Who Are the Rangers Biggest Trade Candidates? Part II: Pitchers

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 08: Alex Claudio #58 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Los Angeles Angels in the top of the ninth inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington on July 8, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 08: Alex Claudio #58 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Los Angeles Angels in the top of the ninth inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington on July 8, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Today we assess the Texas Rangers stable of pitchers and we project how likely they are to be traded this season

Earlier in the week, I tried my best at assessing the trade value of the Texas Rangers offensive players. This is, of course, presupposing that this is going to be a, how you say, “trying” season for Texas, and furthermore, that a difficult part of rebuilding (or “restocking” if that hurts less to read) is executing a few painful deals. Now, let’s look at the pitching side of things.

While certainly no Tampa Bay fan was elated to see Evan Longoria traded this off-season, nor a Bucs fan with Andrew McCutchen, the harsh reality is that the value those players would have provided to their respective clubs wasn’t the difference between making or missing the playoffs.

Like it or not, Rangers fans, we’re in a similar predicament this season. At best, a few lights-out trades can quickly redirect the trajectory of the franchise; at worst, it could be some years before Texas is ready to compete again.

Cole Hamels

Age: 34

Contract: $23.5m ’18, $20m team option ’19

I suppose we ought to start with the most obvious candidate. Hamels and the Rangers have been a great match since he came over from Philadelphia in 2015, but the writing on the wall suggests that the two might have different interests, moving forward.

Hamels is on the downside of his career, and, while he should command another contract after his current one expires (should he want to), he is 34 years old, and making a lot, lot of money. While he does have a vesting option for 2019 based on innings pitched in 2017 and 2018, his injury last year has made that number impossible to reach this season. Whether it’s Texas, or another team, the odds of anyone picking up Hamels’ option for 2019 are slim.

That said, he’s still a very good pitcher today, and one that could help any contending team out down the stretch. While he won’t command nearly the same type of package that it took for Texas to pull him away from Philadelphia, any prospects are better than none for the Rangers, particularly when the alternative is keeping Hamels, still losing 90+ games, and losing him to free agency.

Chances of being traded: Likely

Doug Fister

Age: 34

Contract: $3.5m ’18, $4.5m team option ’19

Once upon a time, Fister was a Rangers dream: a groundball pitcher with an easy delivery, very few walks, and durability. When they finally got their chance at him this offseason, they were getting little more than a pitcher with a pulse; while the walks should continue to stay down for Fister, my guess is that the hard contact should continue to go up.

The biggest question for Fister isn’t whether or not Texas would deal him; it’s whether or not he would be in demand for any other club. Over the past two seasons, his ERA is a hearty 4.76 (though his FIP last season was 3.98), and he’s been prone to the long ball whenever that sinker of his doesn’t sink. Also, while there’s a whole lot to make out of Spring Training, Fister gave up a lot of hard contact this March, regardless of the outcome.

Between Hamels, Fister, and Matt Moore (more on him in a moment), Texas will likely be tempted to retain one of these guys for 2019. Certainly, if Fister finds his 2014 form, he’d be worth keeping, but it seems more realistic that he’ll sit somewhere around league average, and end up dealt at the deadline.

Chances of being traded: Likely

Matt Moore

Age: 28

Contract: $9m in ’18, $10m option ’19

The Rangers were, for reasons which remain largely unknown, eager to trade for Moore in the offseason. This, even after the lefty produced, arguably, his worst season as a professional (which is saying something considering his career thus far). The Texas front office has had a long-rumored affinity for Moore, dating back to his days in Tampa, and Jon Daniels and Co. were quick to snatch him away from the Giants (certainly much to their pleasure).

In spite of his very notable decline, Moore may have found himself in a perfect position, as Texas seems elated to have a player of his (former, brief) caliber on their roster. He’s still relatively young, and the mileage on his arm is less than others his age, due in large part to injuries.

With Hamels almost certainly gone this season, and Fister not far behind (assuming he merits it with his performance), Texas is going to need some semblance of a veteran to hang onto. Moore’s likely-subpar output this season might align nicely with Texas’ desperate need for live pitching. While an unexpected season could change things, it’s more likely that the Rangers keep him around than send him off.

Chances of being traded: Possible

Martin Perez

Age: 26

Contract: $6m ’18, $7.5m option ’19

In keeping with Texas’ theme, Perez is another perennial under-performer, albeit one they’ve homegrown. While Perez never made good on those Johan Santana comps, he’s been a serviceable lefty for Texas over the past six seasons. Frankly, he’s been needed in no duties higher than third or fourth in the rotation, and that’s about where he belongs as a starter.

Perez might be the most likely pitcher the Rangers could dangle to appeal to a club. He’s young, and, unlike Fister or Moore, hasn’t declined as a pitcher, so much as he’s simply, and steadily, been very, very average. His 2019 option is quite friendly, and for a team in the playoff hunt, Perez could be a great addition to a rotation in need of improvement on the backend.

It’s not likely that Perez would bring back much in terms of prospects. Additionally, Texas loves him (and would love him more if he didn’t fall behind every batter, ever), and surely finds that 2019 price tag as friendly as anyone else would.

Chances of being traded: Unlikely

Bartolo Colon/Jesse Chavez

Age: 45, 34

Contracts: league minimum, $4m; both FA after ’18 season

I’m lumping these two journeymen together because they so fit the profile of veteran depth, which is where so many small transactions come from during the season.

Colon might be more likely to get a release than a trade offer, though he’ll certainly find work somewhere. Chavez looked “good” in the spring, and has the kind of flexibility as a starter and a reliever that teams will covet. Texas is certainly hoping he has a strong first half, as it could parlay into a prospect or two in the Rangers favor.

Chances of being traded: Likely

Mike Minor

Age: 30

Contract: Signed a 3-year, $28m deal with Texas in December

Of all of the Texas Rangers curious and/or depressing moves this offseason, the Minor signing seems like the exception. The lefty bounced back from multiple shoulder surgeries in 2017 with Kansas City, establishing himself as a valuable reliever for the Royals. A large component of Minor’s signing with Texas is that he has been given a chance at starting.

Minor’s ability to start, or pitch out of the bullpen, makes him an attractive piece for Texas moving forward. Though they might struggle through the 2018 season, his contract suggests that he’s going to be around for a while in Arlington.

Chances of being traded: Unlikely

Keone Kela

Age: 24

Contract: $1.2m, free agent 2022

Kela will be sharing closer duties with Kevin Jepsen to begin the season, and if he’s made available to other clubs in July, the offers will likely be aplenty. Kela is a true power pitcher, and one that fits in at the back of a bullpen. While he certainly has the stuff to be a closer, it’s easy to see Kela coming to a contending team and sliding into a 7th or 8th-inning role.

Texas should be in no hurry to see Kela leave, but, as far as their arms go, his might be in higher demand than anyone else on the staff.  While it’s feasible that the Rangers will be good before Kela is a free agent, an overwhelming offer would be hard to turn down, particularly given the abundance of power arms Texas has in the minors.

Chances of being traded: Possible

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Alex Claudio

Age: 26

Contract: pre-arbitration, free agent 2022

In my opinion, Claudio is the most valuable pitcher on the Rangers’ staff. He can close, work out of relief, and even give you a spot start from time to time. While none of Claudio’s stuff is overpowering, he initiates a lot of soft contact, and keeps the ball in the yard.

If other teams see Claudio as valuably as the Rangers do, certainly, he’ll be in demand come July. He’s young, with years of team control remaining on his contract, and Texas could expect a decent return for him.

Chances of being traded: Likely

Matt Bush

Age: 32

Contract: pre-arbitration, free agent 2023

Bush is a bit of a unique situation, as he will likely not play beyond his team controlled seasons (2023 will put him at 37 years old) . He’s got dominant stuff — both fastball and slider — and when he’s on, he’s positively electric.

While Bush doesn’t come with quite the concerns that Josh Hamilton did, he does have some “conditions” which could give other clubs pause when pursuing him. For my money, Bush seems to have a sturdier head on his shoulders than Ham did. I believe Bush could leave the Rangers organization and do just fine elsewhere.

Texas and Bush have a special relationship with one another, but it seems unlikely that they would let that get in the way of swapping him for a prospect or two. With the Rangers plethora of (younger) power arms (Kela, Jose Leclerc, etc.), Bush seems like a safe bet to go at some point this season.

Chances of being traded: Likely

Next: What does the future look like for Joey Gallo

Note: You’ll notice that I didn’t include Jake Diekmann, or Tim Lincecum. The way I see it, neither of those guys are anywhere near a “lock” to retake their old form; Diekmann had major surgery last season, and while he’s looked ready to go, I think it’s safe to temper expectations for him this year. Lincecum, of course, has well-documented injury issues; if he’s even healthy through the first half of the season, I think many fans will count that as a success for The Freak, regardless of whether or not he’s dominating.