Rangers Load Up for the Stretch Run, Get Lucroy, Beltran and Jeremy Jeffress at the Deadline
The Rangers have sold out to win the 2016 World Series.
Monday afternoon, already leading the American League West by six games and just before Major League Baseball's non-waiver trade deadline, the team acquired outfielder Carlos Beltran from the New York Yankees. They also dealt for catcher Jonathan Lucroy and relief pitcher Jeremy Jeffress from the Milwaukee Brewers for some of the club's best prospects.
Lucroy is the headliner. The 30-year-old is one of the four best backstops in baseball and will be a major improvement over the Rangers' current primary backstop, Robinson Chirinos. Lucroy is a rarity: a catcher who handles a pitching staff well, can control the running game and is an offensive asset. He has the rest of 2016 left on his current contract, as well as an imminently affordable $5.5 million team option for the 2017 season. He'll hit sixth or seventh, get on base 35 percent of the time and make every pitcher he catches look better.
Joining Lucroy on the trip south from Milwaukee is 28-year-old Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress, who's come into his own as a pitcher this year, notching 27 saves before August. Much like Rangers closer Sam Dyson, Jeffress relies on a hard sinker to get ground balls and keep the ball in the ballpark. Jeffress also features a 97 mph fastball and a knuckle-curve. He'll fit in nicely with a bullpen that now has six reliable late-inning types — Jeffress, Dyson, Keone Kela, Jake Diekman, Tony Barnette and Matt Bush.
Should the Rangers' non-Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish starting pitchers falter down the stretch or in the postseason, they will have plenty of support from the 'pen.
The Brewers are needed reinforcements for a club that's seeking its first ever World Series championship, but they came at a heavy cost. For Lucroy and Jeffress, Milwaukee is getting Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz. Brinson, the Rangers' 2012 first round draft pick, is a natural center fielder who can hit for power but has sometimes struggled to make contact. If he'd stayed in the Rangers' organization, he would've fought for the team's starting center field job in 2017.
Ortiz, the Rangers' 2014 first round pick, was Texas' best pitching prospect, a big righty who easily projects as a middle of the rotation big league starter and, if the Brewers get lucky, maybe more.
Dillon Tate completes the trio of first rounders the Rangers gave up on Monday. Tate has struggled with his velocity and command for much of 2016, and the Yankees took the opportunity to buy low on the right-hander Monday, taking him off the Rangers' hands in exchange for Beltran. At 39, Beltran is standing strongly on his last legs as a major leaguer, putting up an .890 OPS playing primarily as a designated hitter for New York in 2016. As a switch hitter, he gives the Rangers needed versatility in the middle of their lineup, along with better than average power. Beltran can't run like he did as rookie, but he can still hit. experience also matters, and he's been a playoff terror throughout his career with the Astros, Mets and Cardinals.
After staying mostly quiet in the run-up to the deadline, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels (as he did in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2015) managed to snag one of the best talents available in an attempt to solidify a club that already appeared on its way to the playoffs. The Rangers gave up a lot — Brinson and Ortiz were their second and third best prospects, respectively — but hung on to power-hitting infielder Joey Gallo, their best prospect, and middle infielder Jurickson Profar, the Rangers' other young talent thought to be on the trading block.
Whether it was worth it or not may come down to whether the team can survive the playoffs' inherent randomness and bring a parade to Arlington.