As August begins, the Texas Rangers sit atop the American League standings with the Cleveland Indians. Both teams made a flurry of moves to improve their rosters. After a gut-wrenching finish for the Rangers in 2015, they are doing everything they can to make sure they will be playing October baseball. Losing back-to-back World Series a few years ago, including being one out away from winning back in 2011, still probably haunts some of those players still on the roster. Rumors swirled over the past few weeks that the Rangers would make a big move, and they did not disappoint.
It started when they traded for Atlanta Braves pitchers Dario Alvarez and Lucas Harrell. Alvarez becomes another left-handed option out of the bullpen for manager Jeff Banister, and Harrell adds some depth to a rotation that has been inconsistent behind Cole Hamels. The Rangers also added a rental piece in 39-year-old Carlos Beltran to serve as their designated hitter the rest of the way. Beltran comes as a huge addition for the Rangers after news came down this week that Prince Fielder would miss the remainder of the season with neck surgery. Then, when Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy vetoed his trade to the Cleveland Indians, the Rangers jumped on him and added Lucroy alongside Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress.
After making the trades that they did, the Rangers distanced themselves from the other teams in the American League, and now are in a legitimate position to win it all. Beltran is playing like his old self, making the All-Star team with a .304 average, 22 home runs, and 64 RBIs. Beltran, 39, becomes the everyday designated hitter, and does not have to play right field, something he did during his tenure with the Yankees.
Lucroy, 30, is one of the top offensive catchers in the game, batting .299 with 13 home runs and 50 runs batted in. The current catchers on the roster before Lucroy are Robinson Chirinos and Bobby Wilson, who are hitting .192 and .250, respectively. An upgrade at catcher was clearly needed, and the Rangers got the best available one. Another bonus for the Rangers is that they have Lucroy on a team-friendly contract with a team option for 2017 worth only $5 million. Not to mention, Lucroy does not end up in Cleveland, a team that the Rangers will most likely see in the postseason.
Jeffress, 28, comes as a big addition for the Rangers as well, to follow the Kansas City Royals’ strategy of shortening games with a strong bullpen, after notching 27 saves for Milwaukee. General manager Jon Daniels announced that Jeffress will most likely serve as a setup man, with Sam Dyson remaining as the team’s closer.
The Rangers have the offense to win, being top five in the American League in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in. Pitching is still a bit of a question mark, as they are third in the American League in earned runs behind the Minnesota Twins and the Oakland Athletics. However, those stats got them where they are today. Colby Lewis and Derek Holland are also expected to return from their injuries in late August. These deadline acquisitions are impactful moves, and ones that declared the Texas Rangers as the winners of the trade deadline, without reaching towards the astronomical asking price for top of the rotation starters. Winning the trade deadline does not equal a championship, as we saw with the Toronto Blue Jays a season ago, but with the pieces that the Rangers have in place, they have a real chance of being back in the Fall Classic for the first time since 2012.