- Relief pitching will be a deadline priority for the Rangers at the deadline, though the team is still committed to Matt Bush as the closer, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan writes. “We’ve got to continue to develop Matt in that spot. One of the challenges is finding him consistent work in different situations,” manager Jeff Banister said, noting that Bush is still pretty new to pitching in his professional career. The Rangers also want to see what they have in Ernesto Frieri and Tanner Scheppers before deciding on their specific deadline needs for the bullpen.
- Rangers lefty Martin Perez is headed to the 10-day DL with a fractured right thumb, per a club announcement. Fortunately, that’s his non-pitching hand, so it seems likely he won’t require an extended absence. (Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News has the story on the injury, which was caused by a rogue hotel door.) Texas will also welcome back southpaw Cole Hamels, who is slated to take the MLB mound on Monday.
The Rangers have announced that righty Eddie Gamboa was designated for assignment, via executive VP of communications John Blake. His 40-man spot will go to righty Preston Claiborne, whose contract was purchased. Texas also shifted reliever Jeremy Jeffress to the 10-day DL.
Gamboa, a 32-year-old knuckleballer, cracked the majors for the first time last year with the Rays. He was traded out of DFA limbo over the winter, with the Rangers interested in adding an optionable arm to their roster.
Through 77 2/3 innings over 14 starts at Triple-A this year, Gamboa had struggled to a 6.49 ERA. He’s carrying only 5.3 K/9, down from his typical levels in the upper minors, while issuing 4.5 free passes per nine innings.
- The Rangers have selected the contract of righty Tanner Scheppers, per a club announcement. To clear a 40-man spot, the club shifted A.J. Griffin to the 60-day DL. Scheppers, 30, is back in the bigs for the first time this year. He wasn’t especially good in his 16 Triple-A appearances, posting a 4.64 ERA with 5.9 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9. Through 179 career MLB innings, Scheppers owns a 4.17 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9.
With baseball’s draft in the rear-view mirror, the focus for many clubs will begin shifting to trades over the next several weeks. In light of that, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron breaks the league down into nine definite buyers, nine very likely sellers and a dozen bubble teams that are hovering around the .500 mark. As Cameron notes, there’s a case to be made in either direction for virtually all of the 12 fringe clubs, whose playoff odds, as calculated by Fangraphs, range from six percent (Angels, Twins) to 36 percent (Blue Jays). The proximity of stars such as Yu Darvish, Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado to free agency all have a bearing on a team’s decision, as does the overall composition of the roster. (The Mariners, for instance, have a significant amount invested in winning now with a number of aging key players, seemingly making them likelier to push for a postseason spot.) It’s a well-reasoned and comprehensive look at the competitive landscape of baseball in mid-June 2017 and is well worth a full read-through.
Onto some actual rumors pertaining to the trade market…
- Even if the Rangers fall out of contention, they’re not planning to move Darvish, sources tell Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. Texas badly wants to retain their staff ace beyond the 2017 season, though Passan points out that there are only 11 free-agent pitchers that have ever signed a $100MM+ deal — and each has done so with a new team. Still, the Rangers want Darvish to hit the market with Arlington being the only place he’s called home during his Major League career rather than giving him a taste of a new city that could push him further away. I’d add that retaining him also allows the Rangers to make a qualifying offer, though for top-tier free agents such as Darvish, the QO isn’t the same free agency death knell that it has been for second- and third-tier names that have been tied to draft pick compensation.
- Jonathan Lucroy, on the other hand, could potentially be marketed this summer if the Rangers drop far enough out of the race, Passan continues. Texas gave up a massive amount of talent to land Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress last year, sending prospects Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz and Ryan Cordell to the Brewers for a year and a half of Lucroy and three years of Jeffress. Dealing Lucroy would allow the Rangers to get some value back if they can’t remain in contention, though Lucroy’s down season at the plate has been a factor in the Rangers’ underwhelming performance. Through 205 plate appearances, Lucroy is hitting a pedestrian .269/.307/.389. That’s perfectly acceptable for a catcher, but it’s a far cry from the .292/.355/.500 that he slashed last year.
- The Giants have yet to hold a “we’re open for business” meeting despite their awful standing in the NL West and NL Wild Card race, reports Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area. Giants sources tell Pavlovic that the team has been focused on the draft, but they’ll begin to look more closely at their 2017 roadmap now. Dealing Eduardo Nunez is an “easy decision” for the Giants to make, Pavlovic opines (I agree), but they’ll have more complicated questions to ponder when it comes to pitchers Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore. While some may feel that Cueto would be best served to forgo his opt-out, Passan points out that James Shields got four years and $75MM late in the offseason when he was two years older than Cueto will be this winter. Cueto has four years and $84MM remaining following the 2017 season.
- One of Moreland’s former teammates – free agent right-hander Colby Lewis – was unwilling to return to the Rangers on a minor league contract last offseason, and he explained why to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. “I didn’t want to fight for a position,” Lewis said. “Here I am, I have been here forever. I’ll be 38 this season, you want to make me fight for a spot? It was a bitter pill to swallow and still is. I always wanted to wear this uniform, this is where I wanted to be.” Lewis, a Ranger from 2002-04 and 2010-16 who pitched to a 3.71 ERA/4.81 FIP in 116 1/3 innings last year, isn’t ready to call it a career. However, it doesn’t seem as if he’ll take a minors deal anywhere. While Lewis contends he’s only five to six weeks away from being major league ready, it’s difficult to imagine anyone giving him a guaranteed contract.
The Dodgers have claimed outfielder Peter O’Brien off waivers from the Rangers, according to an announcement from Texas. To make room for O’Brien, the Dodgers have designated left-hander Jason Wheeler for assignment, tweets Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Additionally, right-hander Dillon Gee, whom the Rangers designated on Friday, has cleared waivers and elected free agency.
The Dodgers are already the fifth organization of 2017 for the 26-year-old O’Brien, who spent time with the Diamondbacks, Royals and Reds before joining the Rangers in a waiver claim last month. O’Brien only collected 15 plate appearances with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate before the club designated him Saturday, and has stumbled to an overall minor league line of .167/.254/.301 in 209 PAs this year. Although he’s prone to striking out, teams continue to take flyers on O’Brien because of his prodigious power, as the former Yankees farmhand has swatted 122 minor league home runs – including six this season. He saw brief major league action with the D-backs in 2015 and ’16 and hit six long balls in 79 PAs, though he slashed just .176/.228/.446 with a 40.5 percent strikeout rate during that time.
Wheeler, 26, has only been in the Los Angeles organization for two-plus weeks. Since the Dodgers acquired him from the Twins for cash considerations on June 2, Wheeler has thrown 8 2/3 frames of 10-earned run, 16-hit ball with their Triple-A affiliate. Wheeler made his major league debut with Minnesota earlier this season and surrendered three earned runs on six hits and four walks, with no strikeouts, causing the Twins to boot him from their 40-man roster before dealing him to the Dodgers.
As for Gee, the only somewhat established big leaguer of the three, he made four appearances (one start) for Texas this year and tossed 13 innings of 4.15 ERA ball, but he yielded 17 hits and walked six during that short span. Gee fared better with their Triple-A affiliate, logging a 3.88 ERA, 7.59 K/9 and 2.29 BB/9 across 51 frames. The Rangers originally added Gee on a minor league deal over the winter, which came after a 2016 in which he racked up 125 frames of 4.68 ERA pitching with the Royals and then underwent thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. The 31-year-old has spent the majority of his career with the Mets and owns a 4.13 ERA, 6.47 K/9, 2.85 BB/9 and a 45.1 percent ground-ball rate in 817 1/3 big league frames.
- While plans could change if the Rangers fall out of the race, a Yu Darvish deadline trade seems pretty unlikely right now since the team is playing better. There are also longer-term considerations in play, as Texas wants to re-sign the star right-hander when Darvish hits free agency this winter and “the relationship between the Rangers and Darvish is deeper than most,” Rosenthal reports. There’s also the interesting wrinkle that Darvish’s presence could help the Rangers in their pursuit of Shohei Otani, as Otani idolizes Darvish.
The Rangers have announced that they’ve placed righty Andrew Cashner on the 10-day DL with a left oblique strain. They’ve also purchased the contract of veteran righty reliever Ernesto Frieri to take his place on the 25-man roster. To clear 40-man space for Frieri, they’ve designated 1B/OF Peter O’Brien for assignment.
[Related: Updated Texas Rangers Depth Chart]
Cashner’s injury is the latest for a Rangers rotation that has also recently endured injuries to Cole Hamels and A.J. Griffin, although MLB.com’s TR Sullivan tweets that the Rangers hope Cashner will only need to miss a start or two. Cashner has posted a 3.50 ERA and 49.8 GB% in 69 1/3 innings with Texas, albeit with 4.3 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9.
Frieri is set to return to the big leagues after last appearing in the bigs with the Rays in 2015. He sat out the 2016 season to work on his mechanics, signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees, then latched on with the Rangers after opting out. For the season, he’s posted a 2.86 ERA, 10.6 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 22 Triple-A innings, perhaps indicating he’s recovered some portion of what made him successful as a closer for the Angels in 2012 and 2013 before he struggled with the Angels and Pirates in 2014.
The well-traveled O’Brien has already been a member of four organizations in 2017, heading from the Diamondbacks to the Royals to the Reds to the Rangers in a series of minor transactions. The 26-year-old has demonstrated impressive power, with 122 career minor-league home runs, but has always had trouble with strikeouts and this year has struggled to the tune of a .167/.254/.301 line in four minor-league stops. He briefly played in the big leagues with Arizona in 2015 and 2016.
The Rangers have reached agreements with each of their top three picks from the recent Rule 4 draft, executive VP of communications John Blake announced on Twitter.
First selection Bubba Thompson was taken with the 26th overall pick, which comes with a roughly $2.45MM bonus allocation. He’ll get $2.1MM, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News (via Twitter). The Alabama high-schooler ranked as high as 21st on the boards of draft analysts, earning that mark from Eric Longerhagen of Fangraphs, and drew a strong consensus as a top-thirty prospect. Thompson is noted for his excellent speed, center-field-capable glove, and burgeoning power.
The views were decidedly more divergent on shortstop Chris Seise, who went just three picks later with a comp selection. He’ll get a $2MM bonus, per MLB.com’s Jim Callis (via Twitter), meaning that Texas will save $238,900 to allocate elsewhere. The Florida high schooler rated as low as 76th overall (ESPN.com’s Keith Law) due to a questionable bat, though the MLB.com analyst team placed him within the top 40 available players while expressing the view that his bat has “start[ed] to catch up to his other tools” as he has added strength.
Finally, with their second-round pick (#66, $926,500 allocation), the Rangers took righty Hans Crouse. The prep hurler, who had been committed to USC, out-ranked Seise on all the major pre-draft boards and drew consensus top-forty billing. While there’s still a need for some refinement, Crouse is said to possess a top-end power arm. He’ll take down an above-slot, $1.45MM bonus, per Grant (on Twitter) — essentially absorbing the savings from the prior two picks.