The Rangers have added some depth to their rotation and bullpen, announcing the acquisition of right-handed starter Lucas Harrell and left-hander reliever Dario Alvarez from the Braves in exchange for minor league second baseman Travis Demeritte. Texas has designated infielder Matt Duffy for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster. Both Harrell and Alvarez will join the big league club right away, per the Rangers’ announcement.
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Harrell, 31, signed a minor league contract with the Tigers this offseason and opened the year pitching with Detroit’s Triple-A affiliate. After hitting the open market in late May, Harrell inked another minors pact, this time with the Braves, and worked his way up into Atlanta’s big league rotation, where he’s posted a 3.38 ERA with 6.4 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 and a 44.2 percent ground-ball rate in 29 1/3 innings spanning five starts.
Harrell broke into the Majors with the 2010 White Sox but didn’t find his first success until the 2012 season, when he tossed 193 2/3 innings of 3.76 ERA ball and made 32 starts for the Astros. Harrell looked at that point to have a chance at establishing himself as a long-term option at the back of the Houston rotation, but he struggled in two subsequent seasons and ultimately landed with the LG Twins of the Korea Baseball Organization in 2015, where he also struggled over a full season’s workload out of the rotation. Harrell, though, has pitched well at all of his minor league stops this season and looked useful enough in the Braves’ rotation to have reportedly garnered trade interest from a handful of teams.
Alvarez, too, was a midseason addition for the Braves, who claimed him off waivers from the Mets back on May 25. The 27-year-old hadn’t experienced much in the way of big league success prior to this season despite a lifetime 2.97 ERA in the minors, but he’s yielded just five earned runs on 11 hits and five walks with a whopping 28 strikeouts through 15 Major League innings since being claimed by the Braves. It’s a small sample, to be sure, but Alvarez’s velocity is up two miles per hour (averaging 93.5 mph) over his previous stints with the Mets, and he’s doubled the usage of his slider, which appears to have led to considerably improved results. The Rangers clearly were impressed by the gains he’s made in 2016, and if they prove to be sustainable, Texas will have control of Alvarez for another five years beyond the 2016 season, so there’s some long-term potential here.
That the Braves were able to turn a pair of May additions into Demeritte is a fairly notable surprise. While the 21-year-old doesn’t rank among the game’s top 100 prospects or even the top 10 farmhands within the Texas organization, the former first-round pick entered the season rated 20th among Rangers prospects per MLB.com and 28th per Baseball America. He struggled last season and was hit with an 80-game PED suspension but has had a rebound year with Texas’ Class-A Advanced affiliate, batting .272/.352/.583 with 25 home runs and 13 stolen bases. MLB.com notes that he has more power than a typical second baseman but has long been far too aggressive at the plate. That hasn’t changed this year, as Demeritte has whiffed in more than a third of his plate appearances in Class-A in spite of his power.
The 27-year-old Duffy, not to be confused with the Giants third baseman of the same name, was claimed off waivers out of the Astros organization last month. He’s a career .272/.340/.438 hitter in parts of three Triple-A seasons but has totaled just 12 plate appearances at the Major League level — all coming with Houston.
David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported that Harrell and Alvarez had been traded. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reported that the Rangers were getting each player. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Demeritte was heading back to Atlanta in the deal.