COMMENTARY | The Texas Rangers are ½ game behind the Oakland A's in the see-saw battle for the American League West 84 games into the season, or 3 games past the halfway point.
Oakland has historically been a hot second-half team while the Rangers (except for a few notable seasons) have been known to wilt in the extreme Texas heat after the All-Star break. The Rangers have managed to hang at or near the top of the standings this year despite a rash of injuries to the pitching and a few regulars being totally ineffective at the plate (yet remaining in the lineup somehow).
Here are 3 things the Rangers will need before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline if they are going to have any shot at winning the AL West:
A starting pitcher (or two)
The Rangers' patchwork pitching rotation, which consists of 3 rookies, will likely not hold up over an entire season. The team could get Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando back soon after the All-Star break, but Lewis has missed more than a year and Ogando seems better suited for a setup role. The trouble with starting pitchers is that there is not a lot available out there that is better than what the Rangers currently have. Last year's deadline acquisition of Ryan Dempster was a complete bust. Considering the asking price just to get mediocre starting pitching, the Rangers might be better off rolling the dice on rookie Martin Perez, who just joined the team a couple of weeks ago and may be ready for a breakout season, and also gambling on Lewis and/or Ogando being effective.
An outfielder, preferably a right-handed power hitter
The outfield has been a weak spot for the Rangers all season long. Leonys Martin is starting to break out as the starting CF with Craig Gentry on the disabled list, but there are problems on the corners. LF David Murphy is fine defensively but he's been atrocious at the plate, and vice versa for RF Nelson Cruz (who is also facing a possible PED-related suspension). The Rangers have reportedly talked to Alex Rios of the White Sox, who will be very expensive but hungry: He has never played a postseason game in his 10-year career (I am completely in favor of a Murphy-for-Rios swap). Marlon Byrd of the Mets, once a fan favorite with the Rangers, would be a nice fit and would come cheap. The Rangers also just signed 41-year-old Manny Ramirez to a minor league contract, and Ramirez could find himself back in the big leagues very soon.
A bench player
Let's face it, most teams don't trade for bench players, especially not at the non-waiver trading deadline. But the Rangers' bench is something that definitely needs shoring up. When they carry 13 pitchers on the roster, as many teams do these days, that leaves them only 4 bench players. On any given night, the Rangers' bench could consist of 20-year-old rookie Jurickson Profar, light-hitting catcher Geovany Soto, rookie Engel Beltre, and 29-year-old career minor leaguer Robinson Chirinos. These are unlikely candidates for late-inning heroics if the Rangers find themselves in a pinch. The Rangers may have taken a step toward solving this problem with the acquisition of Manny Ramirez, who could pinch-hit late in games he doesn't start in the outfield or at DH. The bench will also receive a boost when Jeff Baker comes off the DL.
Brian Honea is a Dallas, Texas-based freelance writer who is a lifelong Texas Rangers follower.
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