Texas Rangers Rumors

Texas Rangers trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Trade Notes: Taylor, Cueto, Cards, Indians, Rangers, White Sox

The Nationals and Athletics have matched up on trade deadline rentals (and other deals) with some frequency of late, and the clubs have reportedly discussed both Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard this year. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports, nothing has gained significant traction as of yet. Oakland has expressed interest in young Nats outfielder Michael Taylor, who has found himself playing a significant role on the club this year as a fill-in for Denard Span (to start the year) and Jayson Werth (currently on the DL). The A’s have also asked about the Nats’ young arms, per Rosenthal, who argues that the Taylor ask suggests that Oakland GM Billy Beane could be looking to “operate as both a buyer and seller” this summer. From my perspective, looking to add an unpolished but big-league-ready and controllable piece like Taylor is to be expected, whether or not Beane thinks his club has enough time to get back in contention this season. I’d also add that the Nats seem unlikely to move Taylor with Span set to hit free agency after the season.

Here are some more notes on the trade market:

  • The Yankees are getting a good look at Reds starter Johnny Cueto, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. New York has sent a scout to watch both of Cueto’s last two starts, per the report. Of course, they surely are not alone in dedicating attention to the player who could be the best arm available this July.
  • Though he doesn’t call for a trade directly, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch breaks down the flaws in the Cardinals bench alignment. In particular, utility infielder Pete Kozma has struggled badly at the plate for some time. And the team’s resources have been stretched somewhat with Mark Reynolds needed to fill in for the injured Matt Adams. Certainly, as the team looks to fortify itself for a stretch run and hopeful post-season berth, reserve players could be on the wish list.
  • The Indians remain in a somewhat uncertain position in a tough AL Central; entering today’s action, the team remains four games under .500 and eight back in the division. In an appearance on MLB Network Radio (Twitter link), Cleveland GM Chris Antonetti certainly sounded more like a buyer. “We’re still learning about our team,” he said. “We’re still trying to find out where we’ll need to supplement.”
  • In his own recent MLB Network Radio spot several days ago (via Twitter), Rangers GM Jon Daniels explained that he is preparing to take a hard look at the trade market. “If someone out there can help us, we have to be open-minded,” said Daniels. “We’ll evaluate our own guys first and go from there.” As both of these executive quotes indicate, one somewhat underappreciated factor in the slow onset of serious trades is the fact that many clubs are interested in obtaining an extended look at multiple internal options — all while seeing how other teams’ players are performing — before deciding whether to part with assets.
  • The White Sox are in an even tougher spot than their division rivals from Cleveland, but GM Rick Hahn emphasized that the team is still focused on crawling back into contention, as Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reports. “The organization still absolutely believes in this team,” Hahn said. “The focus on the ballgames and the belief we will win ballgames is there.” Of course, as Levine rightly notes, the best way to get back in the hunt — improved performance — is also the optimal means of building trade value. Hahn went on to explain that he had no interest in giving public insight into the team’s strategic thinking. “Do we have thoughts on potential moves to reinvigorate the 2015 club and put us in a better position to contend going forward? Absolutely,” said Hahn. “As for the timing or the nature of those moves, that is not something that we will lay out in advance.”
  • ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark lays out his top ten targets, rating Cole Hamels of the Phillies as the biggest trade piece. One executive tells Stark that Hamels has probably increased his value over the first few months of the season, though of course he is out right now with what is hoped to be a relatively minor hamstring issue. Teams that have had contact with the Phils are indicating that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is still insisting on young players that possible buyers have said they’re not willing to move. One source tells Stark that a “more creative” approach will be needed to get something done. Amaro has obviously taken a lot of heat for his handling of the team’s trade chips, though at this point it is probably best to withhold judgment; after all, Hamels is a somewhat unique trade commodity given his large but manageable contract, and a bidding war remains a plausible scenario.

International Notes: Market, Martinez, Venezuela

The international market continues to be a fairly inefficient arena despite advances in overall talent evaluation resources, Ben Badler of Baseball America writes. An advancing timeline for reaching verbal agreement with July 2 prospects has exacerbated the difficulties of scouting young, swiftly changing players, says Badler. Generally, uncertainty and market manipulation are prevalent, creating an environment in which bonuses do not always match talent.

Here’s more from the international scene:

  • The Yankees “made a run” at signing MLB.com’s top-rated international prospect, Eddy Julio Martinez, before the close of the 2014-15 July 2 period, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports on Twitter. A deal did not get done, however, meaning that Martinez will sign elsewhere at some point after July 2 (when the new year’s market open). New York is now just starting out on a two-year ban on international bonuses of over $300K.
  • Broader difficulties are even greater in Venezuela, writes Badler, citing one scout who says “this is as bad as it’s been” to evaluate young players there. But the same large-scale economic issues that have crippled the country and had a trickle-down effect on the baseball industry have also created shifting incentives for ballplaying youngsters. Badler explains that, even as less resources and money have reached Venezuela, there is an increasing trend of teenagers devoting more time to baseball development in hopes of earning a chance at a contract, thereby sacrificing time that might have gone toward other pursuits. That has led to a bump in the overall talent level coming up, though of course it is probably not a positive indicator for the country’s young people.
  • Badler also provides a preview of the best prospects coming up on the July 2 market out of Venezuela. The Rockies are “strong favorites” to sign outfielder Daniel Montano, who is expected to receive the largest bonus from the country (perhaps over $2MM). And the Rangers appear to have the inside track on another well-regarded outfielder, Miguel Aparicio, at a lower price tag.
  • There’s plenty more to learn from the Badler pieces cited above, and you’ll want to give them a full read for all of the details.

Rangers Sign Eric Jenkins, Michael Matuella

The Rangers have signed second-round pick Eric Jenkins and third-rounder Michael Matuella. Both receive $2MM bonuses, per Jim Callis of MLB.com (Twitter links).

The second and third overall choices of the Rangers came with $1,360,100 and $777,600 slot values. Combined, the two signings require the team to make up for $1,862,300 in pool money. In addition to the $826,500 saved on first-round selection Dillon Tate, the club has reportedly saved on several other signings (links to Twitter reports): Blake Bass (eighth round, $166,300 savings), Peter Fairbanks (ninth round, $64,700 savings), and Leon Byrd (tenth round, $123,700 savings). That leaves $804,800 left to reach par, though the team can exceed its total allotment by up to 5% without losing a future draft pick.

Jenkins, a high school center fielder, drew broad consensus heading into the draft, with Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs, MLB.com, and Baseball America all pegging him as between #40 and #43 in terms of pre-draft prospect value. His speed is his best attribute, though he also shows promise with the bat (albeit not much in terms of power projection). ESPN.com’s Keith Law is less bullish, rating Jenkins 78th and questioning whether he’ll be able to adapt to higher-level competition.

Of course, Matuella entered the draft as one of the most interesting names to watch. Regarded by some as a possible top five pick heading into the year, Tommy John surgery cut his season short and made him a questionable signing candidate with another season of college eligibility left. Matuella already faced questions about his back heading into the draft, and his stock dropped accordingly. But he remains an intriguing talent, with Law rating him the 19th-best available player and noting that he has top-of-the-rotation upside if he can get healthy.

Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest & Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Tribune first reported that the deals were nearing finalization (Twitter links).

Jorge Alfaro Could Miss Rest Of Year

Top Rangers catching prospect Jorge Alfaro has suffered an ankle injury that could keep him out for the rest of the season, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. Alfaro is currently wearing a walking boot, and the Rangers are considering surgery as an option.

MLB.com currently ranks Alfaro the Rangers’ second-best prospect (behind Joey Gallo) and the 38th best prospect in baseball. ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Alfaro the No. 35 prospect in baseball heading into the season, while Baseball America ranked Alfaro No. 67. Alfaro, who turned 22 yesterday, has hit .253/.314/.432 for Double-A Frisco this year. He has outstanding tools, including terrific power and a huge arm, although Law notes that he has at times struggled to control them. Alfaro might therefore need the minor league development time he’ll lose as a result of the injury more than many prospects of his caliber would.

Early in the season, Alfaro’s name came up as a possibility in trade rumors involving Cole Hamels, as the Phillies reportedly coveted Alfaro. Other reports at the time, however, indicated that the Rangers preferred not to trade him.

Rangers Sign Dillon Tate

The Rangers have officially announced the signing of fourth overall pick Dillon Tate, along with the signings of righty Jake Lemoine (fourth round), shortstop Dylan Moore (seventh), righty Blake Bass (eighth), righty Peter Fairbanks (ninth), shortstop Leon Byrd (tenth), and centerfielder Ledarious Clark (12th). All have been assigned to short-season Spokane except Lemoine, who will head to the Arizona Summer League.

Tate will receive a bonus of $4.2MM, as Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest tweets. The pool value of the pick was $5,026,500, so Tate’s signing will save the Rangers over $800K that they can use on later picks, perhaps including third-round pick Michael Matuella, who could command a bonus above his recommended $777,600 allotment. Lemoine, meanwhile, will receive $528K, which is the exact bonus allotment for his pick.

Tate, a 21-year-old junior righty from UC-Santa Barbara, earns high marks for his fastball (which can reach up to 98 MPH) and high-80s slider. MLB.com notes that his curveball isn’t as strong and that his delivery involves a bit of effort, but that Tate seems to have answered questions about whether he’s capable of starting. If in fact he doesn’t work out in that role, his arsenal would seem well suited to bullpen work — Tate excelled as a closer in college before transitioning to the rotation.

Baseball America (subscription-only), meanwhile, ranked Tate the No. 3 prospect in the draft, behind only Brendan Rodgers and Dansby Swanson. BA noted that, as a result of switching from relieving to starting, Tate greatly increased his innings total this year. That might mean the Rangers could be cautious with him as he enters his first pro season. Tate has pitched 103 1/3 innings so far in 2015, with a 2.26 ERA, 9.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9.

Trade Market Notes: Top Targets, Papelbon, Jays, Mets, Cueto

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com ranks the top forty trade candidates around the league, adding observations and notes on each. Though he notes that clubs like the Red Sox and Orioles could potentially end up moving assets, Heyman restricts things to clubs that seem more likely than not to sell at this point. Cole Hamels of the Phillies lands in the pole position; though some top suitors remain unwilling to part with the top players targeted by Philadelphia, one GM tells Heyman that the club will probably be able to land a premium prospect for the lefty. He also argues that a deal involving Dodgers outfielder and Angels starter C.J. Wilson looks good on paper, though the teams have not discussed such an arrangement. You’ll need to read the whole post to take it all in, of course.

  • The Blue Jays and Phillies have not discussed Jonathan Papelbon in the last week, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (Twitter links), adding that Toronto is looking at other arms at the moment. One name to watch, says Sherman, is Tyler Clippard of the Athletics, who Toronto had in-depth discussions about over the winter.
  • It’s academic at this point, but Clippard also drew significant interest from the Astros over the offseason, Sherman further tweets. Indeed, Houston was “very close” to acquiring the veteran reliever, says Sherman, which raises the interesting question of what the Nationals would have received in return. Ultimately, the club took infielder Yunel Escobar in return, though that deal did not occur until a month after the Astros had already spent big on free agent bullpen arms, which could indicate that the prospective Clippard acquisition might have been contemplated earlier in the winter.
  • Mets GM Sandy Alderson indicated that the club will not rely on a return from David Wright in making its summer moves, David Lennon of Newsday writes. Alderson said the club would not continue providing regular updates on Wright’s status, and said he would not be restricted in making moves. “Would we consider a third baseman who can’t do anything else?” Alderson queried. “Under the circumstances, yeah, we probably would. But we’re not just looking for any third baseman. It has to be something we think is an improvement that doesn’t cost us significantly.” The veteran GM continued to throw cold water on the idea of a move in the near-term, noting that the market was “narrow” and generally features underperforming players at this stage.
  • C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer discusses the Reds‘ current predicament, with Zack Cozart out for the season, Devin Mesoraco likely to join him in that regard, and Marlon Byrd sidelined for a significant stretch. Cincinnati should not allow its hosting of the All-Star game to slow its efforts to deal Johnny Cueto, opines Rosecrans, who suggests that the team could reap a larger reward by moving him now (both by selling more starts and, perhaps, by getting ahead of the market). Dealing Cueto, of course, would also increase the appeal of shipping out Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman. Rosecrans concludes: “At this point, the organization doesn’t need to think about the All-Star Game, or even 2016. This is a long-term move and needs long-term thinking.”
  • Though he’s a rental, Cueto is a true ace and should bring back a healthy return — even if it won’t be near what the Reds might have achieved last year (as Rosecrans explains). There should be no shortage of suitors, but MLB.com’s Phil Rogers lists the five most plausible landing spots: the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Dodgers, Rangers, and Padres.

Amateur Notes: July 2, Martinez, Sierra, D’Backs, Draft

With the draft in the books, the next July 2 period is just around the corner. Last year saw several teams blow past their spending allocations, incurring two-year bans on $300K+ signings to do so. As the Angels, Diamondbacks, Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees go on probation, the Cubs and Rangers are returning to the market. Ben Badler of Baseball America breaks down this year’s market, with the Cubs joined by the Dodgers and Royals as teams that seem quite likely to dole out enough excess bonus cash to incur the highest possible penalties. The Phillies and Blue Jays could follow those clubs, says Badler, though they may yet be able to add their top targets without taking on a signing ban. Badler discusses several clubs that could be buyers or sellers of international space, with the Twins profiling as a major acquirer or spending capacity and the D’backs looking to get some value back for the bonus availability that they cannot take advantage of.

You’ll want to give that piece a full read. Here are some other worthwhile amateur links:

  • Badler discusses the signing situations of BA’s top ten July 2 prospects (non-Cuban edition). He says the Mets are the favorites to land Venezuelan shortstop Andres Gimenez. Though New York probably won’t get Vladimir Guerror Jr., who has long been linked to the Blue Jays, they may instead get Vlad Sr. nephew Gregory Guerrero, another shortstop. Meanwhile, Badler says the Rangers appear set to sign Dominican outfielder Leodys Taveras but now seem likely to lose Bahamian shortstop Lucius Fox to the Dodgers.
  • Cuban outfielder Eddie Julio Martinez has drawn a range of reviews, with MLB.com pegging him as the top overall international prospect and Badler expressing considerably more doubt. You can have a look for yourself, at least at some batting practice cuts, with a video courtesy of BA.
  • Well-regarded Cuban right-hander Yaisel Sierra will be represented by Praver-Shapiro Sports Management, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. As Badler recently explained, Sierra will be exempt from international signing restrictions when he becomes eligible to sign, but his Serie Nacional track record has never quite matched his promising pure stuff.
  • The Diamondbacks‘ new regime exhibited a notable change in strategy in this year’s draft, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic notes (Twitter links). After going heavy on high schoolers at the top of last year’s draft, Arizona chose 15 collegiate players in its first 19 picks (including each of its first six selections) this time around. Individual draft dynamics always have an important bearing on a team’s final board, of course, but it is notable that the D’Backs ultimately chose just four high school players out of their forty total draft slots.
  • MLB.com’s Jim Callis lists the five teams that had the best drafts. Like other analysts, he places the AstrosRockies, and Dodgers at the top of that list. Callis also likes what the Rays and Rangers accomplished with their selections.

Rangers Release Mike Kickham

The Rangers have released lefty Mike Kickham, per a club announcement (h/t to Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest).

Texas claimed Kickham off waivers just over a month ago from the Mariners. The 26-year-old has struggled at Triple-A since, permitting 21 earned runs in just 27 innings of work. Even worse, he has struck out just 16 batters while issuing an alarming 35 free passes.

Kickham has only minimal big league experience, having thrown 30 1/3 innings over the last two seasons with the Giants. Those weren’t terribly successful either, though he has shown the ability to induce swings and misses from MLB hitters.

Draft Notes: Matuella, Rodgers, Harris, Cameron

Scouts do much more than tally stats, of course, but they are not immune from the allure of racking up their own numbers. As MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick writes, Marty Lamb of the Dodgers received credit as the lead scout on three of the team’s top five choices, including first-rounder Walker Buehler, a fairly rare achievement. “Part of it is luck,” explains the veteran scout. “They’ve got to fall to the right places, and we’ve got to like them. … It’s fun, but I’m sure some of my buddies [fellow scouts] aren’t too happy with me right now, but it’s part of the game.”

Here’s more from out west:

  • Rangers scouting director Kip Fagg, likewise, was pleased with how things turned out Monday, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes“I can’t think of a better day that I’ve had in my 24 years of scouting with the Texas Rangers,” he said. “The first four guys we drafted, we had them all in our top 20 on our board. That’s never happened in my career. That made it special.” Texas took righty Dillon Tate with its top pick and also went on to secure the rights to Duke starter Michael Matuella, a high-upside talent who has injury and signability questions. Matuella says he is “very confident” in reaching a deal, with Fagg echoed that sentiment.
  • High school shortstop Brendan Rodgers, the Rockies‘ top selection at third overall, said Monday that he agreed on bonus terms with the club before the draft, as Nick Groke of the Denver Post reported. Ink has not yet been put to paper, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets, but it appears that Rodgers will formally reach a deal in fairly short order.
  • Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are nearing agreement with first-rounder Jon Harris, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. The righty is expected to receive a bonus in line with the slot value of $1,944,800, sources tell Davidi. Toronto has expressed real excitement at having another chance at Harris, who the team failed to sign out of high school after the 2012 draft.
  • Astros second-round choice Daz Cameron, a highly-regarded high school outfielder, is asking “less than” the $5MM he was rumored to be seeking, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. The consensus is that Cameron fell to Houston because it has the overall spending capacity to sign him, but perhaps the team will not need to go quite as high as had been expected to get a deal done. Daz’s father — long-time big leaguer Mike Cameron — offers plenty of interesting thoughts on his son’s draft experience and the useful “business management” lesson he picked up along the way. It’s an interesting piece and well worth a read.

Prospect Notes: Turner, Draft Updates, Cuba

The Nationals can finalize their acquisition of Padres shortstop Trea Turner as soon as June 14, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports. Turner, the widely-reported player to be named later in the deal that delivered Wil Myers to San Diego — with the Nationals giving up Steven Souza (to the Rays) and also picking up righty Joe Ross — has remained with the Padres organization under the since-changed rules regarding drafted players. The 21-year-old owns a .322/.389/.478 slash with five home runs and ten steals in 231 plate appearances at Double-A.

  • Several notable names have come off the board early on day two of the draft. Duke righty Michael Matuella went to the Rangers with the third pick of the third round (78th overall). Not long after, the Padres took fellow right-hander Jacob Nix, whom the Astros were unable to sign last year after their deal with top pick Brady Aiken fell through. And the Nationals grabbed Mariano Rivera Jr. with the 134th choice.
  • Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs offers his thoughts on yesterday’s draft proceedings, explaining that it is premature to judge the Marlins harshly at this juncture for choosing young slugger Josh Naylor in the first round (much higher than most pundits had him rated). After all, as McDaniel rightly notes, the supposed “value” of a pick will never be as important in the long run as the simple fact of whether that player develops and produces, and at some point teams simply have to take guys they believe in when they can get them. Check out the piece for Kiley’s views on the clubs that chose well on the draft’s first day.
  • Amateur players come to clubs through the draft and the international signing market, of course, making comparison difficult. Ben Badler of Baseball America discusses the latest news and analysis on the Cuban market, providing a helpful guide on several notable names by assigning them a rough (and entirely hypothetical) draft value. Notably, Badler does not share the optimism that some have expressed regarding righty Yadier Alvarez and, in particular, outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez.