The Texas Rangers have been a model franchise for many years now. They’ve had recent success that saw them make two World Series appearances in an as many years. They’ve been a perennial contender for the AL West crown. They have a wonderful blend of power and speed, offense and defense, and a great pitching staff that shows high talent from the Ace to the Closer.
In addition to the product they place on the major league field, they also have a farm system stocked with young, talented players. In fact, they have so much talent in their organization that finding places for every special player is becoming a problem (one that every other team would kill to have, but still). Rangers GM Jon Daniels, however, has started to deal from a position of bounty in order to acquire pieces that should help Texas not only contend for an AL pennant, but also for a World Series.
Think of last year, when they trade Justin Grimm, Mike Olt, and hot prospect CJ Edwards to land Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs. The Texas bullpen was stacked so Grimm was available. The infield was so loaded that even Jurickson Profar, arguably the top prospect in baseball last year, was having trouble finding reps, so Olt became expendable. And the minors have such a glut of pitching that Edwards, who could project to being a top-2 starting pitcher on most teams, was available in a trade, and all those guys for someone who was a pending free agent. The Rangers are in a position to deal because, like the Tigers, they want to win RIGHTNOW.
This, strangely enough, makes them another compatible partner for the Detroit Tigers to trade with.
The Tigers are admittedly looking for some specific pieces this offseason. They need a left fielder that can hit, run, and play solid defense. They need a second baseman that can provide offense and enough defense to compensate for the deficiencies of a log-like first baseman. And, of course, Dave Dombrowski never met a power pitcher he didn’t like, so anyone that can slot anywhere in the bullpen would be welcomed with open arms and a gift certificate to Slows Bar-B-Q.
In 2012 the Rangers were eyeing Prince Fielder to take over first base. They had been using Mike Napoli and Mitch Moreland, but they wanted someone who could contribute elite offensive numbers in a deep lineup and in a park that would emphasize his particular skill set and reduce the pain of losing Josh Hamilton. They were jockeying with the Washington Nationals, who also looked to add a first baseman with power, but then Victor Martinez blew out his knee and Mike Ilitch signed off on the largest contract in Detroit Tigers’ history.
How I think the Rangers and Tigers could work together is simple: each team has a big, ugly contract attached to a position of depth. For the Tigers, Fielder is a first baseman who has trouble fielding and running with Miguel Cabrera waiting patiently at third. For the Rangers, they have Ian Kinsler, seemingly on the decline and blocking phenom Jurickson Profar from an every-day gig.
Fangraphs recently had a fantastic article about the “decline” of Ian Kinsler, even though he posted a better WAR than Fielder last season at a more difficult defensive position. One may counter, “Hey, Infante’s WAR was 0.6 higher than Kinsler’s last year, and he’ll be considerably less cheap to sign as a free agent. Why bother?”
Well, since Infante landed an everyday starting gig in 2010 his WAR has been 2.1, 2.1, 2.9, 3.1. Kinsler, however, has posted WARs of 3.2, 7.0, 3.0, and 2.5 in the same span. In their careers Kinsler has a better ISO and Spd rating than Infante, and although their OBPs have been comparable throughout their careers Kinsler has the edge. Offensively, Kinsler is the better option.
Defensively? From just the highlights I’ve seen, I think it might be a wash. Their defensive peripherals match up in a way where neither stands out: Infante has the edge in career UZR 16-6, but Kinsler has the edge in TZ 23-1. Keeping in mind that Kinsler is a year younger and measureably faster (and has an average OOZ higher than Infante’s), he may have the edge. With the free agent market being so shallow for second baseman, especially ones coming off career years, Infante could conceivably net a 2-year deal worth upwards of 6 million dollars a season, a bump from the four million of his old deal. Kinsler would be making nearly ten million more than that, but that is just allocating Fielder’s money to a position of need.
The crux of the hypothetical Fielder-for-Kinsler trade is still the exchange of the contracts. In reality, both of these deals are pretty crappy: they are long extensions for players whose talents don’t necessarily make up for the length and the sum. A deal like this is reminiscent of an NBA-type trade, wherein two teams deal bad contracts for one another in hopes of finding a piece that works within a different system.
Outside of acquiring Fielder, the Rangers are a team that has been looking for a true Ace for years now. Yu Darvish has all the makings of a dominant pitcher year-in and year-out, but Texas will always want a bigger, better pitcher. This offseason they’ll probably be one of the most-talked about teams connected to David Price, arguably the second best left-handed pitcher in the majors. However, instead of dealing away a glut of players for Price, who has two years left of team control, they could make a deal for Max Scherzer.
Scherzer looks to have evolved into one of the premier pitchers in baseball, but with those talents comes an astronomical price tag. You’d be crazy not to wish that the Tigers could find a way to keep Scherzer, and maybe trading Prince would do that, but with Miguel Cabrera’s deal expiring in two years it may not be the most prudent thing to do. Thankfully, Max makes a pretty good Plan B to Price’s Plan A for Texas.
Scherzer has one more year of team control and then he hits the free agent market, but he’s still an incredibly valuable pitcher for this season, with a price tag that should settle in between 12 and 14 million dollars. He could drive the Rangers through the postseason to a World Series if he can repeat his 2013 Detroit performance, and what would that be worth to the Rangers?
A deal involving centerpieces Leonys Martin and Martin Perez would be fantastic value, with both players under team control until 2019 – Martin provides excellent defense, fast baserunning, and power upside combined with developing patience, and Perez is a power lefty who could conceivably join the rotation or be a dominant bullpen piece. Anyone else that could accompany those two in a deal – Wilmer Font, Jorge Alfaro, or Rougned Odor – would be gravy.
With a team that deep, there’s always good potential for a quality deal.