COMMENTARY | The Texas Rangers' season has taken an extreme turn for the worse in the last few weeks, as they are six games behind the Oakland A's in the AL West.
The Rangers were 7 1/2 games ahead of Oakland exactly 2 months ago, but there has been a 13 1/2-game swing in the standings since then.
Meanwhile, the Rangers have watched one of their former hot prospects, Chris Davis, become one of the game's elite sluggers as a member of the Baltimore Orioles. Another former Ranger who was included in that July 30, 2011, trade that sent Davis to Baltimore, Tommy Hunter, is having an outstanding season as a middle reliever as the O's have been wild-card leaders for most of the season.
The Rangers have struggled to score runs all season, while Davis has smashed a league-high 37 homers and driven in 97 runs in 105 games for the Orioles. Hunter, who was 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA as a starter for the Rangers in 2010, has posted a 2.75 ERA in 55 innings of relief this year with Baltimore, while the Rangers' starting rotation has been devastated by injuries. The player the Rangers received in return for Davis and Hunter, reliever Koji Uehara, is no longer with Texas, having left the team as a free agent in the offseason.
It's easy, and it has even become somewhat common among Rangers fans to say based on the always 20-20 hindsight that the team made a mistake by letting Davis go. But at the time the Rangers made this deal, was it really a bad trade?
Davis had his chances with the Rangers; he just never achieved the consistency at the plate they had hoped he would after nearly 1,000 plate appearances in parts of four seasons. After he hit 17 homers as a rookie in 2008, he began 2009 and 2010 as the Rangers' starting first baseman. Several times in both of those seasons, he underperformed and was either benched or sent to Triple-A, where his bat routinely set the league on fire -- giving the Rangers enough hope to hang on to him.
His power tapered off, however. After knocking 21 homers in 2009, Davis hit only one round-tripper in 136 plate appearances in 2010. He also sported an on-base percentage of exactly .300, extremely low for a corner infielder, and an alarming strikeout rate. Texas needed some relief help down the stretch, so the deal was done, and the Rangers dealt Davis and Hunter, both 25 at the time, to the O's.
Now, two years later, the Rangers' season is slipping away while they are left to root for two players they drafted and groomed who are now members of the wild-card-leading Orioles. Ironic, considering Davis grew up in east Texas pulling for the Rangers. His name is now added to a long list of players who wore a Rangers uniform early in their careers only to leave and achieve super-stardom with other teams: Bill Madlock, Sammy Sosa, Dave Stewart, Travis Hafner and Adrian Gonzalez, to name a few.
At the time, even before we knew what Davis was going to do with the O's, it looked like a one-sided trade in favor of Baltimore. The Orioles received two 25-year-old prospects, one of them a pitcher, with a ton of major-league experience. And all the Rangers got was one home run-prone middle reliever.
So based on what we knew at the time, I'd say, yes, it was a bad trade for Texas, made even worse by Davis' subsequent meteoric rise.
If the Rangers do manage to rally and make the playoffs, it is entirely possible they could see the Orioles -- and Hunter and Davis -- again. And if the Rangers don't emerge victorious, the Hunter-Davis for Uehara trade will continue to haunt them.
Brian Honea is a Dallas, Texas-based freelance writer who is a lifelong Texas Rangers follower.
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