Mac Engel

Rangers need much more than Hamels to become a contender

Cole Hamels would make the Rangers an AL West contender next season, but won’t help enough this season.
Cole Hamels would make the Rangers an AL West contender next season, but won’t help enough this season. AP

We have arrived at that uncomfortable point of the major league season when all teams have to ask themselves: What are we doing here? Are we good, or are we fake good?

There are 64 games remaining in the regular season, and by now the Rangers are firmly established as fake good.

They are close in name only. They are closer to the last-place Athletics than the first-place Angels.

Adding Cole Hamels would not dramatically change that this year. Next year, however ...

How a team that ranks 27th in team ERA and 29th in team fielding percentage flirts with .500 is an absolute mystery. Rankings like that say this team should be awful.

Of course, this is the same team that is the best in baseball on the road, and the worst in the league at home.

“Now that is weird,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said Monday before the game against the Yankees. “I can’t explain that at all.”

Add all of this stuff up and what you have is an OK team. That is what the Rangers are, and there is no need to panic-buy at the trade deadline.

The Rangers should not mail it in, but after nearly four months, they have been too erratic, sporadic and inconsistent to believe the addition of Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels is going to make them into a World Series contender.

Hamels is but one pitcher when the team needs multiple pitchers, preferably relievers. Hamels does not solve the bullpen — the Rangers’ bullpen ERA of 4.59 ranks dead last in baseball.

Every arm manager Jeff Banister summons in relief is another arm he cannot completely trust. The bullpen GM Jon Daniels built has been a bust.

If the Rangers want to deal for Hamels, they should do it knowing he will not be the difference in this team making the playoffs this season. He could make them a World Series contender next season.

The Internet is loaded with reports that the Rangers are in hot-and-heavy talks to acquire Hamels, 31, in exchange for top-tier prospects, such as minor league catcher Jorge Alfaro. Hamels is locked in through 2018, and his addition would give this team a bona fide ace.

Adding Hamels will not be like acquiring Cliff Lee, whom the team rented in 2010. That team was close. This 2015 team is not that close. What the Houston Astros did in adding Scott Kazmir has the look of the Rangers’ adding Lee; the Astros are young, and close.

Adding Hamels would be a long-term move that would make the Rangers a serious threat in 2016.

If the Rangers do actually complete the Hamels move, at a minimum it means owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson are unafraid to spend big cash on top of big cash. The Phillies will most assuredly take on some of Hamels’ contract — he is locked in at $23.5 million each of the next three years.

Of course, Davis and Simpson have been doing that ever since Daniels started throwing their money at Scott Boras guys such as Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder.

The issue isn’t money, but how it’s spent. That would be Mr. Daniels’ department.

For the record, the Rangers players do not believe they need to add anything to make a run at the playoffs, which is exactly what they have to say. Andrus believes the return of pitchers Matt Harrison, Martin Perez and the expected return of Derek Holland are like trade-deadline acquisitions.

“We are a better team for sure — we’ve shown that,” Andrus told me. “We’re a better team than our record. We have enough talent. I’m happy with what we have and I know we can compete. We just have to play better at home.”

Amen and amen, Mr. Andrus.

How that team is so bad at home and is a big-league best seven games over .500 on the road is the one sliver of evidence that says maybe the Rangers are better than an 81-81 club.

There are two months left in the 2015 season, and it’s time for the Rangers to be real about what they are: Are they good, or fake good?

They are closer to last than first, and adding Hamels would be nice. He is, however, but one man when they need more.

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

Mac Engel, 817-390-7797

Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog

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