Rangers Two Pieces Away From World Series Contention
You may have noticed I was unusually silent when courtroom drama once again sent shock-waves through the Rangers always entertaining, but panic-riddled fan base.
This wasn't from a lack of opinion on the subject and I'm sure later posts will make those opinions known to anyone interested in reading them, but for now I'm focused on the on-field matters facing the Rangers as the month of June comes to a close.
For starters the decision to call up rookie right-hander Omar Beltre for the middle game against the Angels in Los Angeles.
I've talked with many die hard fans about this and they have all been in full agreement with me on this one; the Rangers just sent the team, their fans and the rest of Major League Baseball a high hard one.
This is not the Rangers team you're used to seeing.
The Rangers have vaulted up the standings to within a game of the defending champion New York Yankees for the best record in baseball and thus are treating this series with the Angels as just another series.
That's what championship teams do when playing a division rival no matter who it is.
The Rangers will walk into Angel Stadium with the swagger of a team on fire and looking to drive their rivals even farther down in the standings, but regardless of what happens in Los Angeles, the Rangers will not win or lose the division in a three game series before the All-Star Break.
The message the Rangers front office sent with Beltre is simple; they don't care about trying to prove they belong, they've already done that.
Now it's about winning games and the best move for the team going forward is to give top starter Colby Lewis an extra few days rest even though it means starting a rookie against the Angels.
With that in mind, and July rapidly approaching, the Rangers front office has turned to addressing what the team needs to not only win the division, but also have more than a one line cameo performance in the postseason.
Everyone in the country knows what's going on with the Rangers ownership issues; fans and local sports writers are in full panic mode because the Rangers may not have Fort Knox coming down the Wells Fargo Line, so I'll be the rational member of both groups.
The Rangers do not need a huge infusion of cash to make the necessary moves.
Let me repeat that.
The Rangers DO NOT need a huge infusion of cash to make the necessary moves.
First let's look at how the team stands right now.
The Rangers have the highest team batting average in baseball with an incredible balance of speed, power and consistency.
The Rangers offense has beaten Felix Hernandez, Zach Grienke, Josh Johnson and Roy Oswalt so far this season because they are not relying on the three run bomb to score runs.
The bullpen has been lights out after some early season struggles thanks to arguably the best group of power arms in baseball. Feliz and Co. come out of the gate throwing hard heat while mixing in some breaking stuff to make things even more unfair for the hitters.
The starting rotation has taken a few hits with injuries and some disappointing performances from Scott Feldman and Rich Harden, but Colby Lewis, CJ Wilson and Tommy Hunter have helped bring some stability.
Once Derek Holland is able to return the Rangers rotation will be in great shape, not elite, but good enough.
Now let's make them elite, and this can be done within the Rangers current budget with a little creativity from GM Jon Daniels.
Cliff Lee will have in between $3 and $4.5 million left on his contract depending on when he is traded, a figure the Rangers can fit into their plans if they can unload Rich Harden's salary.
They could do that in a deal for Lee, but the Mariners will require an additional prospect or two to make it worth their while.
If the Rangers can add Cliff Lee to the top of their rotation they become an elite pitching staff with a power bullpen backed by the league's top ranked offense.
All that would be left is picking up an upgrade at catcher, and I'm not talking offensive upgrades either. The offense is just fine the way it is.
Matt Treanor and Max Ramirez have been adequate at calling games, but their inability to throw runners out on the bases needs to be addressed.
You cannot win a World Series with catchers so bad at throwing that teams can essentially run at will in the playoffs. This upgrade can come via trade or internally, but it has to be done for this team to take it to the next level.
The Rangers are a great team as is; a contender for the playoffs for sure.
They add Lee and an upgrade at catcher and they can become one of the league's elite teams capable of not only winning the American League West, but doing some damage in the postseason.
Luckily both moves can be done whether the new ownership group is in place or not.