Matt Garza makes the 1-2-3 starters in the Rangers' rotation as good or better than most they would encounter in the playoffs. That is, of course, if they make it. That’s why general manager Jon Daniels was willing to part with a solid prospect package to get a guy that could be pitching for just the next few months in a Rangers uniform. He’s a rental. Perhaps he signs up long-term in Texas, but there’s no guarantee of that.
But clearly pitching isn’t this club’s biggest problem right now. They just aren’t scoring enough runs. And it’s more than simply not getting a clutch hit at a key time. The offense isn’t consistently doing the little things -- moving a runner over with a productive out, running the bases smartly, scoring a runner from third base with less than two outs -- and a lack of early runs has them feeling like they’re constantly trying to claw from behind.
Be honest: How much does one bat in an otherwise thin trade market for hitters do for this team?
If there was an absolute “wow” bat available, I’d say go and get him and take your chances. I like Alex Rios because he’s under club control past this season and can plug a spot in the outfield for more than just this year. But even Rios isn’t a huge run producer right now. His average is decent, at .270, and he would certainly help this team. But at what cost? Knowing it’s a thin market for impact bats, the White Sox are going to want a decent return for Rios from a Rangers team that already used some of its key prospects to obtain Garza. I want Rios. But the price has to be right. And I’m not sure it will be.
If it was clear that Rios was the final piece to get this team to the World Series, it would be an easy decision. But I don’t believe that. Do you? No matter what Daniels does at the deadline in acquiring a hitter, the group of regulars that this team counts on for runs has to start playing better. If they don’t do that, it doesn’t matter what Daniels does.
Besides, the Rangers should keep as many of their key assets as they can for the offseason, when they could have a chance to shop at Nieman Marcus instead of Walmart. What if the Marlins decide after this season to make Giancarlo Stanton available? Suppose the Tampa Bay Rays decide the winter meetings are the perfect time to strike on dealing David Price? The Rangers have the financial resources and the prospects to make that kind of deal right now. Most organizations don’t.
That doesn’t mean you’re raising the white flag. Or that you start contemplate becoming sellers. Come on. The Rangers are still in the thick of the AL West race and the wild card. But the bottom line is the group of core players – even if it doesn’t include Nelson Cruz because of a possible suspension (and Cruz is struggling right now) – has to play up to their capabilities. Manager Ron Washington knows it. That's why he called a team meeting yesterday, noting that his team seemed to be "sleepwalking." One more bat won't solve this team's problems if they don't wake up anyway.
There’s a report out that the Rangers have internally discussed trading Joe Nathan. That doesn’t make them a seller. They’d be dangling Nathan with the idea of maybe forcing a contending team to put a hitter on the market that they maybe aren’t willing to right now. I can’t see the Rangers trading Nathan to a team they could possibly face in the AL. What about sending him to the Dodgers? Would that make sense for Andre Ethier? Maybe.
But barring a deal that doesn’t involve shipping even more critical prospect pieces away, it makes sense to me to stand pat. You’ve improved the rotation and the message you send to your club is pretty simple: It’s up to this lineup to get it going.
The reality is that’s the case anyway, deal or no deal. Save your major trade pieces for a major trade. There doesn’t appear to be one out there at the moment. Perhaps there’s one in a few months.