This team looks like a surefire buyer at Trade Deadline

July 26th, 2023

A number of teams remain stuck in wait-and-see mode when it comes to the Trade Deadline, but one club that knows precisely what it plans to do between now and next Tuesday is the Rangers, who are trying to hold off the Astros in the American League West

One American League executive has heard that owner Ray Davis is “heavily engaged,” adding that they expect Texas to be very active before the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline.

“I could see them moving a lot from the system,” the executive said.

The Rangers ranked seventh in MLB Pipeline’s organizational rankings prior to the season, and even with the promotion of AL Rookie of the Year favorite Josh Jung, Texas has six players on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list, leaving GM Chris Young with plenty of prospect capital to move in an effort to bolster his roster for the stretch run.

The Rangers rank first in the Majors in runs scored and second in OPS behind the Braves, so the lineup doesn’t figure to need much tinkering. Texas could look to upgrade its designated hitter position, where the Rangers rank 25th in OPS, but the real focus looks to be on the mound.

“Bullpen for sure,” the executive said. “They also want a starter; they’re worried about [Martín] Pérez and [Jon] Gray.”

Texas ranks fifth in MLB with a 3.81 ERA from its starters, while its 4.80 bullpen ERA is fourth worst.

Pérez has had a tough season, posting a 4.91 ERA with a 1.490 WHIP in 19 starts, while Gray – who had a sparkling 2.32 ERA in his first 12 outings – has been hit hard of late, pitching to a 6.49 ERA in his last seven starts.

The Rangers already added Aroldis Chapman to the bullpen in a trade with the Royals last month, but they’re expected to add another arm or two into the relief mix by the Deadline.

Two-way players?

No, we’re not talking about you-know-who. The Angels’ stance on trading Shohei Ohtani has seemingly not changed, especially as they continue to push toward a potential AL Wild Card spot.

The two-way players we’re referencing here are four other AL teams on the postseason bubble: the Guardians, Mariners, Red Sox and Yankees. According to a rival executive, the belief within the industry is that these four – “some of the smarter clubs,” as he called them – are toying with the idea of doing a little buying and a little selling over the next week.

“It seems like more clubs around the periphery of the Wild Card race are signaling that they will entertain the concept of soft buying while also selling their players on expiring deals,” the executive said. “We have seen more supply of rentals on the market than most would have thought.”

The Guardians have only Amed Rosario on an expiring contract, but the Mariners have Teoscar Hernández headed for free agency and could move closer Paul Sewald, who will be a free agent after the 2024 season.

The Red Sox began their trade season on Tuesday, sending impending free agent Kiké Hernández to the Dodgers for a pair of right-handed pitchers. The emergence of Jarren Duran in Boston might make Adam Duvall – an impending free agent coveted by a number of teams – expendable. The Red Sox could also look to give Bobby Dalbec a fresh start elsewhere, now that Triston Casas has entrenched himself at first base. Boston is said to be seeking rotation help to hold down the fort until Chris Sale and Tanner Houck return from injury next month, plus at least one reliever.

As for the Yankees, they are said to be looking for help at catcher, left field, the rotation and the bullpen, but of the team’s expiring contracts – Luis Severino, Frankie Montas, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Harrison Bader and Wandy Peralta – only Bader and Peralta figure to have much trade value.  

Should the Yankees deal for a center fielder such as Dylan Carlson from the Cardinals, they could then flip Bader to address one of their other holes, though that would still leave them short in left field.  

Either way, it seems these four teams might try to thread the needle when it comes to the buy/sell game.

Windy City rumblings

The Cubs are still on the bubble of being full-on sellers, but several executives expect Chicago to eventually trade both Marcus Stroman and Cody Bellinger by next week. 

“I’d have to imagine they ultimately will, but I think they’re still in wait-and-see mode,” an AL executive said.  

Another AL executive has the same belief, though with the caveat that Stroman’s ability to opt out of the final year and $21 million and Bellinger’s contract – he’s owed about $4 million this season, plus a $5 million buyout of his $25 million mutual option for 2024 – makes it “a more complicated” situation for both players.

The Cubs can extend a qualifying offer to Bellinger at the end of the season, which would allow them to recoup a Draft pick if he leaves as a free agent. That’s not the case with Stroman, who accepted a qualifying offer from the Mets for the 2021 season and can’t receive another, meaning he could walk away as a free agent without any compensation for the Cubs.

Deadline dealings

• One of the most intriguing bubble teams is the Padres, who would be a tough out in October if they were able to secure a postseason spot. If GM A.J. Preller decides to sell, however, impending free agents Blake Snell and Josh Hader would likely bring back solid returns if the Padres dealt them.

The feeling within the industry? Preller is far too aggressive to sell. “Our sense has been San Diego is still lining up to buy,” an AL executive said.

• Jordan Hicks is one of the impending free agents the Cardinals are considering trading this week, but The Athletic reported Tuesday that St. Louis is working to sign the reliever to an extension. If no deal is reached, the report said, the Cardinals would then trade him.

According to a source, the two sides are “optimistic” that a new deal will get done, though until it’s completed, teams will continue to scout Hicks in case he becomes available.