The Texas Rangers are in a difficult spot right now, having dropped to 40-44 and 3.5 games back of a Wild Card spot, but still more or less in the race, due to so many other teams also being mediocre. Dan Szymborski has a piece today at ESPN that looks at the various and sundry A.L. playoff contenders, and how they might separate themselves between now and the trade deadline at the end of the month.
As Dan notes, there are three teams that appear slam-dunks to make the playoffs (Houston, Boston and Cleveland), as well as the Yankees, who are around 60%, while the Rays are just shy of 40%.
After that is a collection of seven teams who are in the 10-20% range, including the Rangers, who are currently at 19.8%. Texas having a 1-in-5 chance of making the playoffs may seem absurd, given where things stand now and how many teams they would have to pass, but it is a by-product of none of the other teams projecting to be significantly better than the Rangers, and the general random fluctuations that occur over the course of a few months.
The problem, as Dan notes, is that there’s a great deal of variability between now and the trade deadline on July 31. Dan has the 20th percentile of performance between now and July 31 putting the Rangers at a 3% chance of making the playoffs, while the 80th percentile performance makes it closer to 40%.
Which is why the cries for Texas to sell now -- or buy now — are probably premature. You don’t want to sell now, only to see the Rangers get hot after the All Star Break and find themselves with a more legitimate shot at postseason play, and you don’t want to buy now, only to crater and find yourself a longshot.
Texas has today’s game against Boston, an off day Thursday, then three at home against the Angels heading into the Break. After the Break, Texas goes on a 10 game road trip, and by the end of that trip (the final game is in Tampa on July 23), we should have a much better idea about whether Texas looks like a buyer or a seller.
And of course, with so many other teams in this sort of limbo, it means that the trade market is particularly unsettled right now. Other than Oakland, Chicago and Detroit, there’s no clear “seller” in the A.L., and there are only a couple of teams in “buy” mode. The N.L. has more teams that would appear to be in sell mode, but again, its not clear who is truly buying — Washington clearly wants to upgrade the bullpen, but would Arizona or Milwaukee splurge now on rentals for a stretch run? Would the Cubs, who are a game below .500, want to part with top prospects for, say, a Yu Darvish, rather than keep their powder dry and look for longer-term moves this offseason?
The Rangers also aren’t exactly brimming with guys contenders are going to be giving up significant value for. Jonathan Lucroy is available, but his defense is getting bad reviews and he’s got a sub-700 OPS, and there don’t appear to be a ton of teams needing a starting catcher. Mike Napoli is showing signs of life, but he’s got a 713 OPS and is probably viewed as a platoon guy right now. Andrew Cashner has a nice ERA, but he’s striking out 4.4 guys per 9, and Tyson Ross looks like he may be done.
Of the free agents this offseason, Yu Darvish and Carlos Gomez are the two having good seasons right now and who would seem to be able to bring something nice back, but they are also the two players the Rangers want to keep past 2017, which could impact the organization’s thinking. And if you sell Yu and Gomez, you’re clearly not trying to win this year, which makes it more likely Scott Boras calls Jon Daniels before the end of the month and asks him to start exploring trades for Adrian Beltre.
So there’s not a lot of clarity about who is a buyer and who is a seller in MLB right now, and the guys the Rangers want to sell aren’t going to bring much, if anything, back, while the guys who would fetch something nice in return are players the Rangers probably don’t really want to deal.
Good luck dealing with this, JD...