There are many people who love to SALT there meat before they sit down to the table and eat it. Many will even do it while still in line to get their meat. But here's the thing, no one notices or really cares about SALT-ing until your at the table. Same with baseball, there is plenty of SALT before July 1st, but that date is really the kickoff for it. Before the 1st the talks are very speculative and have little to no backing, but once the 1st passes then they really heat up. The exception, of course, is if there is a "high profile" trade candidate, last season Cliff Lee was the perfect example of this.
For those not completely following me here, SALT refers to how you should take most rumors, quotes, and trade discussions. When cooking a meat, if it's not properly cooked or seasoned, you'll have to salt it to add some flavor. Same concept, many of these nuggets of information that I pass along need to be salted. And I will gladly inform how much salt needs to be taken with each nugget, but eventually a story will have less and less salt. Until your eating the meat with no salt and a trade is completed.
On board...Sweet! Well here is my first "SALT-ed" piece in reference to the Rangers and their potential moves. I'm going to start by listing a good handful of quotes from multiple baseball experts and the Rangers organization and then comment on each potential player. Finally I will wrap up with what remains my favorite and seemingly most popular section, my trade ideas. To date I have yet to nail one, continued evidence of why I don't work for the team, but simply write a blog.
Buster Olney, ESPN.com - "Rangers are strong potential fit for [Padres closer Heath] Bell...The bottom line is it'll be a seller's market for SD on Bell."
Jayson Stark, ESPN.com - San Diego is "genuinely interested" in trading Bell and Chad Qualls, but not any other relievers (Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson foremost among them). Padres "appear to be gearing up to jump the market by being the first on their block to sell attractive pieces like Bell and Ryan Ludwick...Padres scouts [have been] actively checking out the farm systems of contenders (such as Texas and Philadelphia) that they believe they could match up with in one of those deals."
Jon Paul Morosi, FOX Sports - Scout who has seen Rangers farm system: "They've got more trade chips than anybody." Giants are interested in bringing Yorvit Torrealba back, though they're "reluctant to part with any of their bullpen arms other than Guillermo Mota."
Ken Rosenthal, FOX Sports - The Rangers "are deep in young arms, and would be in better position than most clubs to absorb the remainder of Bell's $7.5MM salary."
Jon Heyman, Sports Illustrated - The Rangers "[c]ould be [a] big trade partner for [the] Mets," with interest not only in closer Francisco Rodriguez but outfielder Carlos Beltran as well. Those two earn a combined $30MM in 2011 alone.
Nick Cafardo, Boston Globe - Reports that Texas, Colorado, Florida, San Diego, and Arizona are "looking at" lefthander Scott Kazmir, released two weeks ago by the Angels, who ate $9.5MM remaining on his contract.
T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com - Kansas City might listen on Joakim Soria and "have had interest" in Rangers outfield prospect Engel Beltre. Suggests that Sean Marshall of the Cubs "is the best left-handed reliever who might be available."
Jon Daniels, Texas Rangers GM - In regards to making an impact trade for relief help: "I'm always open to it. But I'm not sure I see that guy out there." In a perfect world, the key target would be a set-up reliever that the Rangers would have control of past 2011, but still open to adding "a second closer."
Nolan Ryan, Texas Rangers Owner and Team President - On why the trade market for relief pitching has been slow to fully develop: "There's a couple of things happening. One, there are clubs that two or three weeks ago appeared to be slipping out of it, but they have surged again. Even if the front offices of those clubs don't think they can hang in it, they can't send a message right now to their fans that they are already packing it in for the season. That's understandable. But even a bigger problem for us is it's surprising how many clubs are looking for bullpen help. At the moment, it's a strong sellers' market for bullpen guys. That tends to slow things down." In response to Mets' players K-Rod and Beltran: "can't believe we'd have an interest in either," because Rodriguez is not necessarily an upgrade and concerned about Beltran's knee.
A few comments...Olney and Stark are most likely correct that the Padres want to build around Adams closing in the future, hate that because I want that guy more than Bell. I've read that Morosi comment about our farm system time and time again, and it feels good. As for the Giants wanting one of our catchers right now, well I made myself very clear a few days ago about that. I'll summarize that by hanging up the phone on them, actually slamming it. Heyman is an idiot, I'm sorry, that guy loves New York sports more than Spike Lee. Every comment from him has to be in regards to what helps out New York, almost like he is on the payroll. Few months ago he made it very clear that there was a 0% chance Cliff Lee signed anywhere else besides the Yankees. Case closed on that guy! I would love for Texas to take a fly-by chance on Kazmir, I think with the right coaching there are still some pretty good innings left in his arm. In fact I would love to immediately transition him into a left-handed reliever, could be a strong lefty-lefty specialist.
Next, here are some other little factoids that will get your Rangers', AL West, and AL brains a thinking a little bit more:
Angels owner Arte Moreno has told GM Tony Reagins NOT to spend any additional money this season. The Angels have not only eaten the $9.5M remaining salary of Kazmir, but also still paying Gary Matthews Jr. $11M this season (GMJ last played CF for Cincinnati's AAA club...in 2010). Matt Lawson, Cleveland minor league infielder (part of package Texas sent to Seattle for Cliff Lee), retired two weeks ago to complete his degree and begin coaching at Missouri State University. The Chicago Cubs released Thomas Diamond and the Astros released Max Ramirez, the Padres designated Jorge Cantu for assignment. The Orioles are interested in moving RH relievers Kevin Gregg and Koji Uehara, but probably not Jim Johnson. According the Brittany Ghiroli (MLB.com), Texas and Cleveland have both shown some interest in Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie.
Tanner Scheppers, currently pitching in Frisco, will most definitely be promoted back to Round Rock "once he gets back into the routine of pitching." If Texas trades Torrealba or Teagarden for bullpen help, it is widely speculated that they will then bring back Matt Treanor from Kansas City. The Rangers are currently fielding the fourth youngest AA team, third youngest High-A team, youngest Low-A team, and youngest Short-A team in all of baseball. Short-A is normally reserved for recent college signees, the Rangers have seven teenagers playing there for Spokane. LHP Martin Perez and SS Jurickson Profar were both selected to appear in the July 10th Futures Game, Perez is fourth youngest and Profar is the youngest player on either team. Profar is 18!
A few more comments...Angels are paying Kazmir and GMJ $20.5MM to NOT play for them, yep that's some really good business there. Ever need a good laugh, remind yourself that the Angels gave GMJ a 5-year, $50MM contract to leave Texas, he earned about $500K of that. Step out of character for a second and respond to those Ranger fans who screamed and yelled when we let Diamond go, SHUT YOUR FACE!!! Those people should have their opinion privileges revoked for a long, long time, it was a great time to cut ties with him when we did. The same can also go for the Ramirez hating...swing and a miss people, swing and a miss...ok, back into character. Wouldn't mind having Guthrie in there as a #4 starter. Can't even begin to explain my excitement in regards to our High-A, Low-A, and Short-A minor league teams. I said it before and stand by it again, go ahead and quote me...Jurickson Profar is good enough at shortstop, that he COULD force Texas to move Elvis Andrus to second base.
To date here is a list of the names of relievers that at one point have already been tied to the Rangers are potential trade candidates: Heath Bell (SD), Mike Adams (SD), Luke Gregerson (SD), Chad Qualls (SD), Tyler Clippard (WAS), Todd Coffey (WAS), Jim Johnson (BAL), Koji Uehara (BAL), Kevin Gregg (BAL), Burke Badenhop (FLA), Edward Mujica (FLA), Brian Sanches (FLA), Randy Choate (FLA), Joakim Soria (KC), Matt Capps (MIN), Joe Nathan (MIN), Guillermo Mota (SF), Sergio Romo (SF), Kerry Wood (CHC), Sean Marshall (CHC), Carlos Marmol (CHC), Brandon Lyon (HOU), Joel Hanrahan (PIT), Chris Resop (PIT), Evan Meek (PIT), David Aardsma (SEA), Michael Wuertz (OAK), Grant Balfour (OAK), Francisco Rodriguez (NYM), Jonathan Broxton (LAD), Ryan Franklin (STL), and even Jonathan Papelbon (BOS). Does your head hurt yet? Tired of reading? Lost amongst the names? Welcome to the club.
At this point there is no real reason to speculate on which direction the Rangers are going to go or which names they will target for a few reasons. Re-read what Nolan Ryan said, it's dead on, and I can't explain it any better. There are still a handful of teams that are on the fence of whether they will be buyers or sellers come the end of July, and they won't know until the last week of July. Teams like Baltimore, Kansas City, Minnesota, Oakland, Florida, NY Mets, Washington, Houston, and CHI Cubs are one nice long winning streak away from jumping out of sellers mood. While teams like Toronto, CHI White Sox, Seattle, Pittsburgh, and LA Dodgers are all one long losing streak away from accepting the sellers' role. Right now only the San Diego Padres are certain they will be sellers. Because of this many teams still remaining within a grasp of competing, I doubt there are any real trades before the All Star break (July 11-13).
If I had to predict, I still believe Texas will make at least one trade to improve the bullpen, but making another depends upon the success of the rehabbing internal candidates. The Rangers front office, and myself included, would love more than anything for the bullpen problems to be fixed internally. Currently rehabbing in the minors are Tommy Hunter, Scott Feldman, Darren O'Day, Tanner Scheppers, Eric Hurley, and even Brandon Webb. Any one, but more likely multiple of these pitchers should return and factor in the Rangers push for the postseason.
Hunter's rehab assignment can not go past July 3rd, if he remains an option must be used, his success has been intermediate and likely projects as an option for long relief this season. Feldman assignment can't go beyond July 10th, his last few outings have been exciting (five-inning, no-hit effort at AAA) and is showing the return of his cutter. Lefties are currently hitting .206/.250/.294 against him. Webb's assignment can not last past July 13th, honestly no clue what happens between now and then. At this moment the experiment should be scrubbed and Webb released. O'Day could be the most exciting as he could be activated off the 60-day DL this week and rejoin the bullpen, his numbers have been better and the team is hopeful the time in the minors will help similar to Lowe's time back in May. Finally Scheppers and Hurley, both must continue to show they can stay healthy, keep their stamina up, and then their time will come. I have a feeling, if healthy, that Scheppers could play a major factor in the postseason run this year.
There you have it, the Rangers' internal options and the external targets. So here is my current list of potential trade scenarios that I could see developing:
San Diego trades Heath Bell for Julio Borbon, Pedro Strop, and Miguel de los Santos.
San Diego trades Bell and Mike Adams for Borbon, Tommy Hunter, Strop, M. de los Santos, and Leury Garcia.
Washington trades Todd Coffey for Carlos Pimental and M. de los Santos.
Baltimore trades Jim Johnson and Koji Uehara for Chris Davis, Strop, M. de los Santos, Tomas Telis, and Hanser Alberto.
Florida trades Josh Johnson and Burke Badenhop or Randy Choate for Borbon, Davis, Scheppers, Hunter, and M. de los Santos...sorry always love adding this one in.
Kansas City trades Joakim Soria for Engel Beltre, Strop, Jose Felix.
San Francisco trades Guillermo Mota and Javier Lopez for Taylor Teagarden, E. Beltre, M. de los Santos, and David Brigham.
Chicago Cubs trades Sean Marshall for Strop and M. de los Santos.
Pittsburgh trades Joel Hanrahan for Barret Loux and Leonel de los Santos.
Oakland trades Grant Balfour (once off the DL) for Strop and Brigham.
New York trades Francisco Rodriguez for M. de los Santos and Brigham (Texas accepts remaining money.)