The deck wasn’t stacked against the Texas Rangers ahead of the July 31 trade deadline, but they weren’t exactly dealing from a position of strength.
Cole Hamels was not pitching well and had a difficult contract situation, rental relievers Jesse Chavez and Jake Diekman were never going to produce a massive return, and Adrian Beltre had full no-trade protection and only a few teams he would consider.
It became apparent that the Rangers’ best trade chip was Keone Kela, the hard-throwing right-handed closer who came with two years of contractual control. He would be too irresistible for a contender, and he would produce the Rangers’ best return.
So, late in the night July 30, so late that it was July 31 on the East Coast, Kela was sent to the Pittsburgh Pirates for the left-handed pitcher who rates as the prize of the Rangers’ 2018 trade haul.
He is also No. 7 on the Star-Telegram’s rankings of the top 10 Rangers prospects.
No. 7: LHP Taylor Hearn
Born: Aug. 30, 1994
Height: 6-foot-5. Weight: 220.
How acquired: Trade with Pittsburgh, July 30
Not only was Aug. 30 Taylor Hearn’s 24th birthday, but it also served as the one-month anniversary of his trade to the Rangers.
Hearn was not a stranger when it comes to trades, and the Rangers are the third organization of his career since the Washington Nationals drafted him in the fifth round of the 2015 draft (Oklahoma Baptist).
There’s more to being traded that just finding a new ballpark and being fitted for a new uniform. Hearn had to learn the new coaching staff and teammates, especially the catchers, but at least the Royse City product already knew how to drive to Dr Pepper Ballpark.
The actual job of being a baseball player is still the primary task after a trade. It can just be a little tougher to do.
Through it all, Hearn made it through the final month of the season and can move into the off-season comfortable in his new baseball surroundings.
“They’re a pretty player-friendly, relaxed organization,” Hearn said. “They go about things the right way, as well. The best part is it’s close to home. There definitely hasn’t been anybody I don’t like. I pretty much get along with everybody.
“It’s been a roller coaster, just with getting acclimated to how they’re doing things with the Rangers doing a six-man rotation. We had off-days and rain outs. Before my second start I threw on eight days. It wasn’t something I was used to. So, just getting acclimated and waiting for things to die down a little bit.”
Hearn made five starts after the trade, going 1-2 with nine walks and 33 strikeouts in 25 innings. A six-run outing Aug. 10 inflated his ERA to 5.06, but it was 3.49 over 24 starts and 129 innings in 2018.
He struck out 140 batters, walked 47 and allowed an opponents average of just .216. He also showed a lot of polish.
“Out of quite a few guys we have, he’s probably the most advanced,” assistant general manager Jayce Tingler said. “He’s probably the closest to the major leagues.”
That would apply in geographic terms, as well. Hearn, Joe Palumbo and Jonathan Hernandez all finished the season at Frisco, which without traffic is 30 minutes from Globe Life Park.
Shortly after the trade, Hearn said that he wasn’t pressing to be in the majors or expecting a September call-up. He would be in the majors whenever the Rangers believed the time was right.
Proximity didn’t change that.
“My train of thought has never changed,” Hearn said. “I think the biggest thing people can get carried away with at this level is they look too far ahead. My parents always taught to never look too far ahead, to stay in the moment.
“You’ve always got to be ready for what’s going to happen. Yeah, Arlington is 30 minutes away, but I’m patiently waiting for my time and all I can do now is take care of everything down here and just continue to let them now that I’m ready for whatever.”
He can also see a scenario in which he, Palumbo, Hernandez, Brett Martin and C.D. Pelham are all pitching for the Rangers as part of their rebuilding plan. Hearn said that they he was welcomed with open arms, and his teammates left quite an impression with what they did on the mound.
Suffice it to say that Hearn is good with his new baseball surroundings.
“I love them. Great teammates,” he said. “When I got here, they were real welcoming. Just overall great guys. I just know that all of those guys, those are all talented guys. They have a lot of talent. I believe in these guys, and all of them should be big-leaguers soon.”
Star-Telegram Top 10 Rangers prospects
No. 10: Cole Ragans
No. 9: Tyler Phillips
No. 8: Joe Palumbo
No. 7: Taylor Hearn
No. 6: Friday
No. 5: Monday
No. 4: Tuesday
No. 3: Wednesday
No. 2: Thursday
No. 1: Sept. 14