With the Rangers sitting at 34-44 and well out of playoff contention, they’ve made third baseman Adrian Beltre, closer Keone Kela and reliever Jake Diekman available on the trade market, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Even though Beltre is a franchise icon, this isn’t the first time the Rangers have put him on the market. They previously did so during the offseason, according to Grant, who adds that there wasn’t much interest in Beltre then. At the time, Beltre was coming off an injury-shortened season, though he still managed a lofty .312/.383/.532 batting line with 17 home runs and 3.1 fWAR across 94 games and 389 plate appearances.
This season – Beltre’s age-39 campaign – hasn’t gone as well for the future Hall of Famer, but he has still drawn reported interest from at least two playoff contenders. Beltre has endured a pair of stints on the disabled list because of hamstring issues, thus limiting him to 47 games and 192 PAs thus far. He looks healthy now, but because there’s no designated hitter in the National League, injury concerns could limit Beltre’s market to mostly AL teams, Grant notes. Any club acquiring Beltre would be landing a still-useful hitter, as shown by his .314/.365/.456 line this year, though his power hasn’t been as evident (four home runs, .142 ISO).
While Beltre has remained a capable player despite his injury issues over the past couple seasons, there are other complications that could stand in the way of a deal. For one, Beltre has 10-and-5 rights which would enable him to block a trade anywhere. Beltre also isn’t cheap – the impending free agent’s still owed around $9.77MM through season’s end – and could be part of a market featuring other established third base options in Manny Machado, Mike Moustakas and Josh Donaldson, as Grant points out.
Unlike Beltre, Kela can’t prevent a deal from happening, nor is he expensive. The 25-year-old’s on a $1.2MM salary this season and comes with arbitration control through the 2021 campaign. In his first extensive action as a closer this year, the flamethrowing Kela has upped his value by converting all 17 of his save opportunities and posting a 3.67 ERA with 11.0 K/9 and 3.67 BB/9 over 27 innings. While Kela has only logged a 35.4 percent groundball rate, he has partially offset that with a 20 percent infield fly mark – good for a 13th-place tie among qualified relievers. Kela’s penchant for inducing harmless pop-ups has helped limit his home runs allowed to .68 per nine, which easily outdoes the league-average figure for relievers (1.01).
The 31-year-old Diekman has joined Kela in serving as a bright spot for Texas’ bullpen this season. Diekman’s performance has been especially encouraging after he missed most of last season following a procedure in which he had his colon removed. Diekman was an effective big league reliever prior to the surgery, and he has picked up where he left off this season. Thus far, the left-hander has notched a 2.96 ERA with 11.52 K/9 and a 50 percent grounder rate over 27 1/3 innings, though he has also walked 5.27 batters per nine. And Diekman carries a significant reverse platoon split, as lefties have slashed .303/.452/.424 against him and righties have limped to a .171/.256/.246 line. Struggles against lefties are unusual for Diekman, who has held them a .222/.319/.295 mark in his career.
Given his remaining team control, there’s no pressure on the Rangers to part with Kela if they’re unable to find a deal to their liking. But Diekman is an impending free agent, making the hard-throwing veteran an obvious trade candidate. Diekman’s on an affordable salary ($2,712,500), which seems to make a trade all the more likely by the non-waiver deadline on July 31.