Hey, how’s it goin’? Starting to shake off the winter doldrums yet? Getting your sanitary socks and your rally caps ready? Well you should be. The calendar’s turned and before you know it we’ll all be reading longform think pieces about just how cogent Steve Busby’s contribution truly was. Anyways, just thought I’d pop up with what’s become my prevailing thought all winter (when not obsessed with the farm). The 2017 Rangers will be one of the most compelling teams in all of baseball. This isn’t lip service from a Rangers fan and minor league blogger, well I mean it is, but I really believe this, and it’s all about the trade deadline.
The simplest scenario has the Rangers galloping off to a good start, leading the division at the end of July and continuing their push to fly the first really big flag in team history. This isn’t out of the realm of possibility. In fact, I’m anticipating a few pundits will consider Texas an AL West favorite and a few more who might be bold enough to push them even further into October. In this case, you keep the cannons loaded and tell every man in the clubhouse to go hunt bear and play for a parade. Simple.
The second simplest situation unfortunately involves all of us putting forks in our chairs and eating arsenic-laced Whataburger, i.e. the Astros (or Mariners) lead the division by a healthy, nearly insurmountable number of games at the end of July. No idea what the arbitrary number is, but for the sake of the exercise, let’s say Texas trails by a double-digit game deficit. I know you’re gonna tell me about 2015, and that’s what the guys in the clubhouse will rightfully cite as proof of how much baseball exists to F with you. But as much as last year’s club represented a true statistical outlier in terms of 1-run games, 2015 seems to have been the same with regards to their mind-boggling and joyous late-season ascent. So at that point, JD becomes the belle of the ball. Seriously. He’ll have a staggering covey of covetables. Need a starting pitcher capable of taking the ball in Game 1 of a playoff series? Got it. Need a Hall of Fame 3B capable of leading an army to battle who happens to be hunting a ring like a scalper hunts a Hamilton seat? Got it. A pitch-framing catcher who can hit in the middle of the lineup? Yep. A young switch-hitting middle-infielder with a bit more control on his contract? Sure. A veteran lefty with a World Series MVP trophy and 2 more relatively affordable years? Done. The thought makes me wanna pour something hydrochloric down my gullet, but the reality is, if the Rangers are all but done, JD’s phone is gonna explode in a non-Samsung way. And based on what went down at last year’s trade deadline, the offers might simply become more than he can turn down.
The third scenario is the one that reminds you JD’s job is hard and you probably don’t want it. Say the Rangers are 4 games out. And the phone rings. And it’s Andrew Friedman and he’s ready to talk about Cody Bellinger. Or it’s the Cubs and they’re throwing around Eloy Jimenez’s name. Hell, baseball’s nuts so what if the White Sox are the new Indians and Lucas Giolito’s name is bandied about. Say the team is 5 out and the offers just become too much to ignore. You gotta go tell Belts you’re trading him, because he’s damn sure the first man you tell if you’re gonna punt the season. No ship owner does well without first informing the Captain they’re changing course. And he’s probably gonna remind you about 2015, then he’ll probably tell you a good orifice to store your phone. Then you have to find him a good home. And deal with the talk-radio shitstorm. Not to mention the members of the fanbase who’ll be a tad bit disappointed in you. And what if JD decides to let it ride? What if he looks those men in the eyes and says he’s willing to leave a ransom of prospects on the table that would help shore up the next window of Rangers success. The farm has taken a massive hit recently for the best possible reason: the big league club has been competitive. But you’ve got to rebuild it eventually if you hope to make a run, or in this case, sustain an existing one.
As for the number of games they’d have to trail by in order to become sellers? No idea. It’s worth noting injuries can also rear their ugly head at any point and completely derail momentum and hope. But this team has overcome that before. They’ve overcome a terrible April. They’ve overcome late-game deficits. They’ve overcome a lot and frankly, they’ve been a blast to watch. But like all sports, MLB is a year-to-year league and this is what makes the 2017 Rangers so compelling. Pushing for a parade or tilling for trades- either way, Texas will be imminently watchable.
So buckle up, Rangers fans. Win or lose, 2017 promises to be interesting. Now, if you’ll excuse me I’ve got a half-dozen YouTube clips of Cole Ragans to dissect. Surprise is coming!
As Always, Enjoy Baseball!