Rangers Should Target Bullpen at Trade Deadline

Jun 27, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez (21) walks in from the bullpen before a game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 27, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez (21) walks in from the bullpen before a game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

The Texas Rangers should trade for bullpen depth rather than starting pitching at the deadline. Here’s why…

It’s almost a given Jon Daniels and the Texas Rangers will do something before the MLB trade deadline on August 1st. Rangers President and General Manger Jon Daniels has never shied away from making a midseason move — Especially the kind that could potentially put his club over the top heading into the postseason.

The first place Texas Rangers have been red-hot as of late and currently stand nine games ahead of AL West second place team, Houston Astros. But even with a sizeable lead in the division, not to mention, the most wins in baseball, the Texas Rangers are far from a perfect team.

There are several notable weaknesses and concerns with the club that Daniels is sure to address before the deadline passes. Two of the most talked about areas of concern are the starting rotation and the bullpen.

According to recent chatter, the starting rotation has pulled ahead as the area most likely to be upgraded.  Never mind the fact that the rotation has boasted the best ERA for most of the season. Most postseasons live and die by their top three starting pitchers. And with Yu Darvish in limbo, recovering from Tommy John surgery, some are growing nervous about the Rangers top three.

Jon Daniels and Jeff Banister are doing everything they can to carefully handle Darvish in his return err…return from his return that is. Because of this extra care, it would be surprising if Darvish wasn’t back to his dominant self, come playoff time.

But nothing is guaranteed and with so many questions surrounding the third player in the starting pitching trinity, making a bold move for an established starter has been the focus of mid-summer rumors.

Here’s why they should be focusing on the bullpen…

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Martin Perez is making a strong case for the #3 starter this summer. The 22-year old righty is returning from Tommy John surgery himself and just now finding success in his return. As Gerry Fraley pointed out for the DMN, Perez has quietly posted a personal six game winning streak and has done so with a new philosophy on the mound.

No longer going for the flashy strikeouts, Perez has been playing the edges and trying to get ground ball outs and more importantly, low pitch counts. If Perez can continue this approach (and this success), he could as good of an option as there is on the trade market.

A.J. Griffin is another pitcher who could vie for that third spot in the playoff rotation. After a hot start to the season, Griffin spent time himself on the DL. Now, freshly back this week, Griffin looks to regain the form he showed weeks ago. Did I mention Griffin too is essentially making the post Tommy John comeback himself?

And that brings us to the bigger issue at hand. The reason the bullpen is so important. Pitch counts. Pitch counts are important to all pitchers – especially those making Tommy John comebacks. Yu Darvish is on a strict pitch count and with a history of high pitch counts in his past, he can be expected to make some early exits in his return.

Martin Perez and A.J. Griffin are on pitch counts of their own. Derek Holland, another pitcher vying for that third spot, may not be on pitch counts but he has a long history of premature exits. All of these pitchers provide reasons to why the bullpen (and not just in long relief) needs to be addressed.

Next: Rangers' Best 1-2 Punch May Not Include Darvish

Assuming Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish are good to go, the playoff rotation is sure to be formidable.  But virtually every potential playoff starter, not named Hamels, comes with a pitch count and/or a history of early exits. The bullpen will need to be leaned on heavily in the postseason and that’s why the Rangers should target relievers before the deadline.