Slumping Rangers face Deadline decisions

August 23rd, 2020

The Rangers need to get outfielder back in the lineup this coming week, and they need left-hander to pitch better in his next two starts.

Right now, closer could be the Rangers' most marketable asset as the Aug. 31 Trade Deadline approaches, and crucial decisions must be made for a team rapidly falling out of contention.

After the Rangers wrap their three-game series in Seattle, they have seven games at home against the division-leading A's and Dodgers. That will take them right up to the Deadline, forcing the Rangers to decide if they must cut their losses and see if there is any interest in their players.

Even with an expanded postseason, the Rangers don’t have the look of a team poised to make a serious run in September.

“Obviously, a lot is going to happen before that,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “Obviously, there are a lot of things we are looking at. There are a lot of areas we need to improve. To me, is it going to be improved by people we have here now? Do we need to look at our younger group? I don’t know.”

Contending clubs are looking for bullpen help, and Montero offers more than a one-month rental, as he won’t become a free agent until after the 2022 season. He had five straight saves after coming off the 10-day injured list before giving up a grand slam in his last outing. That home run came in his second inning of work after setting down the side in order. Otherwise, his trade value is up, with a 4.26 ERA in six outings.

Choo and Minor qualify as rentals, as both will be free agents after this season, though their trade value is not particularly high right now.

Choo is productive, but banged up. He was out of the lineup on Saturday for a third straight day because of a variety of ailments, most notably a calf issue. It hasn’t helped that Choo has started 12 games in the outfield and six at designated hitter. That was not the ratio expected for a player who turned 38 years old on July 13.

The Rangers don’t want to put Choo on the IL and lose him for another week. Woodward said that the club is hoping to get him back Tuesday or Wednesday, meaning he would miss Sunday's game in Seattle and Monday's series opener against Oakland.

Clubs could use an experienced left-handed bat, especially with the DH being used in both leagues. Choo does have 10-and-5 full trade veto rights.

“We definitely need him in our lineup,” Woodward said. “He is a big part of our offense. You see it at the top of the lineup, he sets the tone. Choo has some veteran experience, [a] quality at-bat every time up there.”

Minor starts on Sunday against the Mariners and again on Friday against the Dodgers in Arlington. Those will be his final starts before the Deadline.

An All-Star in 2019, Minor is healthy, but 0-4 with a 6.94 ERA in five starts. His velocity has been slightly down and he has had some durability issues after the first three to four innings. His changeup is his best pitch, but it's been erratic.

“He needs to get back to where he was at this point last year,” Woodward said. “I think we worry too much about the velo. He needs to get back to pitching off that changeup like he normally does. Once he has that command and he is able to use those pitches, it doesn’t matter if the fastball is 90 or 93, it still gets outs.”

The Rangers have younger players who could get a look in September. They’re already becoming committed to having Jose Trevino get a good look behind the plate. Woodward mentioned the possibility of building up pitcher Kyle Cody to start and taking a look at Leody Taveras in center.

The alternate camp also includes top prospects Josh Jung, Sherten Apostel, Sam Huff, Eli White and Justin Foscue on the position player side, and pitchers Jason Bahr, Cole Winn, Alex Speas and Ricky Vanasco.

They were added to the 60-man roster so they could get development time at the alternate site and were not supposed to be big league options, but neither were Cody, Taveras or Wes Benjamin.

“We're talking about this daily,” Woodward said. “If we can't find a way to win baseball games, then we're going to have look at what we have. There are not too many guys down there that are young and super ready. I'm not going to force anything, but at the same time, there are a few guys that I would like to see.

“I want us to play better, first of all. I want to win baseball games, whether it’s the guys here or if we can add from our younger group down below. I’m willing to look at all of that.”

Rangers beat
• Woodward said he is looking to get Todd Frazier a day off on Sunday and having Yadiel Rivera start for the first time at shortstop.

• According to Statcast, Joey Gallo entered Saturday having faced a defensive shift in 91.9% of his plate appearances for the 12th highest rate in the Majors.

• Going into Saturday, Rangers hitters were averaging 1.3 home runs per game on the road and just 0.5 per game at home.