- After another lackluster start at the plate for Delino DeShields, he finds himself back in Triple-A to work on developing a more line drive approach at the plate, per Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Deshields is one of the fastest players in the league, fifth overall with 16 Bolts this season (individual run times of 30+ ft/sec sprint speeds) and ninth in Sprint Speed, per Statcast. His speed is obviously an asset in the field as well, where Statcast has him tied for 7th with three Outs Above Average this season (three four-star catches). None of which was enough to keep him in Texas after hitting .182/.321/.284 through 108 plate appearances. How much time the 26-year-old spends in Triple-A may have as much to do with his ability to drive the ball as it does Joey Gallo’s ability to stick in center. It’s certainly uncommon for a third baseman-turned-corner-outfielder to transition into center, but the hulking 6’5″ Gallo hasn’t looked wholly out of place for the Rangers thus far, -1 DRS and -0.3 UZR through 88 innings this season, but over 188 career innings as the outfield captain, Gallo grades out at 1 DRS, 1.4 UZR. Replacing DeShields, a career 77 wRC+ hitter, with Gallo’s 115 wRC+ upgrades center field offensively for Texas, but this is a head-to-head battle worth tracking as the season moves along.
The latest from Arlington…
- With Shawn Kelley off to the IL with a bacterial infection, Chris Martin will step in as the Rangers’ closer, manager Chris Woodward told MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan and other reporters. Martin did well in his first crack at the role on Wednesday, tossing a perfect inning against the Pirates for his second career save. Jose Leclerc was demoted from the closer’s job last week and isn’t yet ready to again reclaim the ninth inning. While Woodward was optimistic about Leclerc’s progress earlier today, Leclerc had another rough outing in tonight’s 4-2 loss to the Astros, allowing a run on three walks and a hit in two-thirds of an inning.
- Mike Minor has followed up a solid 2018 season with some of the best numbers of any pitcher in baseball in the early part of 2019, which led Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News to wonder if the Rangers would be better off keeping Minor rather than shopping him at the trade deadline. Minor is still under contract through the 2020 season, and since Texas is perpetually in need of starters, Sherrington feels it could be worth retaining or even extending Minor if the front office can’t find a very favorable trade offer. Evan Grant, also of the Dallas Morning News, feels there is still a “significantly greater” chance that Minor is traded, and the Rangers should be prepared to move quickly on a sell-high deal should a rival team indeed step up with a big offer.
- Shortstop prospect Chris Seise will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn left labrum, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Twitter link). It’s the second brutal injury in as many years for Seise, who missed all of 2018 after undergoing rotator cuff surgery on his other shoulder. Picked 29th overall by the Rangers in the 2017 draft, Seise’s injuries have limited him to only 72 games over parts of three seasons as a professional.
TODAY: Guzman has been officially activated, as per Rangers executive VP of communications John Blake (Twitter link). In another move, Texas has placed reliever Shawn Kelley on the 10-day IL due to an infection. Right-hander Wei-Chieh Huang has been recalled from Triple-A to take Kelley’s roster spot.
YESTERDAY: The Rangers announced following today’s game that they’ve optioned center fielder Delino DeShields Jr. to Triple-A Nashville. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets that first baseman Ronald Guzman will be returning from the injured list in place of DeShields, though the Rangers won’t officially announce anything until tomorrow.
The decision to option DeShields to Triple-A likely means more playing time in the outfield for the revitalized Hunter Pence, who is hitting .344/.411/.656 with five homers, but it does leave Texas without a true center fielder on its roster. Joey Gallo has some experience there, and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets that today’s move could push Gallo to the position “pretty regularly.” Journeyman infielder/outfielder Danny Santana has 916 career innings in center field, but Texas has used him exclusively in the infield since bringing him to the Majors.
DeShields’ demotion to Nashville is just the latest downturn in a Rangers tenure that has been perpetuated by peaks and valleys. Selected from the Astros in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft, the former No. 8 overall pick and top prospect made Texas look wise in 2015 with a .261/.344/.374 batting line as a rookie. He then flopped at the plate in 2016 before enjoying a rebound campaign in 2017. While the organizational hope was that DeShields had begun to solidify himself with that effort, he once again struggled in 2018 and will now head back to Triple-A to try to sort things out.
To this point, the Rangers have spent nearly a half decade trying to harness DeShields’ considerable athleticism and turn him into a consistent, everyday player. However, the resulting .241/.327/.337 batting line (76 OPS+, 78 wRC+) in 1635 plate appearances hasn’t exactly given them much to show for those efforts. DeShields still has an option year remaining beyond 2019, so the Rangers can continue to exhibit patience with him. On the other hand, DeShields will turn 27 in August, so it’s not as if he’s particularly young anymore.
President of baseball operations Jon Daniels made clear following today’s demotion, though, that he still views DeShields as a viable long-term option in Arlington (Twitter link via Grant). “Delino is a valuable player,” said Daniels. “He’s a big leaguer. At this point, we are choosing to keep a deeper bullpen and didn’t want to cut ties permanently with anyone. Delino will play every day in Nashville, get himself going, and be ready to help us again this year.”
Any move that affords more playing time to a veteran like Pence at the expense of a younger option such as DeShields may at first seem counter-intuitive, given that they’re in a fairly transitional state. That said, DeShields’ poor play so far hasn’t left them with much of an alternative. He’s hitting just .182/.321/.284 through his first 108 trips to the plate. Beyond that, there’s an argument to be made that giving DeShields regular playing time in a lower-pressure environment is what’s best for him from a long-term standpoint. And while Texas isn’t in a pure rebuilding/tanking mode, they’re clearly taking a longer-term look at things rather than striving for a postseason berth in 2019.
For the time being, Gallo will get another opportunity to convince the organization that he can at least be a passable option in center field. He’s logged 158 innings there dating back to Opening Day 2018, and even being able to serve as an occasional option there in the coming years would be a valuable trait to have in his back pocket.
The aforementioned Santana could plausibly factor in there as well, though he’s unlikely to be a long-term piece for the Rangers. While he can technically be controlled through 2021, Santana’s .311/.358/.541 output doesn’t appear sustainable. That line is a close approximation of his excellent rookie season with the Twins, but like that 2014 campaign, his output to this point has been buoyed by a roughly .400 average on balls in play. Santana’s hard-hit rate, remarkably, checked in at 51.9 percent entering play Wednesday, so he’s definitely squaring up the ball well. However, that type of contact is the type expected from the league’s top sluggers — not a player who hit .219/.256/.319 in 735 PAs from 2015-18.
TODAY: Shields says he has also given a look to scouts for the Yankees and Orioles, as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (subscription link). To this point, though, Shields says he has yet to receive a “formal offer.”
It’s hard to believe that no teams were willing to sign Shields to a minor-league deal; reading between the lines, it may simply be that they didn’t bother based upon the indications given by his reps at PSI Sports Management. There does seem to be reason to believe that Shields is looking for a 40-man roster spot upon signing. His salary demands are not fully known. “I definitely am not asking for an outrageous salary,” he says, “but I would want to be treated fairly for what I do and bring to a ball club.”
It’s not entirely clear whether those three organizations maintain ongoing interest after watching the veteran hurler. But it seems all but certain that some team will ultimately pick up the durable and experienced 37-year-old.
Shields is obviously not the excellent rotation piece he once was, but he’s the type of steadying presence that could make quite a bit of sense for the right team. Still, his market has been quiet to the point of nonexistence thus far, at least in terms of public reporting.
Last year, Shields worked to a 4.53 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9. Those are middling numbers, but it must be noted that Shields compiled them over 204 2/3 frames — a rather hefty tally in this day and age.
It’s possible to imagine a variety of scenarios making sense for Shields. Non-competitive teams may like the idea of slotting him in to gobble up innings and set the tone for younger teammates. And some contenders may even contemplate Shields as a gap-filler or limited-inning starter. He was hit hardest the third (.248/.310/.461 in 252 plate appearances) and fourth (.444/.474/.944 in 19 plate appearances) times through the order last year. Limiting that exposure, perhaps by pairing Shields with a lefty long man, could enhance his usefulness.
- Ronald Guzman (hamstring) is set to return from an IL stint on Thursday, leaving the Rangers with a 25-man roster question, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes. Veterans Danny Santana and Logan Forsythe have been two of the team’s better hitters, and designating either for assignment would create the risk of a claim from another team, plus Santana and Forsythe both have the right to reject an assignment to Triple-A. Perhaps the likelier option is that Texas demotes a reliever, as the Rangers are already working with an eight-man bullpen, or Delino DeShields is sent to Triple-A and Santana takes over in center field. One option that isn’t on the table is a Triple-A stint for the struggling Rougned Odor, as manager Chris Woodward expressed confidence that the second baseman would get on track. Even after a two-hit performance today against the Blue Jays, Odor is hitting only .141/.221/.244 through 86 PA this season.
- Texas will activate southpaw Drew Smyly from the IL to start Sunday against Toronto, Rangers executive vice president of communications John Blake announced. The oft-injured Smyly, who missed 2017-18 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, has been on the IL since April 20 because of mid-arm nerve tightness in his left arm. While the 29-year-old seems to have dodged a serious ailment this time, his return from TJ surgery has been a struggle thus far. Smyly has averaged fewer than four innings a start across four tries and posted a 7.80 ERA with six walks per nine and a meager 26.7 percent groundball rate.
The Rangers have agreed to a deal with righty Seth Maness, the club announced. It’s a minor-league arrangement.
Maness, 30, carries a 3.21 ERA in 247 career relief innings at the game’s highest level. Though he managed only 5.7 K/9 in that span, he succeeded by carrying a strong 59.0% groundball rate and limiting the free passes (1.7 per nine).
Unfortunately, elbow problems intervened. Maness earned a $1.4MM salary as a Super Two in 2016 but was non-tendered by the Cardinals that fall. He ultimately became the first big league hurler to undergo a Tommy John-alternative procedure to address damage to his ulnar collateral ligament.
Though he made it back to the majors in ’17 with the Royals, Maness received only an eight-game showing. He was not terribly effective during his post-surgical action at Triple-A, allowing eighty hits and 38 earned runs in 58 2/3 innings.
Since opting out of his deal with the Royals this time last year in hopes of finding a chance to work as a starter, Maness had not reappeared in the affiliated ranks. He’s back now with the Texas organization after evidently showing something in his brief time with the Atlantic League’s High Point Rockers. Maness will get the start tonight for Triple-A Nashville, the Rangers announced.
Outfielder Craig Gentry, a veteran of 10 big league seasons, has retired at the age of 35, agent Bob Garber tells MLBTR. Gentry was with the Giants during Spring Training and signed a minor league contract with the Rockies last month. He played in only three games with Colorado’s Triple-A affiliate (and collected seven hits), however, before deciding to spend more time with his family rather than pursue a return to the Majors.
Though he was never a star or even an everyday player, the fleet-footed Gentry enjoyed a solid run as a defensive-minded platoon outfielder with the Rangers and A’s from 2011-14 — during which time he hit .278/.353/.355 with four homers, 35 doubles, nine triples and 75 steals. Paired with his strong glovework in the outfield, that performance checked in at 8.5 wins above replacement, per Fangraphs, and 9.6 WAR according to Baseball-Reference. Most recently, Gentry appeared in 145 games with the Orioles from 2017-18, hitting at a .265/.326/.362 clip in a familiar reserve outfielder’s role.
Gentry’s career will come to a close with a .262/.333/.339 batting line in 601 MLB games and 1402 plate appearances between the Rangers, A’s, Angels and Orioles. Defensive metrics were always bullish on him, as evidenced by a career +53 Defensive Runs Saved mark and a +31.9 Ultimate Zone Rating across all three outfield slots. The 2006 10th-round pick earned about $7MM in his playing career. Best wishes to Gentry in his post-playing days.
- Rangers 2018 second-round pick Owen White will miss the remainder of the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery, writes Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The right-hander joins 2018 fourth-rounder Mason Englert as the second Rangers prospect from last year’s draft to undergo the procedure in recent weeks. The pair of injuries comes in spite of the Rangers organization keeping both White and Englert from pitching last summer in an effort to help manage the workloads of young, recent draftees. Both White and Englert were slated to start the season in short-season Class-A and were already years from being options at the big league level, but the loss of a pair of high-upside teenagers for a full season before either even pitches for a minor league affiliate is undoubtedly maddening for a club that has already been snakebit by pitching injuries in recent years.
Rangers manager Chris Woodward announced today that he expects to remove righty Jose Leclerc from the team’s closer role, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News was among those to report. He’ll instead be utilized in low-leverage spots for the time being.
Leclerc, 25, has reverted to his command-challenged ways after a breakout 2018 season. He’s carrying an ugly 8.44 ERA with 11.8 /9 and 7.6 BB/9 over 10 2/3 innings. Leclerc has also been tagged for a whopping 53.3% hard contact, surrendering a pair of long balls among 14 base hits.
The worries run deep for the youthful reliever. Though he’s throwing harder than ever, and getting first strikes at a personal-best 62.5%, opponents seem to have figured something out. Leclerc is getting chases on just 21.2% of the pitches he throws out of the zone and giving up much more contact on those pitches than he has previously. He sits on an 8.2% swinging-strike rate — less than half the level he carried last year.
Fortunately for Leclerc, he inked an extension before the start of the season. Saves are a key statistic for arbitration-eligible pitchers, so even a temporary removal from the ninth inning would have impacted his bottom line.
The decision is disappointing for the Texas organization for the same reason. Paying up for Leclerc was all about locking in cost savings on a pitcher who was supposed to secure wins for the club for years to come. Instead, veterans Shawn Kelley and Chris Martin will get the late-inning chances while the team tries to help Leclerc rediscover his form.