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Texas Rangers claim Renato Nunez on waivers

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Renato Nunez has been claimed on waivers from the A’s by the Rangers

MLB: Oakland Athletics-Media Day Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Rangers have claimed 24 year old Renato Nunez on waivers from the Oakland A’s, the team announced. To clear a spot on the 40 man roster for Nunez, the Rangers have moved Tim Lincecum from the 10 day disabled list to the 60 day disabled list. The Rangers will clear a spot on the 25 man roster for Nunez, who is out of options, on Monday, per John Blake.

This is an unexpected and interesting pair of moves. In regards to Lincecum, the original target date for his return has supposedly been May 1, but he’s been dealing with a blister issue. Moving him to the 60 day d.l. means he won’t be eligible to be activated until late May, and it leads me to wonder if he’s needing more time to get ramped up and ready than was expected. He can spend up to 30 days on a rehab assignment, and I think its fair to assume at this point that he will use most or all of that time, particularly if he’s sent out on a rehab assignment later this month.

There was a lot of talk about Lincecum possibly being a closer for the Rangers this year, but with the delay in his getting ready, and now this move, its looking more like the team will be happy if he can just be a serviceable bullpen piece.

As for Nunez, he was signed by Oakland out of Venezuela in 2010, and turned 24 earlier this month. He came up as a third baseman, but has played more left field of late, and also has played first base. He’s a righthanded hitter who strikes out a bunch, doesn’t walk much, and has big time power. In 126 games for Nashville (the A’s PCL affiliate) last year, Nunez put up a .249/.319/.518 slash line, with 32 home runs.

Nunez has been on a rehab assignment with Nashville this year, after starting the season on the d.l., and the A’s tried to sneak him through waivers. A’s beat writer Susan Slusser has a story on him being claimed that quotes a scout invoking Nelson Cruz, who the A’s traded to Milwaukee for Keith Ginter in 2004, then saw blossom years later.

I’m curious to see what the Rangers’ plans will be for Nunez, now that they’ve claimed him and he’s got to be on the active roster. As a righthanded hitter with limited defensive ability and versatility, he doesn’t seem to be a great fit with this roster, and it is certainly possible that the Rangers will designate him for assignment once Delino DeShields or Rougned Odor return, and try to sneak him through waivers and outright him the way the A’s were trying to do. Texas could, alternatively, give him regular playing time in left field (given the presence of Adrian Beltre, I don’t imagine he’ll be slotting in at third base on a regular basis anytime soon).

Assuming that there is not an injury that we don’t know about (such as Drew Robinson, who is out of the lineup today, being banged up), there appear to be three candidates to be dropped from the 25 man roster to make room for Nunez:

There’s Ronald Guzman, the first baseman who was called up when Elvis Andrus was placed on the d.l. Guzman has handled himself well in his two games in the majors, but it could well be that the Rangers would prefer he continue to get reps in AAA, and would prefer to have Joey Gallo back at first base. Adding Nunez would give the Rangers someone who could replace Guzman on the roster and play left field, allowing Gallo to move back to first base.

There’s Ryan Rua, who started the season as the regular left fielder. Rua got off to an awful start, although he’s picked up offensively of late, with a 746 OPS in his last seven games, but it could be that the injuries and bad start to the season have the Rangers less inclined to continue to give Rua regular major league at bats. Rua is a better defender than Nunez and can play more positions, but he also has options, so this could be a matter of the Rangers deciding to maximize their options and flexibility by adding Nunez, plugging him into Rua’s role, and sending Rua to AAA.

And then there’s Carlos Tocci. The Rule 5 pick gets great reviews for his defense, but isn’t seen as a major league hitter. He’s a true center fielder, which the Rangers don’t have right now, but if the determination has been made at this point that the team isn’t going to be able to carry him on the bench all season, it would make sense to put him on waivers now and offer him back, and try to get Nunez, who may have a better chance of sticking in the organization.

Theoretically, Drew Robinson could be optioned, but given that Robinson is more or less than utility infielder for the time being, with Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Jurickson Profar starting, and given he’s the primary center fielder right now, I think his versatility keeps him safe for the time being.