Too early in the season for a little bit of wild and crazy trade speculation? Never.
With the news today that Derek Jeter’s ankle is still not mended and he’s going to be out until after the All-Star break, that makes two AL East teams (Yankees and the Blue Jays, who lost Jose Reyes last week) who are short a starting shortstop. Both of these teams have visions of contending. I’ll leave it to you to say whose visions are less fantasy and more real, but without a runaway standout the East is likely to be a war of attrition this year. With that in mind, both of these teams could use a quick fix.
Now I don’t think the Rangers line up particularly well as trade partners on the whole (everyone’s looking to this season right now, not planning for the future), but it is worth mentioning that the Rangers have three shortstops high in the organization who are excellent defenders and potential high average/OBP guys: Elvis Andrus (recently signed to a long term contract), Leury Garcia (currently the utility man for middle infield), and Jurickson Profar (considered by many the top prospect in baseball, currently in AAA). Garcia probably isn’t going to bring anything back in a trade, and the Rangers are obviously committed to Andrus, but it’s worth noting that Garcia, along with Ian Kinsler being under contract for another few years, gives the Rangers a lot of security in the middle infield.
So as many have noted since Andrus signed his new contract, Profar is on the trading block. Again, though, Toronto and New York both see themselves as contenders right now. They’re not likely to give up the top names the Rangers will want for Profar, at least not yet.
But what if one of them (more likely the Yankees, with all the injuries they’ve sustained) bomb out of contention in the next month or two. Suddenly the Marlins and the Rays, considered the Rangers’ most likely trade partners with Giancarlo Stanton and David Price, respectively, up for grabs, have some competition. What would it take to get, for example, CC Sabathia or R.A. Dickey? Matt Harrison is under long term contract. So is Derek Holland. Would the Rangers be willing to part with one of them plus Profar to make their rotation look like this?
CC Sabathia/R.A. Dickey/David Price
Matt Harrison/Derek Holland
Nick Tepesch/Colby Lewis/Martin Perez (depending on injury recoveries and who is pitching well)
It’s unlikely, I know. But not quite to the point of absurdity. The Rays are more likely to be in true rebuilding mode than the Yankees or especially the Jays, but if a Profar-centered deal can land Price, it could almost certainly land one of those two targets as well. That’s what the injuries to Reyes and Jeter really give the Rangers – options. More potential trade partners mean a trade is more likely to happen.
Here’s another question. If Tepesch continues to pitch well, could you flip Profar, Perez and Tepesch for one of those pitchers and slide everyone else down a spot in the rotation? It’s not a ridiculous question. Those are three guys to potentially build around. For the Rangers you start to look at starting pitching that’s scary good for at least two years beyond this one, and despite the player that Stanton certainly is, I don’t believe reinforcements on offense are what the Rangers really need (provided Lance Berkman doesn’t suddenly break down and Nelson Cruz doesn’t get suspended the rest of the season for his association with the ongoing PED investigation – some fairly sizeable “ifs,” I grant you). Alexi Ogando has had a very good start to the season, and he becomes your number five starter if he’s not outpitched by Colby Lewis when Lewis returns.
As I said, it’s early, and I don’t think the Rangers, much less the other teams in question, are likely to pull the trigger on a trade until everyone’s needs are more apparent. But it’s never too early for ruminations….