Starting pitching was the Texas Rangers’ stated No. 1 goal during the non-waiver trading period, and everyone assumed they would add more than just Lucas Harrell to the rotation.
The prices for the arms the Rangers wanted, though, were too high, and their own injured pitchers will be back late this month, so general manager Jon Daniels took the Rangers down a different road.
Bolster the offense, fortify the bullpen, and see if the leaders of the American League West can hold on the rest of the way.
The Rangers were among the biggest players Monday on deadline day, acquiring All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy and closer Jeremy Jeffress from the Milwaukee Brewers just before the 3 p.m. deadline and New York Yankees slugger Carlos Beltran about an hour earlier.
The cost was steep — three former first-round picks, including their top two pitching prospects — but that’s the price paid for being a World Series contender. The Rangers believe they are better suited for a deep postseason run than they were just a day earlier.
“We did look at a number of starters, but the fit just wasn’t there,” Daniels said. “We audibled a little bit and just looked to improve the team the best we could.
“We feel like we definitely improved the club and we feel like we kept a number of the young players we liked. But we also gave up a number of guys that have bright futures.”
The Lucroy-Jeffress deal cost the Rangers outfielder Lewis Brinson (the 2012 first-round pick) and right-hander Luis Ortiz (2014 first-rounder), who were both playing for Double A Frisco.
The Rangers sent right-hander Dillon Tate (2015 first-rounder, No. 4 overall pick) to the Yankees along with minor league righties Erik Swanson and Nick Green.
Daniels, though, was able to avoid trading top prospect Joey Gallo and Jurickson Profar while getting the Yankees to pay all but $2.5 million of the prorated amount left on Beltran’s $16 million contract.
But the return should push the Rangers’ offense to a higher level, give the bullpen another power arm and give the entire pitching staff one of the best catchers in baseball to receive their pitches.
Lucroy, who turned down a deal to Cleveland on Sunday, is considered a top-three defensive catcher with a strong arm and a steady bat. The 30-year-old is batting .299 with 13 homers and 50 RBIs in 95 games, has thrown out an MLB-leading 27 would-be base stealers and is one of the game’s best at framing pitches.
“Jonathan Lucroy is one of the best catchers in the game,” Daniels said. “A two-way player. I think he’s going to make our pitchers better.”
Lucroy and Jeffress, who had 27 saves this season with the Brewers, will also be with the Rangers beyond this season. The Rangers will almost certainly exercise the $5.25 million club option they have on Lucroy for 2017, and Jeffress can’t be a free agent until 2020.
The contractual control was one reason the Rangers had to include Brinson, Ortiz and a player to be named.
“You have players that other teams want when there are good players available on the trade market,” Daniels said. “That’s the currency of the game.”
Beltran, 39, is a free agent after this season and rates as a pure hired bat. He has hit 22 homers with 64 RBIs this year while posting a .304/.344/.546 slash line. The switch hitter is batting .351 against left-handers and figures to be the replacement at designated hitter for Prince Fielder, who underwent season-ending cervical fusion surgery Friday.
Daniels said that Beltran will bat behind Adrian Beltre, bringing a second veteran bat. Beltran historically has been a clutch hitter down the stretch and in the postseason. He is a career .293 hitter in August, a .285 hitter over the final month and a .332 hitter in the playoffs with 16 homers in 52 games.
Beltran has 414 career homers and 1,507 RBIs.
“Listen, the guy’s a Hall of Famer,” Daniels said. “A switch hitter in the middle of our lineup is just a great fit. ... I can’t think of too many hitters that fit better than Carlos does.”
Though Gallo wasn’t traded, he was optioned to Triple A Round Rock to make room for Beltran. He and Lucroy will report to the Rangers on Tuesday ahead of the opener of a three-game series at Baltimore, and Jeffress will report Wednesday.
The Rangers already made a decision at catcher, where Bobby Wilson and Bryan Holaday, the former TCU star from Dallas W.T. White High, were designated for assignment. That leaves Robinson Chirinos as the backup to Lucroy, with Brett Nicholas serving as depth at Round Rock.
The third spot on the 40-man roster was created by moving Fielder from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL.
Beltran and Shin-Soo Choo, who is expected to be reinstated from the 15-day DL on Thursday, will split time between right field and DH. Jeffress will not unseat Sam Dyson as closer.
It was a busy final day for Daniels and the Rangers, who are ready to make another playoff push. But Daniels disputed the notion that the Rangers went all-in Monday.
“All-in to me means you push all your chips in the table and you’ve got nothing left for the next hand,” Daniels said. “I don’t view it that way at all. We’ve got a lot of young guys on this team that are going to be here a long time. We’ve got a lot of young guys in the system.
“I didn’t view it as an all-in move. I view it as a situation where we as an organization, a front office, really believe in this team. At the same time, we recognize that we can be better, and this is a rare opportunity with some of these players on the market where we wanted to back the club up and put us in a better position to win. We’re excited to watch it play.”
Rangers at Orioles
6:05 p.m. Tuesday, FSSW
Who’s coming to the Rangers
Jonathan Lucroy, C
Hitting .299 with 13 HRs; one of top defensive catchers in game
Jeremy Jeffress, RHP
27 of 28 in saves for Brewers, should solidify back of bullpen
Carlos Beltran, DH
Veteran, 39, will be primary DH, makes up for Prince Fielder loss
Lewis Brinson, OF
2012 No. 1 pick has five-tool potential, MLB’s No. 21 prospect
Dillon Tate, RHP
Top pick in 2015 has struggled with 5.12 ERA at Low-A Hickory
Luis Ortiz, RHP
2014 top pick has sharp control, excelled at Class A, AA this year
Nick Green, RHP
7th-round pick in ’14 has 5.15 ERA over three minor league seasons
Eric Swanson, RHP
2014 8th-round pick has 3.98 ERA, was promoted to Triple A