The worst day on the sports calendar arrived Wednesday. That’s right, the day of the ESPYs.
The day after the MLB All-Star Game is also the one day of the year when there are no live sporting events among the Big Four (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL). None.
Time to catch up on those crazy Kardashians.
Or, better yet, time to look ahead to what could happen to the Texas Rangers over the final half of July, which ends with the non-waiver trade deadline.
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General manager Jon Daniels said Friday that he expects the Rangers to be in the playoff hunt throughout the second half, and as such isn’t planning to trade away all of the six potential free agents for pieces that could help in future seasons.
When the Rangers open the second half of the season Friday, they will do so three games out of the second wild-card spot despite having a 43-45 record. They will do so on the road for 10 games against three wild-card contenders:
The Kansas City Royals, 1 1/2 games back who have played well in spurts this season and are 44-43; the Baltimore Orioles, four games out who play well at home; and the Tampa Bay Rays, who hold down the second wild-card spot.
The Rangers are 18-25 on the road.
There are potential pitfalls ahead. A poor road trip could knock the Rangers from hopefuls to doubtful, and be the “unique circumstance” that Daniels said would alter his thinking regarding the trade deadline.
So, just for grins and giggles, let’s say the Rangers stink it up on the road and then show no signs of life in the seven days before July 31. Real contenders will come calling, and one might twist the arm of the GM who never says never.
Here’s a look at who could go, ranked from most likely:
C Jonathan Lucroy: The Rangers have already discussed dealing the two-time All-Star, who is his toughest critic, for bullpen help. If they fall out of contention, he seems most likely to go.
He has only four home runs and 14 doubles while batting .256. The pitch framing that upped his defensive prowess is now under fire, though there are very easy ways to poke holes in that downward turn.
Robinson Chirinos is playing more after a power surge at the plate. One thought is that Chirinos and Triple A catcher Brett Nicholas could handle a half-season behind the plate and make Lucroy expendable.
RHP Yu Darvish: The Rangers’ lone All-Star this year would pull in the biggest haul as the best pitcher available on the market, but the package might not be as big as some would expect.
He’s not the only impact pitcher who would be available, and his status as a two-month rental would reduce the package. Top prospects would come in return, but not a mountain of them.
With Daniels under no orders to cut payroll, the package would have to be enticing for him to pull the trigger.
RHP Andrew Cashner: His last start, when he carried a no-hitter nearly six innings, is a reflection of his upside and why he has always had teams wanting him. He was dealt at the deadline last year and might draw interest again. His recent injury issues might keep teams away, but contenders always want more pitching.
1B/DH Mike Napoli: For those who don’t believe that certain players are just winners, they haven’t looked at Napoli. The playoff regular is having a down year in terms of batting average, but he has 18 home runs and can still hit left-handers. He’s the kind of player contending teams need.
CF Carlos Gomez: He can do it all — hit, hit for power, run, play defense — and provided the Rangers with a spark last season after he was released by Houston. Gomez is streaky at the plate, though, and still has a reputation about him even though he has been a saint with the Rangers. It will take the right environment for him to succeed, and that could be tough to find.
RHP Tyson Ross: The former All-Star has made only five starts for the Rangers, one really good, two not bad, one mildly acceptable, and one no good at all. He still has things to that need work, and admits it. That and that he appears to still be working back from a 15-month absence would seem to make him the potential free agent least likely to be dealt.