speaking of the Rangers, they’re hoping to have Yu Darvish back in their rotation prior to the All-Star break, as MLB.com’s Ryan Posner writes. Darvish tossed a 30-pitch bullpen session yesterday — his first time throwing off a mound since landing back on the disabled list earlier this month — and he’s slated to throw a simulated game on Wednesday of this week. A quick return for Darvish would certainly be a breath of fresh air for the Rangers, who saw sixty percent of their rotation hit the DL within a span of 10 days, as Derek Holland and Colby Lewis followed Darvish to the disabled list in short order.
- Sam Dyson has emerged as the Rangers’ closer but is also tied for the league lead in appearances. As Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News writes, this is an untenable situation for any closer, especially one with a checkered injury history like Dyson. The logical answer is to limit Dyson’s innings, though that could be difficult with Texas in the thick of a pennant race. The Rangers are known to be exploring bullpen upgrades, and they could even replace Dyson at closer if the Yankees made Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller available.
- The Rangers inquired about Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright during the offseason, Texas president and GM Jon Daniels told Rob Bradford of WEEI on Saturday. “We asked about him this winter and they did not want to move him,” said Daniels. Wright was out of options and coming off a season in which he threw 72 2/3 innings and recorded a 4.09 ERA, 6.44 K/9, 3.34 BB/9 and 43.2 percent ground-ball rate. Nearly all of those numbers have improved this season, especially the 31-year-old’s ERA – which stands at a sparkling 2.18 through 103 frames. Daniels told Bradford that the Rangers “would have tried harder” to land Wright had they known he would be this successful in 2016.
Cole Hamels, whose contract permits him to block deals to 20 teams, would not have prevented the Phillies from sending him to the Red Sox, writes WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. “It was a team I would have played for,” says Hamels, who adds that he believes the two sides were never close to trade. The Red Sox pursued Hamels before the Phillies traded him to Texas, but the lefty could block a trade to Boston, and at least some members of the organization believed that was an obstacle. The Hamels deal has, of course, worked out well for the Rangers so far — Hamels was solid down the stretch last year and has a 2.79 ERA, 8.8 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 this season. There’s still plenty of time for the trade to turn out well for the Phillies, however, with Jerad Eickhoff already performing well in the big leagues and Nick Williams, Jake Thompson, Jorge Alfaro and Alec Asher all looking like potential future contributors. Here’s more from the East divisions.
The Rangers will be without right-hander Colby Lewis for at least the next two months due to a strained lat muscle that was revealed by an MRI today, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Wilson adds that Lewis won’t throw for the next four weeks, at which point he’ll undergo another MRI to determine the progress he’s made before being cleared to begin a throwing program. Via MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan (Twitter link), Rangers GM Jon Daniels didn’t specify an immediate replacement for Lewis, but he called the loss a “kick in the gut.”
The loss of Lewis, 36, is indeed a significant blow to the Rangers. Texas saw Yu Darvish head back to the disabled list last week, and earlier today they placed lefty Derek Holland on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. That’s sixty percent of the team’s rotation hitting the DL in the span of 10 days, leaving the club with a rotation consisting of Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Nick Martinez and A.J. Griffin. As can be seen on their newly depth chart (reflecting today’s Lewis/Holland injuries), former first-round pick Chi Chi Gonzalez is already on the 40-man roster and just a phone call away at Triple-A Round Rock, so he could step into the big league rotation in short order.
That said, it certainly seems plausible that the Rangers will explore outside additions for the rotation. The Rangers have yet to announce any form of timeline for the returns of Darvish or Holland as they did with Lewis, so there’s some degree of hope that they can return sooner rather than later. However, replacing Lewis’ production will be no small feat for the Rangers. To this point in the season, he’s enjoyed an outstanding rebound, totaling a team-leading 98 innings and posting a 3.21 ERA with 5.6 K/9, 1.7 BB/9 and a 36 percent ground-ball rate. Metrics like FIP, xFIP and SIERA all call for a fair amount of regression, but Lewis has nonetheless been a rock in manager Jeff Banister’s rotation through the first 10 weeks of the season.
While the Rangers did part with a good deal of talent in the July trade that netted Hamels and dominant setup man Jake Diekman, Texas still has a well-regarded farm system that has plenty of upper-level bats if the team wishes to seek outside assistance for its contingent of starting pitchers. Daniels has never been shy about pursuing help on the summer trade market, and recent deals for Hamels, Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster exemplify that aggressive nature. Texas is 20 games above .500 and holds a 9.5 game lead in the American League West, so there might not be an immediate or urgent need to supplement the starting staff, but adding some established talent that could contribute in a playoff setting sometime between now and the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline seems like a logical play for Daniels and his staff.
- The Rangers announced today that Derek Holland has been placed on the 15-day disabled list due to inflammation in his left shoulder. Texas didn’t include any sort of timeline, though the press release announcing the move did reference the fact that he’s eligible for activation on June 6. Holland has struggled quite a bit of late, and his 5.20 ERA is especially troubling due to the fact that his K/9 rate (5.3), BB/9 rate (3.1), ground-ball rate (36.2 percent) and average fastball velocity (91.8 mph) have all trended in the wrong direction this season. Knee and shoulder injuries have plagued Holland over the past two seasons; this year’s 72 2/3 innings are already the most he’s thrown in a big league season since 2013. The Rangers brought up right-hander Luke Jackson to take his place on the active roster.
The Rangers have acquired third baseman Kyle Kubitza from the Angels, per an announcement from club VP of communications John Blake. Cash considerations will head back to the Halos in the deal.
Kubitza had been designated for assignment by Los Angeles as the organization continues to churn through pitching at the major league level, leading to a need for 40-man roster spots. Texas has optioned Kubitza to Triple-A.
Heading into the year, prospect watchers generally viewed Kubitza as a top-ten organizational prospect in an exceedingly thin Angels farm. The 25-year-old had been acquired before the 2015 campaign from the Braves in exchange for left-handed pitching prospect Ricardo Sanchez.
Kubitza is hitting just .253/.349/.366 over 215 plate appearances on the year at Triple-A, and struggled in a brief taste of the majors last year. But he has shown more in the past at the plate. Obviously, Texas was intrigued enough to use an open 40-man spot to add him.
The Rangers announced that they’ve signed left-handed reliever Neal Cotts to a minor league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Round Rock. The 36-year-old Pro Star Mangement client has spent the season pitching for the Triple-A affiliates of the Angels and Yankees, working to a combined 3.86 ERA with a 15-to-4 K/BB ratio in 21 innings.
This will mark the second stint with the Rangers for Cotts, who revitalized his career as a member of the 2013 Rangers following a three-year absence from the big leagues. Cotts has pitched in the bigs during each season since that resurgence, most recently splitting the 2015 campaign between Milwaukee and Minnesota, where he recorded a combined 3.41 ERA with 8.2 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 in 63 1/3 innings and held lefties to a .186/.243/.330 batting line in 109 plate appearances.
The Phillies have claimed right-hander Phil Klein off waivers from the Rangers, according to Rangers executive vice president of communications John Blake (Twitter link). Klein will now head to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, per a Phillies announcement.
Klein amassed 12 strikeouts against just two walks in 8 2/3 innings with Texas this year, but he also yielded five earned runs. As a result of those issues with run prevention, the Rangers designated Klein for assignment June 9. The 27-year-old threw 45 frames for the Rangers from 2014 to this season and logged a 4.80 ERA, 9.4 K/9, 4.4 BB/9 and 39.5 percent ground-ball rate. Klein has posted similar strikeout and walk ratios (10.5 and 4.5, respectively) across 277 minor league innings, but his 2.24 ERA rates as significantly better than the figure he recorded with Texas.
The 34-34 Yankees remain in the thick of the playoff race in the American League, where they sit 5.5 games back of the AL East-leading Orioles and 3.5 games out of a Wild Card position. If the Yankees fall off prior to the Aug. 1 trade deadline and decide to shop elite relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, they’ll garner interest from the Cubs, Nationals, Giants, Dodgers and Rangers, among other potential suitors, reports FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (video link).
New York could trade both and find a complement to Dellin Betances through free agency, according to Rosenthal, who notes that Chapman, the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen and the Pirates’ Mark Melancon – a former Yankee – are all on expiring contracts. Of those three, the only one who’s likely to cost a first-round pick to sign is Jansen, who’s a good bet to receive a qualifying offer (worth roughly $16MM) from Los Angeles.
Miller’s connection to the Cubs, Nationals and Giants is nothing new, of course, with the same holding true for Chapman in regards to Chicago and Washington. The Cubs scouted Yankees relievers last week, and multiple reports this month have linked the Nationals to Chapman and Miller. The Giants, meanwhile, were reportedly mulling going after Miller as of two weeks ago. The Dodgers nearly acquired Chapman from the Reds over the winter, but they moved on amid the 28-year-old’s domestic violence issues and pondered pursuing Miller, whom the Yankees ultimately retained.
The Dodgers already rank an outstanding fourth in bullpen ERA (3.12) and ninth in K/BB (2.88), though adding Chapman or Miller to the likes of Jansen, Joe Blanton and Adam Liberatore would improve their odds of catching the NL West-leading Giants, whom they’re 6.5 games behind, or at least keeping pace in the Wild Card hunt.
Despite San Francisco’s success, its bullpen has been mediocre on the whole and lacks anyone in the stratosphere of Chapman or Miller. It helps that either of those two would bring variety to a unit whose best options – Santiago Casilla, Hunter Strickland, Cory Gearrin and Derek Law – are all right-handed.
The Cubs, who lead the majors with a 46-20 record, are all but devoid of weaknesses. They lack a top-end lefty reliever to complement shutdown righties Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon, however, which is why they’re interested in the Yankees’ tandem. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein acknowledged Friday that relievers are on the team’s radar, saying he “would love” to pick up another quality bullpen arm.
Nationals relievers are eighth in the league in both ERA (3.38) and K/BB ratio (2.9), which has helped the team gain a six-game advantage in the NL East, but closer Jonathan Papelbon is on the disabled list with a right intercostal strain and was merely good before succumbing to injury. There’s also risk with fill-in closer Shawn Kelley – while he has fared brilliantly this season, the 32-year-old is a two-time Tommy John surgery recipient.
Although they’re atop the AL with a 44-25 mark, Rangers relievers are just 25th in ERA (4.84) and a below-average 19th in K/BB (2.38). Sam Dyson, Jake Diekman and Matt Bush are all thriving, but team president and GM Jon Daniels said Saturday that the Rangers would consider looking for outside bullpen help.
Acquiring either Chapman or Miller would clearly be a boon to any of these World Series-contending clubs, though the latter of the two figures to command a heftier return. Not only is Miller locked up through 2018 at a reasonable $9MM salary, but he doesn’t bring any of Chapman’s off-the-field baggage and has been the better of the tandem this season. If shopped, both should require notable young talent coming back, and it’s worth pointing out that ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider required) placed the Dodgers second, the Cubs fourth, the Rangers ninth, the Nationals 15th and the Giants 21st in his preseason farm system rankings.