We’re clearly past wondering whether the Rangers will enter the deadline in position to pursue a 2019 postseason spot, with the club collapsing out of range of plausible contention. But that doesn’t mean it’s obvious how the organization will handle trade talks in the coming days.
Rangers president of baseball operations Jon Daniels will have to decide whether to pursue trades involving several players who could be of future use in Texas. Outfielder Nomar Mazara has popped up on the rumor mill, as has reliever Jose Leclerc. It’s interesting to wonder about those talented younger players, neither of whom has performed to expectations this year, but they aren’t the club’s most intriguing deadline candidates. That status belongs instead to veteran starters Mike Minor and Lance Lynn.
Appearing on 105.3 The Fan’s Ben and Skin Show (transcript via the Dallas Morning News), Daniels discussed a variety of topics of hot-stove interest. But his comments on Minor and Lynn are most noteworthy given the still-uncertain status of this summer’s starting pitching market.
Daniels made clear that the Texas club values these pitchers “at a very high level.” He provided support for that position by observing: “You’ve got guys that are performing at a high level, that are filling a need that we need now and we’re going to need going forward. We need more pitching, not less ultimately.”
There’s plenty of truth in that statement, even if the Rangers have to listen to offers. (Daniels has already said they will.) This is a club that’s opening a new ballpark next year — “ultimately people come to see the team on the field,” Daniels noted while discussing the impact of the stadium — and has elected not to launch a full-throated rebuild. While the 2019 Opening Day payroll sat lower than at any point since 2011, it still checked in at levels that would cause some small-market clubs heart palpitations ($118MM).
The Texas club is obviously interested in putting a good product on the field year after year. And there’s no doubting the roster’s dire need for starting pitching. Parting with good starting pitching (with future contract control) would open a hole that’ll need to be filled somehow.
True, the Rangers can go out looking for the next versions of Minor and Lynn. They’ll probably do so regardless. But it’s awfully tough to assume that they’ll have near as much success with their next buy-low, three-year contract as they have with their prior two. Minor ($28MM) and Lynn ($30MM) inked near-identical deals in successive winters, with the Rangers luring both with longer deals than many anticipated while promising limited average annual salaries. They’ve each been among the game’s most productive starters this year.
It’s certainly plenty appealing to hang onto these hurlers and continue to hope they provide good value over the remaining years on their contracts. (With one season remaining for Minor and two for Lynn, speculation has mostly focused on the former, though that doesn’t necessarily reflect the preferences of interested teams.) On the other hand, both are over thirty years of age with somewhat worrying injury histories. And market circumstances could align to create rather significant interest, particularly if other quality starters end up carrying audacious price tags.
Given the competing considerations, Daniels says, the Rangers won’t be moving off of their own lofty valuations on these hurlers. If the club ends up dealing one or both, he suggests, we’ll know why as soon as the swap is reported: “If we ultimately get to a place where we’re going to consider moving any of our big-league pitchers, it’s going to be because it clearly makes sense to do so. I think the return will speak for itself.”