ARLINGTON -- Acquiring young pitching for the future has been a high priority for the Rangers this offseason. That continued Friday, when infielder Jurickson Profar was traded to the Athletics for four Minor League prospects in a three-team trade that also included the Rays.
The Rangers acquired three Minor League pitchers from the Rays in left-handed starter Brock Burke, left-handed reliever Kyle Bird and right-handed reliever Yoel Espinal. The Rangers also picked up Double-A infielder Eli White from the Athletics and $750,000 in international bonus money.
Profar can be a free agent after the 2020 season. The Rangers explored a contract extension with him earlier this offseason, but weren't able to make progress. That prompted them to increase trade discussions with other teams with the aim of continuing to restock their inventory of young pitching.
"We had more conversations the past couple of weeks with a variety of clubs," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "Oakland was very consistent with their interest. The four guys that we are getting are all in the upper levels of the Minor Leagues, knocking on the door to the big leagues."
Daniels said similar trades are possible as the Rangers look to add more young pitching. He declined to talk specifics, but it's clear starter Mike Minor is a possibility. The Phillies and the Mets are among the teams that have asked about Minor, who can also be a free agent after the 2020 season. Both clubs have attractive pitching prospects.
"We have had inquiries on a few of our guys this offseason," Daniels said. "We are open if there is something that makes sense for us and there is value in it. We are open in particular to players who have fewer years of club control."
The Rangers have been pressing that philosophy since midseason trades involving veteran pitchers Cole Hamels, Jesse Chavez, Jake Diekman, Keone Kela and Cory Gearrin. The emphasis in all those deals has been to get young pitching in return.
"This is not a box you check, it's a philosophy," Daniels said. "It's something we are committed to. The last couple of years, we have added a lot. We needed to, and we still need to. Now we have to develop it and I'm excited by what the group has in place and what we are going to do. It has been a focus and it will continue to be a focus to build the kind of pitching program we need."
Burke is the headliner of the trade, a left-handed pitching prospect who seemed to have a breakthrough season with the Rays in 2018 and was their Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He moves into the upper echelon of starters in the Rangers' farm system, entering the team's Top 30 Prospects list at No. 6, joining the likes of left-handers Joe Palumbo (No. 8) and Taylor Hearn (7) and right-hander Jonathan Hernandez (5).
Burke, 22, was the Rays' third-round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft out of Evergreen (Colo.) High School. It took him four years, but he finally broke through and flourished at the Double-A level this past season. He made nine starts at Double-A Montgomery in the Southern League and was 6-1 with a 1.95 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. He averaged 11.5 strikeouts, 6.3 hits and 2.3 walks per nine innings.
Burke features a 90-94 mile per hour fastball with a slider as his secondary pitch. He is also working on a changeup to use against right-handed hitters and give him the necessary three-pitch mix.
"Really kind of a late bloomer who this year really started to show, to fulfill a lot of the potential we'd seen in him ever since we took him out of high school," said Chaim Bloom, the Rays' senior vice president for baseball operations. "His velocity jumped. His maturity took a step forward and that showed."
Bird and Espinal could both help the Rangers' bullpen at some point this season.
Bird, 25, finished last season at Triple-A Durham and was 3-1 with a 1.94 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP over 27 games. Left-handed hitters batted .164 off him and he struck out 10.5 batters per nine innings. Bird has a chance to compete with C.D. Pelham, Jeffrey Springs and Brady Feigl for a spot as a left-handed reliever in the Rangers' bullpen
Espinal, 26, adds another power right arm to the Rangers' bullpen mix with a fastball that can hit 100 mph. He pitched in 40 games at Montgomery and was 3-3 with 10 saves, a 1.98 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. He struck out 11.7 and walked 4.8 batters per nine innings.
White, 24, was an 11th-round Draft pick by the Athletics out of Clemson in 2016 and enters the Rangers' Top 30 Prospects at No. 12. He played in 130 games at Double-A Midland in 2018 and was used at shortstop, third, second base and center field, hitting .306 with 81 runs scored, 30 doubles, eight triples, nine home runs, 55 RBIs and 18 stolen bases.. A right-handed hitter, he had a .388 on-base percentage and a .450 slugging percentage.
"Really athletic, double-plus runner, great makeup," Daniels said. "With the bat, he has always had a contact approach and he is coming into some strength now. The power could follow but not the focus of his game. Really versatile, good baseball player with his running, his defense and his bat can add value in a lot of different ways."
The Rangers also gave up a pitcher in the trade, sending Minor League right-hander Rollie Lacy to the Rays. Lacy was one of three players acquired from the Cubs for Cole Hamels in July and was 1-2 with a 4.45 ERA in six starts at Class A Advanced Down East.