The Michael Choice for Craig Gentry trade between the Texas Rangers and the Oakland A's (with Josh Lindblom and Chris Bostick also involved) is one of those deals where, having thought about it, I'm nodding my head and thinking, yeah, this makes sense.
I mean, initially, it doesn't make sense for these two teams to make a deal...Texas and Oakland are the top two contenders -- arguably the only two real contenders -- for the A.L. West title, and so neither is going to want to do a deal that is going to help the other one. In addition, it was a trade of an outfielder for an outfielder, so on the surface it seems like you're just swapping parts.
However, I can see why the Rangers would view Gentry and Lindblom as expendable at this point. Gentry has done great work as a 4th outfielder for the Rangers the past two seasons, and he's a terrific defensive outfielder. However, his greatest value comes from playing center field, and the Rangers seem intent on having Leonys Martin be the everyday guy in center. In addition, the Rangers never seemed comfortable with the idea of Gentry as en everyday player, in part because of durability concerns, in part because of the belief he is overmatched by righthanders, particularly those with good velocity.
With Engel Beltre out of options, the Rangers had a pair of guys -- Gentry and Beltre -- who are speed and defense backup outfielders, and unless they were going to platoon the pair in left field -- an option they clearly weren't thrilled about -- one of those guys was superfluous. Gentry is eight years older than Beltre, more expensive, and is going to return more via trade, so if the Rangers still believe in Engel Beltre, Gentry is the guy to move.
Lindblom, meanwhile, is a nice enough pitcher, decent swingman who has some versatility, but is a low-ceiling guy who will be on his last option in 2014. The Ranger system is deep in arms, and Lindblom is finding himself pushed from the lower levels by Luke Jackson and ChiChi Gonzalez, so he's someone who would potentially be more valuable to the team as trade bait, rather than as part of the organization.
Michael Choice is the big prize from the Rangers' standpoint. He has the highest ceiling of anyone in this deal, and as the #10 overall pick in 2010, he has a pedigree. The Rangers supposedly really liked him coming out of college, but he was taken by Oakland before the Rangers had a chance to pick. In reading the reports on him, he profiles as a decent to good defender in the corner outfield spots who has a quick bat, but who also swings and misses a lot. Ben Badler and Jason Parks are both saying on Twitter that Choice is ready for a big league job now, and I suspect he's going to be the favorite to start the season in left field, although I'm sure he'll have to earn the spot in spring training.
Choice fills a need for the Rangers, and he's also, as John Sickels notes, someone who works counts and draws walks, something the organization has indicated it is wanting to improve on going forward. Choice was just the #20 prospect in Baseball America's PCL rankings, but the thought is that he will hit going forward, and should be at least an average major league left fielder.
Jon Daniels' m.o. tends to be to try to get a lottery ticket thrown into these deals, and in this case, it is 20 year old second baseman Chris Bostick, a 44th round pick in the 2011 draft who had a breakout season in 2013, putting up a .282/.354/.452 slash line with 25 stolen bases in the low-A Midwest League. There appears to be potential with the bat there, and while I don't get too excited about second base prospects, he's intriguing and someone to keep an eye on.
Basically, this deal comes down to what happens with Michael Choice. If he's a solid everyday left fielder, I think this trade is a win for Texas regardless of what happens with Lindblom and Gentry.