Two days ago, Henry Druschel nailed down three teams who are likely to be buyers this trade season. Rather than focusing on specific players due to the folly of the exercise, Henry focused on positions. The Rangers were cited as buyers due to at least some of their success being derived from luck, though the team certainly has a lot of talent.
Whether or not you believe the Rangers’ success is due to luck or skill (probably both!), there are definitely places the Rangers could upgrade in order to stave off the surging Astros.
I’ll be the idiot who tries to predict a trade. Rather, I’ll point out a possible trade that probably won’t happen. The first base situation in Arlington is rough; the majority of plate appearances at the position belong to Mitch Moreland, whose 78 wRC+ and .229 / .297 / .410 line just won’t cut it.
That line is only just a little bit better than his poor 2014 season; however, that season saw Moreland suffer through an ankle injury, which eventually sidelined him. This season, there is not necessarily an injury. There could be, as he played with a stress fracture to end 2015 and recently missed a start for a calf injury (he later came in to pinch hit).
There are two takeaways here – Moreland’s performance has been bad, and he’s a bit injury-prone. Going into his underlying data from the past half-season, he’s chasing more pitches and seeing fewer fastballs, which has increased his swing-and-miss rate, but he’s making very similar contact as he did last year. Seriously – his batted ball, pull/oppo, and contact quality splits are all very close to last year’s. It’s possible a simple plate discipline adjustment brings his numbers back up, which honestly have also suffered a bit of bad luck. He still brings the power.
Whether or not the Rangers want to upgrade here depends on Moreland’s bounceback potential and likelihood of injury. Even if Moreland were to bounce back, to what level does he bounce? His career-best wRC+ is only 115. If he were to hit that level, he would be under current Chris Davis and above current Hanley Ramirez. That’s not, you know, great, but maybe it could suffice with his above-average defense added in.
The more likely scenarios are that he either does not rebound, rebounds but not very much, or gets injured. The first backup scenario is Prince Fielder, which at this point does not appear to be an option.
That brings the Rangers into the trade market, in which the San Diego Padres have already been active and will likely stay active as the weeks go on. Wil Myers is raking at first base for the Padres and is generating a lot of trade interest. He is, in fact, leading all first basemen in fWAR at 3.4. He’s running a 141 wRC+ and has a Def value above zero, which is tough to do for first basemen given the positional adjustment that severely dings first sackers. He’s a good baserunner, he’s only 25, and is arbitration eligible for the first time next season. That’s a heck of an asset ...
Which is why the Padres are probably going to keep him around. MLB Trade Rumors noted that the Padres would likely prefer to see their “investment pay off on the field” rather than trade him away, as they traded a lot to get him. Those factors combine for a high asking price - four A-level prospects according to Jon Heyman.
You know, the Rangers have some A-level prospects sitting around in Jurickson Profar and Joey Gallo. Profar’s star has sagged, but he logged a little bit of time at first base this season. Gallo has not logged any major league time at first base, but Wil Myers, noted poor outfielder, is working first just fine. Why can’t someone else do it?
The Rangers’ options boil down to these:
- Hope Mitch Moreland rebounds and stays healthy
- Work in Profar and Gallo more (or some other prospect)
- Give up prospects in a trade – the better the improvement, the higher the price
The projections see anywhere from half a win to a full win improvement over the rest of the season as the difference between a modest Moreland rebound and modest Myers regression. Is that little push worth the price? The deal looks better if Myers’ and Moreland’s current performance is real. Based on current performance, Myers would also likely be the largest upgrade out there; other options will bring less value.
The Rangers, with current injuries and potential injuries always waiting to happen in the rotation (such rotten luck... or is it luck anymore?), will probably look elsewhere than first base to upgrade for the stretch run.
All stats current as of Wednesday evening.