A month ago, there was a legitimate question about what the Rangers should do at Major League Baseball's July 31 trade deadline. They were solidly in contention for a playoff spot — albeit a wild card — and making fans and media alike wonder whether they'd undervalued what looked, at best, like a .500 team in spring training.
Then the bottom fell out. After winning their first two games coming out of the All-Star break against the Astros, the Rangers lost eight in a row to the Astros and Diamondbacks, and today find themselves 14½ games back and in fourth place in the American League West and 6½ games back and sixth in the wild card chase. They aren't going to make the playoffs, which provides some clarity to what they need to do this week.
Thanks to some shrewd dealing over the last two offseasons the Rangers have, in Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, two of the most desirable starting pitchers on the market as the deadline approaches. Hunter Pence, who's revived his career in Arlington this year, could bring back a fair price, as could emerging Swiss Army knife Danny Santana. The Rangers also have a right-field lottery ticket some team might want to take a chance on (Nomar Mazara) and two bullpen pieces, Jose Leclerc and Chris Martin, who could be of use to a playoff-bound team.
All of that's to say, the Rangers have everything. They are the Walmart of the trade deadline.
It's instructive, when trying to figure out what a decent haul for general manager Jon Daniels might be, to look to the Rangers' recent past and their history, not as sellers at the trade deadline but as buyers. There are straight lines that can be drawn from Rangers trades made in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2016 to the team's situation today.
2011: Rangers trade Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland to the Padres for Mike Adams, Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter to the Orioles for Koji Uehara — Heading down the stretch in 2011, the Rangers were a complete team. Almost. Adams and Uehara, both of whom where also under contract for the 2012 season, shored up a shaky bullpen and helped lead the Rangers back to the World Series.
The Padres and the Orioles, for their part, did about as well as they could've for a couple of relief pitchers. While neither has done much at the major league level, Erlin and Wieland were both top-30 prospects for the Rangers in 2011. Davis, despite recent woes, led the majors in home runs twice for the Orioles in 2013 and 2015.
If the Rangers can turn Martin into a top-30 type prospect, that will be a win, given that he's 33 and set to be a free agent this offseason. Leclerc should demand a bigger return, given his youth, stuff and team-friendly contract.
2012 and 2013: Rangers trade Christian Villanueva and Kyle Hendricks to the Chicago Cubs for Ryan Dempster and Geovany Soto in 2012 and Mike Olt, Carl Edwards Jr., Neil Ramirez and Justin Grimm to the Cubs for Matt Garza in 2013 — The Rangers' two best starting pitchers, Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, are both having career years in 2019, having performed at All-Star levels through the first half of the season.
Like Dempster and Garza a half decade ago, neither immediately comes to mind when one thinks of baseball's elite starting pitchers. Should the Rangers choose to move either one, the return should be substantial, just like the packages the Cubs received at back-to-back deadlines in 2012 and 2013. Edwards Jr. has been a huge piece of the Cubs bullpen over the last two seasons, and the Cubs never would've won the World Series without Hendricks' remarkable 2016.
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2013: Rangers trade Leury Garcia to the Chicago White Sox for Alex Rios — This one's easy. Like Rios, Mazara is a persistent underachiever. Like Rios, Mazara has a beautiful swing and can hit the ball a long way. Both players were or are capable of scorching hot streaks as well as frostbitten stretches that challenged even their hardiest supporters.
The potential that Mazara flashes and that was always there for Rios means that teams are always going to be willing to give them a second shot. Still, Mazara's numbers mean that any return the Rangers get for the lanky right fielder — the Padres and White Sox are interested, according to Rangers beat writer Evan Grant — is going to more magic beans than gold-plated prospect. Garcia, unheralded at the time, has ended up as a regular starter across the outfield this season for the White Sox.
2016: Rangers trade Dillon Tate to the New York Yankees for Carlos Beltran — The Rangers signed Pence as a reclamation project, and he's paid them back by putting up Comeback Player of the Year Award-worthy numbers and being chosen an All-Star. Any contender in need of a designated hitter or a big-time bench bat could do a lot worse than a Pence rental, just like the Rangers could've done a lot worse than Beltran in 2016. If Pence goes, an out-of-favor big-time talent like Tate — the Rangers drafted Tate fourth overall in 2015 — would be a healthy return.