Psst. Someone needs to tell the Texas Rangers that the All-Star break is over.
Many appeared to still be elsewhere Friday as the Chicago Cubs sent the Rangers to a 6-0 loss in which they didn’t hit and help Martin Perez, who was given a passing mark by manager Jeff Banister despite giving up six runs in 5 2/3 innings.
When Perez pitches, plays have to be made behind him. He’s not going to strike out too many hitters, but he will get a lot of balls put in play.
That was the case in the sixth inning, and Banister identified two plays could have been made and need to be made for the Rangers to snap out of their funk. But Nomar Mazara mistimed a drive by Anthony Rizzo that turned into a double, and the first baseman du jour sailed a throw into the seats.
As a result, the Rangers have lost eight of their past 10 games and haven’t looked like a contender since sometime in late June.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from Friday’s loss.
1. Kyle Hendricks is a former Rangers prospect who is now among the National League’s ERA leaders and just stuck it to an organization that drafted him, traded him in 2012 and could really use him in 2016.
That’s one way to look at it — hindsight is the 20/20 way. Then, there’s the baseball way to look at it.
The Rangers traded Hendricks and third baseman Christian Villanueva to the Cubs for veteran Ryan Dempster. The Rangers had just lost Colby Lewis for the season, arguably their best season to that point ever, and the Los Angeles Angels had just acquired Zack Greinke.
The Rangers were coming off a near-miss in the 2011 World Series and were trying not to miss again.
So, general manager Jon Daniels pulled the trigger. When he did, he was more concerned about Villanueva becoming a quality big-leaguer than Hendricks.
“I didn’t know he’d do this,” Daniels said. “I wouldn’t have put him in the deal.”
The thing is, it might have never happened for Hendricks with the Rangers.
Maybe a Cubs minor-league coach said something to Hendricks that made a difference or changed the grip on his changeup or made a tweak to his mechanics. Maybe Hendricks has an experience at Double A Tennessee or Triple A Iowa.
Here’s another thing: There’s risk with every move. The Rangers could also have Tanner Roark if they hadn’t traded him for Cristian Guzman in 2010. The Cubs could have had Lou Brock for all of his Hall of Fame career. The Red Sox could have kept Babe Ruth.
Looking back does no good, and there’s no telling what the future holds for certain prospects. The Rangers would take Hendricks right this second. They’d probably take back Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Grimm for the Matt Garza trade in 2013, and they probably would like to have Darren O’Day and Pedro Strop back, too.
But they can’t, and to think Daniels and his crew are kicking themselves just isn’t accurate. They traded Hendricks, Roark, et al. for the right reason — to win a World Series — and they are likely going to trade some more prospects who could hit in a few weeks.
2. The trade deadline this year is Aug. 1 rather than the usual July 31, a Sunday. For reporters, that means another day of chasing rumors and draining phone batteries.
For the Rangers, it likely means another day to find a trade partner for, as Daniels said Friday morning, pitching help. He’s not against acquiring a position player, but he shoved it way down the list of priorities when asked by the beat guys.
The are some significant obstacles this trade season.
▪ Once again, many teams, too many teams, believe that are still contenders for the postseason. They are, technically, but some need to take a very realistic look at where they stand. Until they do, there are fewer trade partners for the Rangers to find a match.
▪ The market really isn’t that good, and the good ones are going to cost way more than they might over the winter. The Red Sox traded one of the top 20 prospects in baseball for Drew Pomeranz, who until this season had been OK but not worth a top-20 prospect. The Rangers don’t want to trade their prospects who are regarded among the top 20, or at least were at the beginning of the season.
That’s for Daniels to decide. Should he include Joey Gallo, who appears to be the first baseman in waiting, in a package to Milwaukee for catcher Jonathan Lucroy and reliever/closer Jeremy Jeffress? What about Gallo in a package to Oakland for right-hander Sonny Gray?
Daniels’ track record suggests that he will do something to try to make the Rangers better. Maybe he’s doing it right now. Everyone might have to wait an extra day this year to find out what he does.
3. A question was posed at the All-Star break: Would the Rangers rather have Gallo playing first base to start the second half or Mitch Moreland? The answer, it turns out, was Prince Fielder.
It was an interleague fluke, with Fielder playing first base Friday and possibly Sunday in an NL ballpark. His poor batting this season and shortcomings in the field didn’t look fluky Friday. They’re real.
The answer should be Gallo, but it’s not simple to arrive there. He’s dealing with a left heel injury that required a cortisone injection Monday, but the bigger issue if he were to be called upon is the tough decisions the Rangers would have to make.
Moreland and Fielder aren’t tradeable. Moreland is going to be a free agent after the season, and no team would want to take on what he has shown himself to be this season. Fielder has an enormous contract and has been worse than Moreland, who is a quality defensive first baseman.
Conceivably, Moreland could be designated for assignment. Fielder could be, too, but the Rangers would be on the hook for, wait for it, around $77 million.
It would be hard for Gallo to not be any better than Moreland or Fielder. The Rangers, though, are in a tough spot.