The Rangers made a move Friday afternoon that would've been unthinkable at the beginning of the season. The team, reeling from the effects of seven losses in nine games, elected to designate Sam Dyson, one of the cornerstones of the team's 2015 and 2016 division championships, for assignment, giving it 10 days to trade its erstwhile closer before being forced to place him on a release waiver.
Dumping Dyson got rid of the most visible symbol of the Rangers' first-half meltdown, but it did not, as the weekend's abysmal performance against the Astros demonstrated, do anything to buttress the team's chances of catching Houston and winning a third straight AL West crown.
While many Rangers disappointed during the season's first 54 games, Dyson's inability to keep the ball in the ballpark has, to a staggeringly large extent, hamstrung the team's record. In 17 Dyson appearances, Rangers opponents clubbed six home runs, one more than Dyson gave up in 73 appearances in 2016. Dyson's ERA is 10.80, and by WPA — a stat that measures players' impact on winning and losing in individual games — he's been the worst player in baseball, racking up an incredible -3.5 number through the end of May. Basically, Dyson's contributions to the Rangers this season have stacked up to the equivalent of 3 1/2 losses worth of bad pitching.
Over the weekend in Arlington, the bullpen performed better, giving up only two earned runs in 12 1/3 innings pitched. The improved bullpen only shined a spotlight on the team's other deficiencies. After a weekend sweep, the Rangers sit 15 games out of first place in the West and four games back of the second wild-card spot in the American League. Their playoff chances are on life support.
In three games against the Astros, the Rangers held one lead, pulling ahead 1-0 at the end of the first inning Saturday night. They were outscored by 12 runs in three games and out-homered 7-2. Rangers hitters struck out 41 times in 101 at bats and racked up only 19 hits. There wasn't a single phase of the game in which the Rangers appeared competitive with their in-state brethren. Even that improved bullpen performance is deceptive; it occurred largely in garbage time and included four unearned runs given up by Dillon Gee in relief of Yu Darvish on Friday.
The Rangers are not going to catch the Astros, who deservedly maintain the best record in baseball at 41-16, and it's hard to see a way forward for the team in the wild-card chase.
Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels built the 2017 team with a number of high variability-players, like first baseman Mike Napoli and pitchers Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross. If those players stayed healthy and performed at the top of the performance curves, the team had a chance to compete with the loaded Astros. That hasn't happened, however, and now the team is faced with the alternative — evaluating when or how to sell the team for parts as Major League Baseball's July 31 trade deadline approaches. Darvish and catcher Jonathan Lucroy, especially will provide lucrative returns, if dealt.
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