Elvis Andrus: Rangers were so close to series win vs. Astros
The decade’s worth of baseball since 2009 makes that Texas Rangers season seem so much longer ago than just 10 years.
Derek Holland was an up-and-coming left-hander. Colby Lewis was pitching in Japan. C.J. Wilson was a reliever. Nelson Cruz was a year removed from being the Babe Ruth of the Pacific Coast League. Adrian Beltre suffered through a severely bruised testicle while with the Seattle Mariners.
Those Rangers dealt with an early-season Josh Hamilton injury, eventually had enough of a mercurial Vicente Padilla, and didn’t have a jersey ready for Darren O’Day for his Rangers debut.
But they hung around second place in the American League West and weren’t eliminated by the Los Angeles Angels until the final week of the season.
MLB was three years away from introducing the second wild card. Had it been in place in 2009, the Rangers (87-75) would have won it.
When the July 31 trade deadline arrived, they were only three games out in the AL West and 1 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox for the only wild card.
Ten years later another Rangers team is flirting with the postseason ahead of the July 31 trade deadline. They were off Monday after splitting a four-game series against the division-leading Houston Astros.
They are further behind in the West than the 2009 squad, trailing the Astros by nine games. The Rangers trail the Oakland A’s by three games for the second wild card, with the Cleveland Indians and Red Sox ahead of them.
The players believe they can claim the second wild card if general manager Jon Daniels can upgrade the roster the next two weeks. There is not an August trading period anymore, unlike in 2009 when the Rangers snagged catcher Ivan Rodriguez.
Daniels didn’t complete a July trade in 2009, though not for a lack of trying. He thought the Rangers had a deal in place with the Toronto Blue Jays for Roy Halladay, but the right-hander didn’t want any part of the Texas heat and nixed a deal that would have sent Holland packing.
So, Daniels sought stretch help from inside the organization. A Triple A pitcher named Neftali Feliz was called up in early August and overhauled the bullpen.
In many ways, the 2019 Rangers aren’t unlike the 2009 squad. Daniels can still make a deal before the trade deadline. If he doesn’t, three hard-throwing right-handers in the minors -- Emmanuel Clase, Joe Barlow and Demarcus Evans -- could be called upon for bullpen help.
The biggest difference between then and now is that the 2009 Rangers were further along in the rebuild that Daniels started orchestrating in 2007. The current rebuild is a year old, and the farm system is not nearly as good now as it was in 2009 and in the seasons that followed.
The Rangers could benefit long term by being on the selling end of a deadline blockbuster, with All-Star left-hander Mike Minor a potential big fish on the trade market. The right buyer might be interested in adding righty Lance Lynn, the MLB leader in wins (12).
But Minor-Lynn duo is holding together the pitching staff and would look awfully good atop the rotation next season when Globe Life Field opens for business. If this season follows the pattern of the 2009 squad, the 2019 team should be even more of a contender for the postseason.
The 2010 Rangers went to the World Series.
Even though the farm system lacks upper-level prospects, the Rangers still have enough overall depth to make a deal of two. Daniels, though, said that he won’t be going all-in for a rental player, as he attempted with Halladay and successfully pulled off in 2010 for lefty Cliff Lee.
That likely means the best available pitchers won’t be joining the Rangers, but even an upgrade along the lines of Boston’s weekend deal with former Rangers and TCU pitcher Andrew Cashner can be had.
Rangers players would take that, just as they would have 10 years ago.