In his own words, general manager Jon Daniels didn’t declare the Texas Rangers “all in” for the World Series jackpot with his brassy two trades Monday afternoon.
But he did make it rain, if we may borrow a phrase from once-Cowboy big spender Pacman Jones.
Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Beltran and Jeremy Jeffress are headed to the Rangers, while six minor leaguers of varying pedigree are headed to the Yankees and Brewers in two trades that clearly shake the balance of power in the American League.
But don’t say the Rangers went “all in,” Daniels cautioned. “All in” would have left the club devoid of trade chips.
“All in” would have meant the Rangers also would have acquired top-of-rotation starters Chris Archer or Chris Sale, and Daniels would have likely had to part with Jurickson Profar, Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara, or some rich combination therein.
Daniels didn’t sit at the press conference Monday, however, jingling pocket change and reminding everyone that he still has poker money.
Instead, as he put it, “We viewed it as a situation where we believe in this team, and at the same time we recognize that we can be better and we did our part to help them.”
Trading for a pitcher was always the first goal, Daniels said, “but the fit just wasn’t there.”
In carving out the American League’s best record, 62-44, the Rangers have waxed hot and cold at the plate. The lineup’s inconsistency keeps surfacing. Giving away outs at the catcher and designated hitter position, in particular, has been a big reason why they’ve been involved in 30 one-run games, winning a league-best 23 of them.
In today’s modern baseball metrics, one-run victories are a house of cards, destined to eventually topple.
But there’s nothing flimsy about adding a catcher with an .841 OPS and a veteran outfielder-DH who’s having one of his best years.
The afternoon trade deadline had barely passed when the TV baseball shows were giddily projecting the Rangers’ new starting lineup. Who bats fifth — Beltran or Lucroy? And who bats eighth — a guy (Mitch Moreland) with 18 home runs or the one (Rougned Odor) with 21?
Yet, the only pitcher that Daniels could add Monday was reliever Jeffress. Daniels wouldn’t confirm the pre-deadline rumors, but it makes sense that the Rangers had coveted Archer and Sale.
It also stands to reason that both the White Sox and Rays wanted a princely ransom in return — presumed to be Profar, Gallo and Mazara.
“We were prepared to acquire a starter if the right deal was there,” Daniels said. “But to make a deal, you almost always have to get out of your comfort zone. We just weren’t prepared to go way beyond it.”
Daniels, in a way, has only himself to blame for that. Ever since he fleeced the Atlanta Braves in 2007 in a deal that helped transform the Rangers into a World Series team, trade partners have been asking for the proverbial baseball moon.
“So we kinda audibled a little bit,” Daniels said, “and we looked to improve the team as best we could.”
Among the half-dozen names that left the Texas organization Monday were young pitchers Dillon Tate and Luis Ortiz and outfielder Lewis Brinson.
Brinson was roundly expected to be the club’s eventual center fielder, but he has not distinguished himself (.237 average) this season at Double A Frisco.
Tate’s star has dimmed, meanwhile, after starting with a 5.12 ERA at Low-A Hickory.
Daniels opted for a positive spin.
“I think you get what you pay for,” he said. “We got the best bat that was moved on Monday, and we gave up some pretty good young players for him. We didn’t want to give up Dillon Tate, but we’re happy with the deal.”
Tate was the fourth player chosen in the 2015 draft, which means the Rangers lost 95 games in 2014, in part, to get Carlos Beltran for two months.
The asking prices for Sale and Archer amounted to “deals where we just weren’t comfortable,” Daniels said.
He added that a mitigating factor in not pulling the trigger on a high-priced starter was the club awaits the favorable returns of Colby Lewis and Derek Holland and continued positive showings by Martin Perez, A.J. Griffin and Lucas Harrell.
Call it what you want. It’s likely that including Mazara was a deal-killer for any team that asked, and I don’t blame Daniels.
Instead of pitching, the Rangers went for more lumber Monday.
The lineup is stout. The bullpen is fortified.
And the starting rotation? Color it hopeful.
All that aside, Daniels and the Rangers were the stars of Monday’s trading deadline. Until October, that will have to do.