It's July in Texas and that means two things. One, it's so hot that now doctor's are recommending you wear sunscreen indoors now. And two, Rangers GM Jon Daniels' cell phone will go through 2-3 batteries.
Non-waiver trade deadline...The Trade Deadline...or Hot Stove Season, whatever you want to call it, the final two weeks in July are a hot bed for baseball activity. And the Rangers organization is no stranger to this season.
In 2006, Texas dealt for slugger Carlos Lee, but more importantly had the Brewers include minor league OF Nelson Cruz. Sending RHP Francisco Cordero, OF Kevin Mench, OF Laynce Nix, and minor league LHP Julian Cordero to Milwaukee.
In 2007, the trade that all other July trades are measured by, the Rangers sent 1B Mark Teixeira and RHP Ron Mahay to Atlanta for a five-some of young talent...SS Elvis Andrus, RHP Neftali Feliz, LHP Matt Harrison, C/1B Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and RHP Beau Jones. Five years later, I still thank the Braves organization for this (sorry Trey).
In 2010, the Rangers pulled off another surprise move when they landed LHP Cliff Lee from the Mariners. Texas also got RHP Mark Lowe in the deal, while sending top hitting prospect 1B Justin Smoak, RHP Blake Beaven, RHP Josh Lueke, and 2B/OF Matt Lawson to Seattle. Still can't fully grade this trade, but since Lawson doesn't play baseball any more, Smoak is batting .198 on the season and .218 for his career, while Texas went on to the World Series, looks like the M's might rethink that return package today.
In 2011, the Rangers went after bullpen help and added three arms that helped in yet another World Series appearance and two of which are still with the team today. Too many thought the Rangers were about to land closer Heath Bell, fact is Texas wanted and got RHP Mike Adams. Daniels also added RHP Koji Uehara and LHP Mike Gonzalez from Baltimore.
Now it's 2012 and the Rangers are once again right in the middle of Hot Stove discussions. The Rangers have three areas that I believe the club is looking to improve, but by no means am I saying they will improve all three if at all. Texas is looking at a frontline starting pitcher, upgrade at catcher, and another impact bat to come off the bench (think Jeff Francoeur in 2010).
You are not going to hear me talk, today or anytime between now and July 31st, about the likes of Matt Garza, Jason Vargas, Carlos Zambrano, Anibal Sanchez, Joe Blanton, Francisco Liriano, or even Ryan Dempster. This is because Texas is NOT looking for a #2 or #3 starter, Texas is looking for #1 and only an ace. This means we are talking about Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, James Shields, and "Mystery Pitcher." Not even trying to make a joke there, I have identified "Mystery Pitcher" at about 6:00am this morning. More on him later.
Break them down one-by-one:
James Shields (31): Still a little too premature to really talk about this one. Need to find out if the Rays are considering themselves buyers or sellers. This is a pitcher in which I mention because, though the "Not an Ace" argument could be made, I'd immediately point to his postseason success. The extra level that pitchers like Shields and Colby Lewis find in October could make those two a deadly 1-2 punch for the Rangers.
Zack Greinke (28): Going to give the analyst answer first. The Rangers have gone back-and-forth between "no, this is not the guy we want" and mediocre interest in Greinke. I believe the Rangers will continue to maintain interest in Greinke simply to help their leverage in regards to the next guy I mention. Fan in me: NO, NO, NO, and HELL NO!!! Sorry about that...but I really don't want to see Zack Greinke and his "mental mind game issues" wearing Ranger Red.
Cole Hamels (29): The prized possession when speaking about free agents this Hot Stove Season, unless of course the M's come to their senses and trade King Felix. Hamels, like Greinke is a legit, three-month rental, but having him in uniform could help the resigning process. Hamels has multiple years of October experience, countless days spent watching and learning from Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, and even has a World Series MVP trophy. Adding Hamels immediately makes the Rangers rotation "NL-good," but with an AL-lineup to back it up. Hamels, Lewis, Darvish, Harrison would making beat Texas in a seven game series very, very difficult.
Before I pass out some trade packages, I would like to clarify one issue in regards to how to acquire Hamels.
There has been plenty of talk about the risk behind sending a handful of prospects to Philadelphia for Hamels, because in the offseason if he signs elsewhere, then we have nothing to show for it. This is because, under the new CBA, there is no more draft pick compensation for a player, if he was acquired mid-season.
Two years ago when Cliff Lee signed to go back to Philadelphia, the Rangers received two draft picks in compensation, the Phillies first round pick and a sandwich pick between the 1st and 2nd rounds. Today that would not work out the same, Texas would NOT receive any picks. That adds some risk, look at Carlos Beltran last year. Beltran, a Mets OF, had in his contract (written by Boras, I annoyedly add) that whichever team he was with when his contract expired could NOT offer a qualifying one-year deal. Essentially that team could not and the San Francisco Giants did not receive any draft picks as compensation when he signed in St. Louis this season.
This situation is a great example of conditions under the new CBA of what is going to be happening in trades going forward. The Giants, who gave up their top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler for a 3-month rental of Beltran, didn't make the postseason and saw him leave and sign with the team that did win it all. Safe to say, this is a situation teams would like to avoid. Last thing we won't to see here in Texas is to lose a few prospects, then see Hamels sign in the offseason with the Dodgers.
But there is another end to the new CBA's compensation, teams no longer receive two picks, only one. This past offseason the Rangers made only the qualifying offer to LHP CJ Wilson before he signed with the Angels. In return, Texas received two picks as compensation, an Angels pick and a sandwich round pick. 3B Joey Gallo, who is blasting the ball in Arizona right now at Rookie ball, was the first pick Texas took for Wilson.
Therefore if the Phillies hold on to Hamels until the end of the season, they will only receive one pick in a sandwich round between the 1st and 2nd round. Translate that, it'll be around 36-40th overall, if Hamels signs elsewhere in the offseason.
Take both of these new rules and use the Beltran trade last year and personally, I've changed my stance on this trade...ABSOLUTELY, the Rangers need to make it happen. When Texas acquired Cliff Lee, we gave up 4 prospects, but only 2 of them were "top tier," and this was the BEST deal the M's could get. Texas knew when they made the trade that if Lee left they would receive two draft picks, game is different now, only going to get one.
This means Texas, and anyone else will not offer as much for Hamels as they have in the past. The Phillies also know that if they hold onto Hamels they will only get one draft pick, instead of two. Add those together and Texas offering two prospects (one top tier, the other second tier) is a much better compensation for Hamels than the Phillies would get in the 2013 Draft.
Now of course the price tag for Hamels goes up as more teams get involved, but unless someone gives the Phillies way too much in the prospect department, the return will be less than what Texas gave up for Cliff Lee two years ago. My bet is that no one, especially in the first year of the new CBA, will overpay that much. And with the respect and love that the Rangers farm system is receiving, it would "behoove" (to steal a Yankees word) the Phillies to tap into the Rangers farm.
But what will it cost....I'm very, very confident in saying that SS Jurickson Profar and 3B/1B/RF Mike Olt are NOT going anywhere. But it is going to cost Texas a top-tier pitcher, and the package I keeping thinking of, includes LHP Martin Perez.
LHP Martin Perez, OF Julio Borbon, and 3B Cristian Villanueva for LHP Cole Hamels - Understand that I break my own rule here and offer three, instead of two...but to get Hamels it's going to cost Perez (especially to keep Profar and Olt out of the deal), Borbon is not a huge loss for Texas with Craig Gentry and Leonys "Cohiba" Martin performing the way they are, and the Phillies want a 3B prospect, Villanueva sweetens the deal.
Perez, Borbon, Villanueva, RHP Miguel de los Santos, and C Luis Martinez / Dusty Brown for Hamels and C Carlos Ruiz.
Perez, Borbon, Villanueva, OF Engel Beltre, and RHP Wilmer Font for Hamels and OF Domonic Brown
Perez, Borbon, Villanueva, E. Beltre, Font, RHP Kyle Hendricks, and C Martinez / Brown for Hamels, Brown, and Ruiz
...and finally the alternate trade if a Hamels deal can't be worked out...a trade that woke me up early this morning because I couldn't get out of my head why the Rangers were scouting last night's Phillies game so heavily...a trade that forced my colleague Bo Reed to question whether I was drunk at 8:00am...a trade that WILL strike many different cords amongst Rangers Nation...but also a trade that would make the 2012 Texas Rangers better...
Perez, Borbon, Villanueva, RHP Johan Yan, and OF Mike Bianucci for Philadelphia LHP....Cliff Lee...
Enjoy the Hot Stove Season.