As the trade deadline approaches, the Rangers find themselves in purgatory. Do you buy? Do you sell? It’s still hard to know.
I thought it would be fun to relive the “buyer” type trades the Rangers have made over the years to kind of take a closer look at how some of those trades have panned out.
Before you see the results I want to enter a disclaimer and then an opinion. I realize i’m on a radio show that does a weekly interview with Jon Daniels. I personally like Jon, but I did not write this article to cape for him. I wrote this article to take a little deeper look at the past. That being said, I think when it comes to trades JD has taken way more flack than he should have over the years, and I think you’ll agree if you look below.
Rangers were 3.5 games up in the division. They acquired Bengie Molina from the Giants for reliever Chris Ray and highly touted prospect Michael Main. Molina hit .240 the rest of the way with Texas but provided us the Fenway Park fat man cycle, while also hitting .357 in the wildcard round and .313 in the divisional round. He was clutch and the trade was a win. As for highly thought of prospect Michael Main...well he had a near 7 ERA for High A San Jose in the Giants system and eventually transitioned to the outfield, never making it to Triple A and being out of pro baseball before the age of 25.
Rangers trade for Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe, giving up Justin Smoak, Blake Beaven, Josh Lueke, and Matt Lawson to Seattle in return. We know how that worked out with Cliff Lee, leading the Rangers to a World Series. As for Justin Smoak, he struggled with Seattle and only had one year hitting above .270 and that was with Toronto in 2017 when he was 30. For Beaven, he had a season and a half of starts with the Mariners before flaming out and being out of baseball before the age of 30.
Rangers traded Evan Reed and Omar Poveda for Jorge Cantu. While Cantu was a disappointment, it should be noted that Poveda farted around in the minors for 10 years, and Evan Reed had 55 career innings pitched as a reliever. Turns out, Cantu was a worthy investment despite not hitting much while he was here.
Rangers traded Tanner Roark and Ryan Tatusko to the Nationals for Christian Guzman. Guzman was not good, hitting .152 in 50 plate appearances, and this trade is one that does not look fondly on Jon Daniels. Ryan Tatusko never made it, but Tanner Roark did. Roark has 2 seasons of double digit wins and a sub-three ERA. He’s turned into a really good starting pitcher, despite never being terribly highly thought of in the farm system rankings way back in 2010. Mark this one as a loss.
Since it happened in the winter of 2011, I’ll skip another win for Jon Daniels in which he acquired Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco. Turns out this was such a brilliant trade on the Rangers end, leading to another World Series appearance and the never to be forgotten NAP-O-LI chants.
Back to the summer time pre-deadline type deals, let’s take a look at 2011.
Rangers receive Koji Uehara while the Orioles receive Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter. Kind of a weird one to evaluate as Koji only pitched 1 ⅓ innng in the 2011 playoffs and wasn’t active for the World Series. He was good in 2017 though with a 1.75 ERA in 36 innings. As for Davis, he had a couple of huge years in Baltimore, finishing 3rd in MVP voting in 2013 when he smashed 53 home runs. Given the way things were going, I think the whole universe felt like it just wasn’t going to work out here in Texas. Tommy Hunter ended up transitioning into a relief pitcher, finding more velocity, and ending up as a very valuable member of the bullpen. I judge this grade as a tie, just because the context is very important, and it’s a trade I’d do again 100 times over, just hoping for better luck with Koji.
A day after adding Uehara, the Rangers trade Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin to the Padres for Mike Adams. Adams solidified himself as a perfect set-up man with a 2.10 ERA in 27 appearances. In the 2011 playoffs, was 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA in 8 innings. He also had a 3.27 ERA in 2012, another year in which the Rangers were technically contenders. As for Erlin and Wieland...well Erlin just now had his first 100 inning season last year, and Wieland only has 52 MLB innings on his ledger. Two highly thought of prospects, traded for a go for it now reliever and the Rangers clearly won this one.
Jumping ahead to 2012, the Rangers were 3 up in the division, when they acquired Geovany Soto from the Cubs for pitching prospect Jake Brigham. Brigham only had 12 MLB appearances. Soto didn’t hit but was acquired for his defense down the stretch. Hard to call this one a loss.
Rangers acquire the best remaining starter on the market in Ryan Dempster, giving up Chrisitan Villanueva and Kyle Hendricks in return to the Cubs. Villanueva only has 416 career plate appearances so no worries there, but Kyle Hendricks has turned into a great starting pitcher, now working on his 6th year in a row with a sub 4 ERA, and finishing 3rd in the Cy Young in 2016. He’s good and the Rangers lost this trade. As for Dempster, he had a 5.09 ERA down the stretch in 2012. This is a tough one to swallow, but at the time Kyle Hendricks wasn’t seen as a sure thing to ever make it in the big leagues. If you remember this one, you need to remember the wins too.
The Matt Garza trade. Texas sends Mike Olt, CJ Edwards, Justin Grimm, and Neil Ramirez to the Cubs for Matt Garza. We all know this didn’t work out how we wanted it too, but I personally think you have to admire the cajones. They were 3 games back in the division, but knew they were in the mix so they went for it. Garza had a 4.38 ERA in 13 starts which isn’t bad, but also isn’t what the Rangers were trading for. As for what they gave up, Mike Olt just flat out never hit and was recently released in the Atlantic League. Over the summer he signed with a team in the Mexican league. Needless to say, he probably didn’t think his baseball career would end up like this. CJ Edwards is pretty good, he’s struggled this year but he’s got 2 and a half good years of relief pitching attached to his resume, and still figures to be a key piece in the Cubs bullpen down the stretch. Justin Grimm had one really good season with the Cubs after shifting to a relief role but aside from that has just been a normal guy, meanwhile Neil Ramirez has struggled to maintain any MLB success. Yes, the trade is a loss, but not because of what the Rangers gave up, because of Matt Garza not showing up to the level everyone expected.
The Rangers trade Leury Garcia to the White Sox for Alex Rios. They were tied for the division lead at the time and needed some offense. Rios hit .280 down the stretch in 2013, but didn’t provide the power they had hoped. As for Garcia, he’s stuck around in Chicago, currently hitting .292 as a utility player, but he’s still never played more than 87 games in a season. He’s a part time player at-best.
The Rangers acquire Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman from the Phillies for Jorge Alfaro, Jake Thompson, Nick Williams, Jerad Eickhoff, and Alec Asher (along with a Matt Harrison salary dump). We know that Hamels worked out, leading the Rangers to division titles in 2015 and 2016. If you disagree, then watch game 162 of the 2015 season again. Cole put the team on his back. Diekman was awesome while he was here too. Those 2015 and 2016 playoff runs don’t happen without them. As for what they gave up. Jorge Alfaro has since been traded to the Marlins but has proven he can hit a little bit. He’s hitting .272 this year with 10 home runs, and last year he hit .262 for the year with 10 home runs total. He’s an ascending player and is still only 26 years old. Nick Williams has struggled this year hitting .173 in 50 games, but flashed potential in his first two years in the big leagues. Jake Thompson now plays baseball in the Korean league. Jared Eickhoff had a sub-4 ERA in 2016 and nearly 200 innings pitched. He hasn’t matched that performance yet, and currently has a 5.71 ERA for the Phillies. Alec Asher is now pitching in the independent leagues.
So that wraps up the “go-for-it” or “buy” moves from 2010 to 2013, along with the Cole Hamels trade.
Just for fun, let’s take a brief look at some of the other big name prospects traded by the Rangers over the years and see how they are panning out.
Lewis Brinson: Brinson was traded in August 2016 in the Jonathan Lucroy/Jeremy Jeffress trade. Brinson was then shipped to the Marlins in the Christian Yelich trade. He his .199 in 109 games last year, and this year only has 82 plate appearances. There’s still time for Brinson, as he’s only 25 but he’s going to have to prove that he can hit.
Luis Ortiz: A highly thought of pitcher, Ortiz was the other piece in the Lucroy/Jeffress trade. The Rangers 1st round pick in 2014, Ortiz is now with the Orioles. He currently has a 6.38 ERA for the Orioles in Triple A.
Dillon Tate: The Rangers #4 pick in the 2015 draft, Tate was traded to the Yankees for Carlos Beltran. He’s since been traded to the Orioles in the Zack Britton trade. He’s in Double A for the Orioles and still has a bright, yet uncertain future. Beltran hit .280 for the Rangers in 52 games, but had only 2 hits in the ALDS series against the Blue Jays. He provided the offensive spark they needed, but we’ll have to see how Tate ends up to truly have a grade on this trade.