Mac Engel

Texas Rangers should proceed cautiously in trade market

General manager Jon Daniels, left, and manager Jeff Banister have the Rangers pointed in the right direction.
General manager Jon Daniels, left, and manager Jeff Banister have the Rangers pointed in the right direction. Star-Telegram

Considering where the Texas Rangers began the season — with the Curse of Nolan Ryan in full effect — and where they were on May 3, what Jon Daniels said Monday afternoon would have required high-dollar hallucinogens to accept back then.

Daniels said he hopes and expects that this time next month the Rangers will be in the market to add to their roster before the trade deadline. The president/general manager and Texas Rangers czar told me the club looks to be buyers at the time of the year when teams decide if they are all-in or if they are folding.

If you had told me this would have been a possibility when Yu Darvish was lost for the season back in spring training, I would have given you my wallet. Granted, I don’t actually carry anything of value in my wallet, but it still creates a powerful image.

The Rangers have demonstrated they are good enough to compete, but things have to change over the next month to expect they are good enough for a World Series run, and that being a buyer in this market is worth the price.

Nonetheless, on the list of baseball’s annual parade of surprises, put the Rangers near the top of the order. This was a team that Vegas said would win around 78 games, and considering how spring training and the first month of the season began, the under was the American Pharoah of baseball bets.

Credit goes to first-year manager Jeff Banister for not allowing a group of veterans to quit when the Rangers started 8-16. Established veterans with guaranteed contracts can sometimes look at the standings and subconsciously pack it in if they don’t think the team is good enough to compete. Whatever Banister is selling, they’re buying.

And, yes, credit goes to the often-maligned GM, too. The way the Rangers set up the power structure, when they lose, JD is the first Power Ranger to be tossed into the DFW Tiger Pit of Sports Shame. When the team wins, JD wears the DFW Sports Tiara.

How this team is in second place in the American League West is a testament to almost nothing on the stat sheet. The Rangers rank ninth in the AL in batting and pitching, and their defense is the second worst in all of baseball. Big-money players such as Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus are hitting under .236, and Leonys Martin is an absolute mystery.

Ironically, it is the area most ravaged that is performing the best. When this team lost Darvish and fellow starting pitcher Derek Holland to significant injuries, that should have been enough to put down this team’s hopes for a winning record.

The following needs to be read aloud, and often: The Texas Rangers’ starting pitching is the sixth best in Major League Baseball. Read that as many times as necessary to actually believe it. And do not ask me to explain it.

The only issue is that this rotation ranks in the bottom third in the American League in innings pitched, meaning that the bullpen is asked to do more. The bullpen has the fourth-worst ERA in baseball.

“Everyone in that bullpen has done it for periods in the big leagues, but we are inconsistent there,” JD said. “There are good arms with plus-stuff, and when they are on, they are good. But that is an area we have been inconsistent.”

Bullpen arms have become baseball’s most valued commodity at the trade deadline, meaning any decent seventh- or eighth-inning arm will require serious prospects in return (sorry, not Jurickson Profar).

The Rangers have shown they can compete, but there are World Series holes here. They need a right-handed bat, a reliever or two, and they will need one starting pitcher who can get into the eighth inning.

The expected returns of Matt Harrison and Martin Perez should be met with guarded optimism. Harrison has pitched in six games in the past two years combined, and has not made a big-league start since May 13, 2014. All of the reports about his minor league starts are positive, but we are talking about a guy with a bad back.

Perez is coming off Tommy John surgery last year. The real impact of Harrison/Perez should be felt in 2016.

The tricky one is Holland, who has been out with a shoulder injury he suffered in his first start of the year. If he returns, that is the guy with playoff ace potential.

As it stands today, the Rangers are a pretty good team that has exceeded expectations. For a variety of reasons, they are around it despite some flaws to their bats, their ’pen and their gloves.

They are in it, and the way things are going the GM expects to be a buyer this time next month.

The way this season started, consider it a smashing success but proceed cautiously.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog

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