Texas Rangers rumors: Derek Norris, Tyson Ross, Lewis Brinson and Joey Gallo have been the subject of trade speculation lately, with the Rangers reportedly having interest in San Diego Padres catcher Derek Norris, Evan Grant suggesting the Rangers should be willing to expand the deal to get Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner, and national writers Keith Law and Dave Cameron weighing in.
After Evan indicated on Twitter that Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara and Jurickson Profar would be off-limits in a deal with San Diego to get Derek Norris and a starting pitcher, but Lewis Brinson would not be, Keith Law was asked about a possible deal in his chat session two days ago:
Bucky: Should Rangers trade Lew Brinson (and lesser pieces) for Derek Norris + Tyson Ross?
Klaw: No. Brinson’s upside is too big, Ross’s injury risk and command problems are too big, and Norris isn’t a very good defensive catcher anyway.
A day later, over at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron wrote a piece called "The Logical Rangers/Padres Blockbuster," wherein he suggested that it would make sense for both teams if the Rangers sent Joey Gallo and "a solid second prospect" (I'm guessing Dillon Tate or Luis Ortiz, though you might give the Padres their pick of any prospect outside of the Rangers' top 5 instead of Tate or Ortiz) to the Padres for Tyson Ross and Derek Norris, with the Padres covering the salaries of Ross and Norris this year, given that the Rangers are already above their budget.
So, there's a lot to unpack here. First and foremost, Cameron's claim that this is "logical" notwithstanding, this is a really hard trade to evaluate and to make. Ross is a somewhat polarizing pitcher -- Law is more bearish on him, though the concerns about command are real, given that Ross had the second highest walk rate among qualified pitchers last year despite pitching in the league where there's no DH. There are also folks who doubt his durability, and he has been a full time major league starter for only two years, putting up a 5.4 bWAR those two season -- good, but not great. The flip side is that in those two years, Ross has put up a 7.6 fWAR, and he has a great K rate while inducing a lot of ground balls.
If you think the fWAR indicates the pitcher Ross is going to be going forward, and think his chances of staying healthy aren't materially different than that of any other pitcher, the value you place on him is going to be a lot higher than if you think he's a health risk and that the bWAR is more in line with what you'd expect. Making evaluating him even more difficult is that he's been in an extreme pitcher's park, but pitched in front of a bad infield defense in 2015.
Oh, and speaking of polarizing, there's Joey Gallo, as polarizing a prospect as there is in the game. He could be a perennial All Star who walks a ton and is among the league leaders in home runs every year, or he could flame out because he doesn't make contact often enough -- and there are plenty of folks in both the pro-Gallo and anti-Gallo camps (just check out the comments on the FanGraphs article, where you see a lot of Gallo skepticism). Cameron suggests that the Rangers' desire to extend Adrian Beltre makes Gallo expendable, although that ignores the fact that Gallo's long-term position may be right field or first base.
And just to make it a little more complicated, the other player the Padres would be sending to Texas, Derek Norris, is a catcher with a limited track record, who saw his walk rate plummet last year, and catcher defense is harder to evaluate (especially for those of us on the outside) than any other position.
The dynamic nature of the players involved makes evaluating this a little more complicated than Cameron suggests, since you are dealing with individuals who, I suspect, have a much wider range of opinions about them in front offices (and even within front offices) than most players, and Ross and Gallo, in particular, are of the high-risk, high-reward nature that makes pulling the trigger on them much harder.
Personally, I wouldn't want to do Gallo + someone else good for Ross and Norris. Part of it is that I tend to agree with Law on Ross -- I'm leery of him being able to put up 3-4 win seasons in the A.L. in 2016-17, both because of injury concerns and because of concerns about how his walk rate will play. I see Ross, at 5.96 IP per start last year, and wonder if moving over to the A.L., in a more hitter-friendly park, is going to result in him having an even harder time going six innings per start.
Part of it is that I'm not sure what the urgency for another veteran starting pitcher is, at this point in time, for Texas. Yu Darvish is making great progress, to the point that the Rangers are having to re-assure everyone that they aren't accelerating the timetable for his anticipated return, currently slated for mid-May to early-June. The Rangers have four other pitchers locked into the rotation in Cole Hamels, Colby Lewis, Martin Perez and Derek Holland, and none of those guys are going anywhere if they are healthy. I get the "you need depth in case someone gets hurt" argument, but if everyone is healthy and Yu comes back in mid-May, what is your plan? Make Holland a reliever? Option Perez? Release Colby?
And a lot of it has to do with simply not wanting to part with Gallo, or Nomar Mazara, or Lewis Brinson. These are three guys who have come up together, who have bonded, who have gotten praise for their makeup and work ethic. They all have All Star ceilings, they are look like they'll be ready to be in a major league lineup by Opening Day, 2017, and they are the type of young, cheap talent you want your farm system to be cranking out to supplement your higher-priced guys. Yeah, all three likely won't be All Stars, and one or more may bust -- but if they may bust, I'd as soon they get the opportunity to bust here, with the Rangers having the opportunity of reaping the potential rewards that come from having young, cheap, dynamic talent.
So yeah, no Gallo for Ross and Norris, or Brinson for Ross and Norris, deals. I get pursuing Norris. Robinson Chirinos and Chris Gimenez make for an okay pairing behind the plate, but there's nothing in the Rangers' system behind them, and if either guy goes down (and Chirinos has a history of missing time), the Rangers' catching situation is going to be a mess. The Rangers are in a much better position if they have a Chirinos/Norris pairing than a Chirinos/Gimenez pairing, and if they can land Norris without parting with one of the Big Five prospects, that would make sense.
But man...I just recoil at the notion of expanding the deal to add a starting pitcher, something that seems a luxury at this point. I'd rather roll with what we have, and look at the trade market in June if another arm is needed, than part with Gallo or Brinson right now.